on January 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Gamecocks focused on stopping Greene

TAMPA, Fla. — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier knows his team has a tough task in stopping Iowa running back Shonn Greene in Thursday’s Outback Bowl.

Spurrier addressed the media earlier this week in Tampa, Fla., and compared Iowa (8-4) to some of the teams in the SEC.

“I guess you could say maybe Alabama plays a little bit like Iowa. Run the ball and throw the ball combination,” Spurrier said. “Obviously, Iowa runs the ball about as well as anyone in the country this year. Shonn Greene, winner of the Doak Walker Award, is the best running back in the country.”

The Iowa standout rushed for 1,729 yards this season and went for more than 100 yards in all 12 games. The junior scored 17 touchdowns.

“We’ll certainly be tested against trying to stop Shonn Greene,” Spurrier said.

The Gamecocks (7-5) allow 128.7 rushing yards per game and are 28th in the nation in overall defense.

Greene could make a decision on whether he will return for his senior season by mid-January. But right now, the Iowa running back is just focused on helping the Hawkeyes beat South Carolina.

“We’ve been working hard. We’re having fun here and there, but when it’s time to go to work, we go to work,” Greene said earlier this week. “That’s what we’re here to do, play a football game.”

Still, there is considerable speculation whether Green will be playing with Iowa for the last time this week.

Greene, who is having his potential draft status reviewed by an NFL advisory group, said his decision could be forthcoming in “a couple weeks.”

“Anybody would do that in my position,” Greene said about the NFL draft review. “You kind of want to see where you’re at so you can make those decisions.”

Should Greene opt to go pro, Spurrier thinks the 5-foot-11, 235-pounder is an NFL type back.

“He’s big. He can run people over, and he blocks linebackers,” Spurrier said. “He can do about all they’re looking for.”

After missing the 2007 season to work on his grades at Kirkwood Community College, Greene was the only FBS back to rush for 100 or more yards in every game this season.

“He has a great cutback ability,” South Carolina linebacker Marvin Sapp said. “He’s also a hard runner. You really have to tackle him hard.”

Some thought a New Year’s Day bowl was unlikely when Iowa dropped three straight games — losses to Pittsburgh, Northwestern and Michigan State by a combined nine points — and had its record slip to 3-3. The Hawkeyes earned the trip to Florida after winning 5 of 6, including a 24-23 victory that ended Penn State’s national championship aspirations.

“Coming off those three losses, we’re finishing strong at the end,” Greene said. “This game would cap it off, to finish off with a win.”

This will be Greene’s third bowl game, but the first one in which he will be an impact player. The new challenge has brought about a change in his pregame approach.

“Now that I’m playing, starting, I think I’m taking it more seriously,” Greene said. “I guess the last two, I was looking at it as more of a vacation. This one, I’ve got a lot of stuff to get done, so I’m more focused.”

Greene has earned the respect of his teammates this year, both on and off the field.

“He’s a great guy, No. 1,” Iowa defensive lineman Mitch King said. “I think he’s a better guy than he is a football player, and that speaks a lot about him. He had a little stumble along the way, with his grades, but he worked hard to get back.”

And now, South Carolina stands in the way of a positive conclusion to the season.

“It’s a challenge. They’re a great team,” Greene said.

— The Spartanburg Herald-Journal also contributed to this report.