BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Stephen Garcia's "Redemption Bowl" week got off to a rocky start.
The South Carolina quarterback, who struggled in the Gamecocks' 31-10 loss to Iowa last season in his Tampa hometown, said he had one of his worst practices Wednesday during a rainy, two-hour workout at Birmingham Southern College.
Garcia, the SEC's second-leading passer, said he threw high to his receivers most of the day, but refused to blame the errant passes on the wet conditions.
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"A little anxious, I guess," Garcia said. "But it's practice, and it is what it is. You practice to get better. We'll be all right. We'll be fine."
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said of Garcia: "If he throws like he did today, we'll be in trouble. ... Or we'll have to run the ball all the time."
USC quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus dubbed the Papajohns.com Bowl the Redemption Bowl for Garcia, who had turnovers on USC's first four offensive series last year in Tampa. Spurrier was upset when he learned Garcia was playing video games, instead of reviewing the game plan, the night before the game.
Garcia left the games at home, but did play sports trivia Tuesday night at a Birmingham sports bar with fullback Patrick DiMarco. Their team finished second after missing one question, despite looking up the answers on DiMarco's iPhone.
Watching the weather. Connecticut coach Randy Edsall joked that it felt like a "heat wave" in Birmingham, where temperatures were in the mid-40s on Wednesday. It was 18 degrees when the Huskies left Connecticut this week.
"We think this is sunny and 90 almost for us down here," Edsall said.
The forecast for Saturday's game day is for mostly sunny skies, with a high of 45.
"That's good football weather," Spurrier said. "UConn doesn't have any advantage weather-wise."
USC safety Chris Culliver was not as certain.
"UConn's used to it. Up north it's real cold," said Culliver, who grew up in Philadelphia. "We've got to get used to it real quick. We don't want them to have the advantage."
Back to Bear hollow. Lawrence Wilson, UConn's first-team, All-Big East linebacker, grew up in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and graduated from Paul W. Bryant High, where the walls of the football office are covered with photos of the Bear.
Wilson, one of two Alabamans on UConn's roster, has provided a Southern football primer to some of his northern-born teammates this week.
"They didn't know Bo Jackson was from Alabama," Wilson said. "You've got to fill 'em in about some of the great players that's from around this area."
Bowled over. Spurrier's theory on successful bowl teams is similar to his take on success in rivalry games: Some schools put a greater emphasis on conference championships than bowl or rivalry wins.
Spurrier pointed to Penn State and Florida State as examples.
"Both schools were (longtime) independent schools. So if they don't win the national championship, the only thing they can do is win the bowl game and feel like they've won a championship," said Spurrier, who is 7-8 in bowls.
"And for some reason, all of us schools in a conference concentrate so hard on trying to win your conference championship you don't emphasize maybe that bowl game as much as you should. But it's changed nowadays. ... It's much more important now than it was 20 years ago."
Extra points. USC safety Darian Stewart will not return to Columbia after the game. The senior plans to visit his family in nearby Huntsville, Ala., and head to Florida for the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 23. Stewart will remain in Florida to prepare for the NFL draft, but has lined up an internship that will allow him to complete his retailing degree in May. ...
Reserve safety Jarrett Burns, another Huntsville native who missed the final four games with a finger injury, has been cleared to practice. ... Spurrier said Hutch Eckerson, Jarriel King and Kyle Nunn would rotate at the two offensive tackle spots.