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Experience can't find explanations for defeat

South Carolina senior linebacker No. 40 Eric Norwood walks off the field after the Gamecocks loss to Connecticut in the Papa Johns.com Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, Saturday, January 2, 2010.
South Carolina senior linebacker No. 40 Eric Norwood walks off the field after the Gamecocks loss to Connecticut in the Papa Johns.com Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, Saturday, January 2, 2010.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - It was a sour way to go out for USC's nine seniors.

The Gamecocks (7-6) are tied with Duke for the second-fewest seniors on a team behind No. 6 Boise State (four).

A 20-7 loss to Connecticut in the Papajohns.com Bowl was not the way All-America linebacker Eric Norwood envisioned the campaign ending.

"To be truthful, I have no idea," Norwood said when asked what went wrong on Saturday. "We just went out there and tried to play ball and they played better."

The Gamecocks were unable to get anything going on either side of the football.

Guard Garrett Anderson believed it have had a lot to do with the team underestimating its opponent.

"They played better," said Anderson, a Dutch Fork High graduate. "They played harder. They wanted it more, apparently. We didn't show up at all. We played a little bit better toward the end of the fourth quarter, but we never showed up and they wanted it more. It was very, very apparent."

Quarterback Stephen Garcia struggled to explain what happened as he wiped away tears following the game.

"It's very disappointing," said Garcia, a sophomore. "It is more disappoint for the seniors on this team like Eric Norwood more than anything. I am a lot closer with the seniors on this year's team, and that's what makes it harder than anything, playing the way we did."

Another disappointed Gamecock was senior defensive tackle Nathan Pepper, the only player in USC history to play in four bowl games.

"It is definitely tough to come out here and do all this practicing and get ready for this game, and for us to play the way we did is really disappointing," said Pepper, a Greenville native. "I can't point the finger at one thing, but we obviously didn't come to play well and we didn't play well at all."

Anderson believes the team will improve, but has to dedicate itself toward that goal.

"It is always a step forward," Anderson said. "We won seven games and we came close to winning a few games against big teams, but we're still not that good yet. We still have a ways to go.

"It is not a step back. It is just an awakening."

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