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Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 1/1/2013

OUTBACK BOWL NOTES

It will be Gardner vs. Shaw: Michigan, South Carolina coaches announce starting QBs

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

TAMPA — Steve Spurrier spoke openly about South Carolina’s quarterback situation for today’s Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

Brady Hoke spoke with some hesitancy in regards to Michigan’s quarterback situation — almost as if he was surrendering classified government information.

In a joint press conference Monday morning at the Wyndham Westshore Hotel, Hoke said that Devin Gardner will start at quarterback against the No. 11 Gamecocks (10-2). He also didn’t dismiss Denard Robinson playing under center in his final game with the No. 19 Wolverines (8-4).

"Devin will be the starting quarterback and Denard will play some quarterback," Hoke said. "Really, how we finished the year and the last four ball games is how we'll play it out."

Gardner started Michigan's final four regular-season games after Robinson suffered nerve injury to his throwing arm in a 23-9 loss Oct. 27 at Nebraska. Gardner is 57-for-90 passing for 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns, with one interception. Gardner also brings a ground presence to the Wolverines — in those four games, he ran for 77 yards and seven touchdowns on 35 carries.

Robinson missed two games after sustaining the injury, but played primarily in a running back role in Michigan’s final two regular-season games.

For the Gamecocks, quarterback Dylan Thompson played in place of the injured Connor Shaw (foot sprain) Nov. 24 in a 27-17 win over Clemson in the regular-season finale. Over the weekend, Spurrier did not say or clarify who would start for the Gamecocks.

"Connor Shaw's been our starter," Spurrier said. "I've always believed that you should tell one guy it's his game, unless he gets hurt or something goes terribly wrong and you have to make a change. But Connor's been our starter all year and we all feel he's 100 percent healthy. So right now, we're going into it that it's his game."

MADE FOR TV? A USA Today analysis released Sunday found that average attendance at this year’s first 19 bowl games (of 35) is down by an average of 3,138 fans per game from last year.

“I think a lot of these bowls are sort of made for television,” Spurrier said. “Obviously, there’s nobody in the stands at a lot of them, hardly. And you can understand that, but football is a sport that people seem to like to watch on television. If there’s nobody in the stands, that’s OK. But I believe it’s the thought, that as long as people are watching it on television.”

An Outback Bowl spokesman said that both Michigan and South Carolina are approaching their allotment of ticket sales for today’s game — 11,000 for Michigan and 12,000 for South Carolina — and that about 50,000 tickets have been sold for today’s game.

Raymond James Stadium, the home stadium of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the University of South Florida, has a capacity of 65,657.

ANNOUNCING TEAM: Mike Tirico and former Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden will call today’s Outback Bowl on ESPN.

Also, South Carolina graduate and country singer Darius Rucker — the former frontman of the band Hootie and the Blowfish — will sing the national anthem at the Outback Bowl.

OUTBACK PROMOTION: Outback Steakhouse will have a nationwide promotion Wednesday — if Michigan wins the Outback Bowl, customers receive a free coconut shrimp appetizer, and if South Carolina wins, customers receive a free Bloomin’ Onion appetizer.



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