TAMPA, Fla. -- From carrying couches to an All-American carrying a football. Now, Big Ten MVP Shonn Greene figures he's ready for the next level.
The Iowa running back turned Thursday's Outback Bowl into a farewell party, leading the Hawkeyes past South Carolina 31-10 and then announcing he intends to skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
Rittenberg: Iowa Rebounds
After three middling seasons, Iowa has restored its place among the Big Ten's elite by winning six of its final seven games and routing South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, writes Adam Rittenberg. Blog
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"I don't think there's really a lot more I can do here," Greene said. "People talk about the Heisman, but I think that's a lot of politics. I don't like getting caught up in all of that, so I just figure I'll try my chances."
Greene ran for 121 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for more than 100 yards in all 13 of Iowa's games, scored in all but one, and won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back.
"He's been the same guy each and every week," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said, using words like "humble" and "modest" to describe the 235-pound junior, who worked at a furniture store and didn't play football while attending community college to improve his grades.
Greene, of Sicklerville, N.J., finished with school single-season records of 1,850 yards and 20 TDs.
"I'm speechless right now. I never imagined this happening. All the success, all the accolades and stuff like that," said Greene, who sat out the 2007 season after losing his scholarship because of academic problems.
He said earlier this week he planned to meet with his family and consider information from the NFL college advisory committee before making a decision on whether to turn pro.
His Outback performance sealed the deal.
"I'm proud of the way he's handled his recognition and accolades. He's going to be extremely valuable and a great asset to any team that's smart enough to take him next year," Ferentz said.
Iowa (9-4) won for the sixth time in seven games since losing three straight to fall to 3-3. South Carolina (7-6) lost three straight down the stretch while being outscored 118-30.
Greene scored on a pair of 1-yard runs to help Iowa build a 21-0 halftime lead, then added an 11-yarder to make it 31-0 late in the third quarter. South Carolina scored on Chris Smelley's 10-yard TD pass to Jared Cook and Ryan Succop's 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
After struggling offensively in lopsided losses to Florida and Clemson, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier decided to start quarterback Stephen Garcia, a highly regarded redshirt freshman from Tampa who was the centerpiece of his recruiting class in 2007.
But Garcia, who nearly undermined his career by being arrested twice within his first month on campus, turned the ball over four times in the first half and was replaced by Smelley after going 9-for-18 for 79 yards and three interceptions.
"I thought he would play a little bit better, but maybe he just wasn't ready," Spurrier said. "Maybe that's the answer."
The 20-year-old's homecoming and third career start turned sour in a hurry. His first pass was intercepted and returned 29 yards to set up an Iowa touchdown, then the dual-threat quarterback fumbled on his first run to give the Gamecocks turnovers on two of their first four offensive plays.
The next two South Carolina possessions ended with interceptions. After Bradley Fletcher picked off Garcia in the end zone, Iowa drove 80 yards to take a 21-0 lead on Greene's second touchdown.
"I can't take a lot from this. The way it ended was not the way it was supposed to go. It's pretty frustrating for me, playing in my home city and to not do well," Garcia said. "I've just got to get better. Losing a bowl game in general is pretty frustrating, but doing so in my hometown in front of my family is worse."
Ricky Stanzi was intercepted twice before halftime, but neither mistake really hurt the Hawkeyes. Iowa was trying to turn's Garcia's third interception into a quick TD when South Carolina's Chris Culliver made a leaping pick in the end zone.
Smelley, who started nine games for South Carolina this season, replaced Garcia at the start of the second half. Moe Brown fumbled on the quarterback's first completion to set up an Iowa field goal, but the Gamecocks finally had some success moving the ball the rest of the game.
Stanzi was 13-of-19 for 147 yards, including a 6-yard TD throw to Trey Stross on the first drive of the game. Smelley finished 16-of-31 for 179 yards and no interceptions.
Spurrier fell to 7-8 in bowl games, 1-2 at South Carolina. None of the previous teams making postseason appearances under him scored fewer points.
"I thought we had pretty good practices ... and I thought we had a decent game plan," Spurrier said. "Then we throw it right to them and fumbled right to them. ... And we're not, obviously, good enough to do that."