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Game Time is Almost Upon Us
Fans party while teams, coaches make final preparations
Doak Walker Award-winner Shonn Greene waves to the 8,000 or so fans of the Hawkeyes who 'Huddled' Tuesday night.
Doak Walker Award-winner Shonn Greene waves to the 8,000 or so fans of the Hawkeyes who 'Huddled' Tuesday night.
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Dec. 31, 2008

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    TAMPA, Fla. - The fans had another day on the beach prior to huddling in nearby Ybor City for the annual Outback Bowl Parade and Pep Rally.


    The teams - the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Gamecocks of South Carolina - got their first glimpse at the site of the 2009 Outback Bowl - Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a beautiful place to play or watch a college football game.

    The coaches opened their day with their final pre-game visit with the media. The next time they sit before a handful of microphones, one will have a smile and the other won't. Here's a look at what they had to say...and one final reminder: Game time for the first meeting on the gridiron between Iowa and South Carolina is set for 10 a.m. Iowa time.

    Go Hawks!

    OUTBACK BOWL HEAD COACHES NEWS CONFERENCE
    Wednesday, December 31, 2008

    UNIVERSITY OF IOWA COACH Kirk Ferentz

    Opening statement
    "First of all it's been a great week. The weather has been as good as we've ever had since we've been down here; we've been down here numerous times. But more importantly, hospitality has been fantastic. Everything about the bowl trip has been just absolutely outstanding. Our hotel has been great; the staff there has been over the top. Practice at the University of Tampa has just been as good as we've been at any bowl trip. On top of that the folks with the Outback Bowl and Outback Steakhouse; they just do a great, great job with this entire experience. We've had a good week. I don't know what else we can do at this point. Now, we're just like you all, sitting around waiting for the game. It's been a good week and hopefully we can finish it up tomorrow."

    On the current bowl system and a bowl playoff
    "As you know there's a lot of resistance to moving to a playoff as has been evidenced by the past couple of years. I think the bowl system is outstanding. It rewards a lot of teams at a lot of different levels which is great, and I've always thought it has been good. Where we're at right now is fine. I'm fine with it. I'm not involved in the top tier right now so maybe it's a little easier for me to not have strong opinions. If we went to a plus one I think that's workable. To me, beyond that is unrealistic and really not in the best interest of college football; just one person's opinion."

    On his team's preparation for the Outback Bowl
    "I think their focus has been good. We've practiced pretty well. That's one of the challenges in a bowl game. It's not like being at home. You're out of your routine totally. I've got to think our guys have been able to maintain some semblance of that. We won't have any excuses if we don't play well tomorrow. We've done, I think, just about everything we can in preparation. It comes down to the game and who knows what's going to happen there. I think the guys have done a good job so far."





    "I think their focus has been good. We've practiced pretty well. That's one of the challenges in a bowl game. It's not like being at home. You're out of your routine totally. I've got to think our guys have been able to maintain some semblance of that. We won't have any excuses if we don't play well tomorrow. We've done, I think, just about everything we can in preparation. It comes down to the game and who knows what's going to happen there. I think the guys have done a good job so far."


    On the progress of his squad
    "I've had a good feeling about our team as a team all season long going back to last March. But we weren't very good in March and we weren't good enough, obviously, the first half of the season to be where we wanted to be. I think we started out 0-2 in the conference, which is not a goal, obviously. So we had a lot of work to do. But the thing that's been constant, the attitude of this team has been good, they've worked hard all the way through, and I don't think they ever dwelt on negatives. To more forward you have to be that way. They've done that, to their credit."

    On the importance of the Penn State victory
    "Penn State was significant, obviously, not only because we beat an outstanding team but also we won a close game. We'd been struggling in that area for quite some time. To have a successful season you have to be able to win some close games if you play in a tough conference. At least we were able to get over that hurdle."

    On the 2008 season and trying to finish with a win in the Outback Bowl
    "It's a process and we've hardly arrived, and there's no question we've hardly arrived. We didn't win the Big 10 Championship this year. We did a lot of good things and we kept our focus and effort where it needed to be I think. But we've one more to play and I think our guys understand that. We've had a lot to draw upon, a lot of experiences over the last seven, eight years to draw upon and reference to. You just hope you learn through those experiences and we can use those illustrations maybe to help the guys. I think our guys understand we still have a game to play. Nine sounds a lot better than eight, we all know that. I'm not good at math but I know that much."

    On players on his team lacking the experience of winning a bowl game
    "We don't have many guys starting in this ball game or playing in this ball game that have really played in a bowl game, at least a winning bowl game. That's significant. It's a little bit like getting over that close game hurdle. It's new territory to get involved in. As a result of that, I have no idea how it will work out tomorrow. We'll see."

    OUTBACK BOWL HEAD COACHES NEWS CONFERENCE
    Wednesday, December 31, 2008

    SOUTH CAROLINA COACH STEVE SPURRIER
    Opening statement
    "I got on the elevator and there was a young lady getting ready to go to the pool. She didn't know there was a football game here, but she was happy. She got on the elevator and then a bunch of our Carolina Gamecock people got on and she got off on the third level to go to the pool. She said, `Hey everybody, have a good time.' I said, `That's a happy girl right there,' and one of our Gamecock fans said, `How can you not be happy down here.' You chamber of commerce people and everybody that lives here; it's been a beautiful week. When you have warm, nice weather I guess it makes you a little happier than before."

    On his team's preparation for the Outback Bowl
    "We've had some good practices. It seems like our team is pretty happy. I'm sure the Iowa team is probably pretty happy too. It should be a heck of a game tomorrow. Our guys are all healthy; everybody that came should be 100 percent ready to go. We look forward to seeing what happens tomorrow morning at 11 o'clock."

    On weather his decision to leave Florida for the Redskins was a good idea
    "Yeah, I just sort of think I sort of went to the wrong place. It didn't work out, but that was my fault. It wasn't anybody else's fault, it was my fault. Anyway, it just didn't work out. I had done 12 years at Florida, and that really was the only reason I left. I always think I'm going to coach four of five more years and hang it up. But after a couple of years up there it wasn't working, wasn't any fun. I needed to get out of there and they needed me to get out of there."

    On not taking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job in 1996
    "I'm glad that didn't work out because we won the National Championship at Florida the next year. We had pretty serious talks there for a while, but I'd only been at Florida seven years at the time, six years or something like that. Timing is everything, as they say, and that certainly wasn't the time to leave Danny Wuerffel and Ike Hilliard, Reidel Anthony and a bunch of outstanding defensive players too."

    On being in the Outback Bowl and returning to Tampa
    "This is my first Outback Bowl and it is a special one. All I can do is try to get my team to play the best they can. That's what we're trying to focus on, getting our guys to play with a lot of effort, a lot of smarts, play the whole game, all that kind of stuff. That's what we're talking about trying to do right there."

    On having four weeks to prepare for the Outback Bowl
    "I think we've actually done a pretty good job with not doing too much. We've done a lot of the same thing over and over again which should help Stephen Garcia. Stephen has not played a whole lot. So, repetition is the mother of learning. He's had a whole bunch. Hopefully he will go play like he knows what's going on, get the ball out of his hand and not get lost too much and play a good, solid game."

    On the Hawkeye defense
    "I see a very strong fundamental group of guys. Some people keep trying to say they play the same coverages over and over again. But they change up a lot more maybe than some people think and we expect to see a lot of different stuff than just their base coverage, which they're very good at and their players are very seldom out of position. Norm Parker is a good, solid fundamental coach, but they've got their zone blitzes and corner blitzes; they've got all of that also. I've got a feeling they're going to use a little bit more of that tomorrow."

    On the maturation of quarterback Stephen Garcia over the last year
    "I think Stephen has matured a lot, I really do. He needs to continue as he goes through his career there at South Carolina. I told him and I told the South Carolina media the other day, I said, `Hopefully some day he'll give one of those (Tim) Tebow statements where he says no quarterback in the nation will work harder than I will and no quarterback will try to get his team ready to play harder than I will.' Hopefully someday Stephen can say that. He's tried to invest a little bit more time on his own this last month to learn what's going on and so forth, so we'll see if it can pay dividends tomorrow."

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