South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Stephen Garcia had their homecomings, sure, but Thursday's Outback Bowl belonged to a running back perpetually on the move. Iowa's Shonn Greene rushed for 121 yards and three touchdowns in the Hawkeyes' easy 31-10 victory, then announced he was skipping his senior year to enter the NFL draft.
"I think I've pretty much done my damage on the college level," said Greene, a one-year wonder who lived up to his billing as winner of the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back.
South Carolina (7-6) did plenty of damage to itself, with Garcia, the Jefferson High graduate, contributing three interceptions and a fumble on the Gamecocks' first four possessions. By then, the Hawkeyes were up 21-0, and South Carolina wouldn't score until the fourth quarter, when Greene was already on the bench celebrating his last college win.
"It's been a great year. I can't remember one more enjoyable than this one," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We've had some championship years, but this is a championship in its own way."
Iowa (9-4), playing in its third Outback Bowl in six years, looked at home at Raymond James Stadium, where its fans made up a large majority of the announced crowd of 55,117.
The Hawkeyes dominated from the start, scoring touchdowns on three of their first four possessions. Greene was the catalyst, but the opening drive saw three third-down conversions, all on passes from quarterback Ricky Stanzi to tight end Brandon Myers. Stanzi finished the drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Trey Stross.
Greene, who gained at least 100 yards in all 13 games this season, wasn't even all that breathtaking. His longest run was 11 yards, but he rarely lost yards and consistently moved the chains, setting Iowa bowl records for touchdowns and carries (29). He found motivation in the SEC's perceived reputation as a speed league.
"They're supposed to be the SEC, with speed and all that, but you look at the scoreboard and see what it is," said Greene, who also set Iowa season records for yards (1,850) and rushing touchdowns (20).
"What can I say about Shonn's performance?" Ferentz asked. "Week in, week out, he's been the same guy each and every week. I'm probably prouder of the way he's handled his recognition and acclaim, which is well-deserved."
Iowa's defense did the rest, forcing five turnovers, including two interceptions by safety Tyler Sash and two fumble recoveries by linebacker A.J. Edds. The Hawkeyes, after opening the season 3-3, finished the year with six wins in their final seven games.
Spurrier, a former Duke and Florida coach, has been shut out just twice in his college career, but South Carolina didn't score until the fourth quarter, getting a touchdown from backup quarterback Chris Smelley, who threw 31 passes in the second half. The Gamecocks hit a field goal with 2:02 to play just to get to 10 points.
"I feel for our fans that came down here and spent a whole lot of money," said Spurrier, also a former Bucs quarterback and Tampa Bay Bandits coach. "Give Iowa credit for kicking our tails today."