On a frigid day at Legion Field in Birmingham, nothing was colder than USC’s offense. Impotent from the first series of the game, the Gamecocks had no running game and dropped numerous passes in suffering a humilating 20-7 loss to Connecticut in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
AUDIO: Steve Spurrier post game news conference
And humiliating might be too kind of a description. Riding the momentum of a regular season ending win over Clemson, the Gamecocks entered the game with a lot of confidence against a team that was 7-5 but only 3-4 in the Big East. But the offense could never get going. The Gamecocks did not record their initial first down until the middle of the second quarter when they were already behind 13-0. Their deepest penetration, while the game was still in doubt, was the UConn 35 yard line. And that scoring attempt was botched on a mishandled snap on a field goal attempt.
AUDIO: Stephen Garcia
Still, the game was within reach going into the second half. The defense got a quick three and out only to see Eric Norwood rough the punter to give the Huskies a first down. The defense got another three and out except Clifton Geathers roughed the quarterback on the third down play to give the Huskies another first down. The drive did not result in points but it did eat up valuable time. The Gamecocks had just two possessions in the third quarter. One ended in a punt, the other with a fumble. The Huskies converted that turnover into an icing on the cake touchdown run of ten yards by game MVP Andre Dixon.
AUDIO: Ellis Johnson
The Gamecocks avoided their first ever bowl shutout by scoring a touchdown on a two yard run by Brian Maddux with a little over three minutes to play. The Gamecocks have lost three out of four bowl games under Steve Spurrier. They are now 4-10 all time in bowl games. The Gamecocks finish the season with a 7-6 record matching their mark of 2008.
AUDIO: Eric Norwood
AUDIO: Garrett Anderson
USC managed just 205 yards of total offense to 253 for Connecticut. Quarterback Stephen Garcia accounted for 185 of those yards, 129 thru the air of 16-38 passing with one interception. He also rushed for 56 yards. Kenny Miles had the most carries of the running backs, six, and had just 24 yards. Dixon had a bowl record 33 carries for 126 yards. The Gamecocks set a bowl record with seven punts. The game attracted a bowl record crowd of 45,254.
AUDIO: Moe Brown
Garcia’s 38 attempts gave him 432 for the season tieing the school record set by Todd Ellis. Garcia finished the season with 3694 passing yards, 8th best in school history. UConn converted 9 of 19 third down opportunities and had the ball eight minutes longer than the Gamecocks. In the fourth quarter, UConn had possession for over 10 minutes. There were only four penalties in the game, all against USC.
The Gamecocks will open the 2010 season at home September 2nd against Southern Miss on ESPN.