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Dec 30, 2001

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Exactly one year after South Carolina topped Ohio State in the 2001 Outback%^$Bowl, the same two teams find themselves in the same spot.%^$

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For the first time in the 16-year history of the Outback Bowl, the same%^$programs will meet in consecutive years. With a new coach at the helm, the%^$22nd-ranked Buckeyes (7-4) will be looking to avenge last year’s 24-7 loss when%^$they meet the 14th-ranked Gamecocks (8-3) in Tampa on Tuesday.%^$

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“We didn’t play real well down there last year, so this is a chance for us%^$to hopefully redeem ourselves,” Ohio State linebacker Joe Cooper said.%^$

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Last year’s Outback Bowl turned out to be John Cooper’s final game as the%^$Buckeyes’ coach. First-year coach Jim Tressel will look to tailback Jonathan%^$Wells to carry the Buckeyes in the rematch. Wells finished his senior campaign%^$with 1,257 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.%^$

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In Ohio State’s final regular season game, a 26-20 upset of then-No. 11%^$Michigan, Wells’ running kept the Wolverines from sharing the Big Ten%^$championship, as he ran for 129 yards and three touchdowns.%^$

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Wells closed out the season by rushing for over 100 yards in five%^$consecutive games, including a career-high 192 against Illinois on Nov. 17. His%^$average of 114.3 rushing yards was 19th in the nation.%^$

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While Wells and a veteran offensive line – led by first-team All-America%^$center LeCharles Bentley – anchor an impressive rushing attack, the Buckeye’s%^$passing game may get a boost with the return of quarterback Steve Bellisari.%^$

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Sophomore Craig Krenzel started his first career game under center against%^$Michigan, completing 11-of-18 for 118 yards, after Bellisari was arrested for%^$drunken driving a week earlier.%^$

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In nine games this season, Bellisari completed 98-of-185 for 1,599 yards and%^$eight touchdowns. He also threw six interceptions.%^$

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While the Buckeyes will be making their 12th bowl appearance in 13 years,%^$the Gamecocks are playing in a bowl game in consecutive years for the first%^$time in the program’s 108-year history.%^$

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This was the second straight season in which the Gamecocks won eight games%^$and the first time they’ve been ranked for the entire season. In 1998 and 1999,%^$South Carolina was 1-21.%^$

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“Sometimes, it’s hard to believe we’ve done this,” said tailback-wide%^$receiver Ryan Brewer, last year’s Outback Bowl MVP who accounted for 214%^$all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the win.%^$

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Brewer could once again cause trouble for the Buckeyes this year. The%^$versatile junior is averaging 30.5 receiving yards and 11.4 rushing yards per%^$game.%^$

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But the balanced attack led by quarterback Phil Petty has several dangerous%^$threats. Petty completed 145-of-251 for 1,699 yards and touchdowns this season.%^$

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Tailback Derek Watson and fullback Andrew Pinnock split duty in the%^$backfield, averaging 53.7 and 52.1 rushing yards per game respectively.%^$

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South Carolina coach Lou Holtz said he expects Watson, who missed last%^$season’s Outback Bowl due to a team suspension, to play an important role.%^$

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“Derek is a big game player,” Holtz said. “We want to get him the ball in%^$the open field as much as possible.”%^$

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Last year’s Outback Bowl was the only previous meeting between Ohio State%^$and South Carolina.