TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- Derek Watson's loss was Ryan Brewer's gain.
Getting an opportunity for increased playing time with the suspension of Watson, the Ohio native almost single-handidly helped South Carolina cap its turnaround season with a 24-7 victory over No. 18 Ohio State in the Outback Bowl.
A 1,000-yard rusher, Watson was suspended for the game by South Carolina coach Lou Holtz for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Brewer, who was recruited by Ohio State, filled in more than capably, accounting for 219 all-purpose yards and scoring all three South Carolina touchdowns. He rushed for a seven-yard TD early in the third quarter, caught a 28-yard TD pass 43 seconds into the fourth period and ran for a two-yard score with six minutes remaining.
"I had no trouble getting up for this game," Brewer said. "Maybe I was too pumped up. Coach Holtz found a way to calm me down. I dropped a ball in warm-ups and he came over and talked to me. He said, 'Don't play this game against Ohio State for yourself, play it for the team.'" The 5-10, 205-pound sophomore, a former Mr. Ohio, burned his home state team by rushing for 109 yards on 19 carries and catching three passes for 92 yards. He also had two punt returnS for 18 yards.
"I had just gotten the (South Carolina) job and got a message that Mr. Ohio wanted to visit South Carolina," Holtz said of Brewer. "He's a good football player and I've told him that he could play at Ohio State, Michigan or for me at Notre Dame."
In their second year under Holtz, the Gamecocks (8-4) shook off a season-ending three-game losing streak to reach eight wins for the first time since 1988. South Carolina entered the campaign with a 21-game losing streak.
Holtz has become immensely popular in Columbia, signing a lucrative contract extension during the season.
The win was a milestone of sorts for Holtz, who has taken all six teams he has coached to a bowl game in his second season at the helm. Holtz, who captured a national championship at Notre Dame following the 1988 season, defeated Ohio State for the first time in five meetings.
"The game bowl is going to the Lou Holtz Hall of Fame in East Liverpool, Ohio," Holtz said. "It was very special, very special for the players.'
South Carolina earned its first bowl victory since defeating West Virginia, 24-21, in the 1995 Carquest Bowl.
"We'll be a better football team next year," South Carolina quarterback Phil Petty said. "This win was good for the seniors and we won't be a surprise next year. We finished with an 8-4 record and a bowl victory."
Ohio State coach John Cooper, who has been frequently criticized by Buckeyes' fans, will not receive as favorable a welcome. The Buckeyes (8-4) were disappointed they did not get a berth in the Rose Bowl and seemed disinterested throughout most of Monday's contest.
"First, I want to congratulate Ryan Brewer," Cooper said. "He's a great ballplayer and I'm very happy for where he is now. I congratulate him, coach Holtz and the South Carolina team for a great game."
"He (Cooper) was just being gracious and respectful," Brewer added. "It meant a lot to me. I respect that man the (Ohio State) team."
The first half was a defensive struggle, with South Carolina managing only a 3-0 lead on Jason Corse's 23-yard field goal with 12:48 remaining in the second period.
But South Carolina's stingy defense continued to dominate as the Gamecocks converted three Ohio State turnovers into a pair of touchdowns during a 21-point second half.
South Carolina did most its damage on the ground, rushing for 218 yards on 51 carries. Petty completed 9-of-19 passes for 175 yards with an interception.
Ohio State was held to 258 yards, including just 85 on the ground. Facing constant pressure, Steve Bellisari connected on 14-of-25 for 157 yards with an interception.
The Buckeyes had a chance to tie it at halftime but Dan Stultz missed a 47-yard field goal as time expired.
South Carolina forced a turnover on Ohio State's first possession of the season as linebacker Kalimba Edwards jarred the ball loose after sacking Bellisari. Tackle Cleveland Pinkney recovered the fumble at the Buckeyes 28.
Seven plays later, Brewer scored around right end, giving South Carolina a 10-0 lead with 10:53 left in the third quarter.
Ohio State finally got a big play as Ken-Yon Rambo's 62-yard reception gave the Buckeyes a 1st-and-goal at the 1. Mike Gurr recovered Jonathan Wells' fumble in the end zone to pull the Buckeyes within 10-7 with 4:51 left in the period.
But South Carolina put it away with a pair of scores in the final quarter. After Petty and Brewer combined for a 28-yard TD on a screen pass, the first of DeAndre Eiland's two interceptions set up Brewer's final score.