TAMPA, Fla. — When two teams get thrown together in a bowl game, they often don’t know a lot about each other or where they’re from.
Monday, I asked several South Carolina Gamecocks what they knew about Iowa Hawkeyes football and the state of Iowa in particular. The first answer I got gave me pause, but others saved the day.
“Iowa potatoes, that’s about it,” said USC defensive tackle Nathan Pepper.
But Pepper didn’t know the reference when I asked him if he was related to Sgt. Pepper of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club fame, either.
Most of what I got from Gamecock players was respect for their peers from a time zone to the west.
“I used to watch Iowa games when I was in high school,” said Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood. “Drew Tate, all those guys.
“I actually liked Drew Tate. He was from Texas and I moved from Dallas, Texas. So I was a big fan of Drew Tate. And they used to have Matt Roth, (Jonathan) Babineaux and those guys. I’m very familiar with them.”
Carolina wide receiver Moe Brown said “When I was in high school I used to watch Iowa a little bit. I used to play Iowa on my game system. Just because they had good ratings. They had a pretty good receiver and quarterback — I can’t recall their names right now.”
USC center Garrett Anderson said “There’s a lot of history there.”
“I’ve always known them to be very hard-nosed on defense. Big linebackers that just love to hit, big defensive linemen that are very physical.
“I think of home-grown guys. Guys who grew up on the farm, big men, physical guys. That builds a different football team.
“We look forward to playing these guys because where we come from there’s not a lot of teams like that.”
USC cornerback Stoney Woodson made an official visit to Iowa State before signing with South Carolina. His memories of the Iowa trip:
“It’s a lot of fields, really, stuff like that. I know a lot of good names come from Iowa, like Bob Sanders.
“Big people, you know? Big and physical. Big Ten, right?”
Brown has never been to Iowa. His mental image of the state is “A bunch of open fields. Country. Cold.
“I hate the cold. I despise the cold. One of their players was saying it was negative-2 when they were leaving Iowa. I can only imagine that.”
Gamecocks offensive tackle Justin Sorensen made no bones about it. He didn’t know anything about Iowa. He said something about it being on the “flip side of North Dakota,” or something like that.
“I’m from Canada, anyway,” Sorensen said. “I don’t really know a whole lot about Iowa. It’s Midwest, right?”
Sorensen is from Vancouver Island, B.C., a fabulous place. He is one of only three non-Southerners on South Carolina’s roster.
“I wanted to play in the SEC and this was my only scholarship offer from there,” he said. “When I was in high school I thought the SEC was the best conference in the country, and I still do.”