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Former USC football great Phil Petty dies

Petty is best known for leading the team to back wins in the Outback Bowl.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former South Carolina Gamecock quarterback Phil Petty, who led the team to back-to-back bowl wins for the first time in school history, has died.

Petty was a partial starter in 1999 and then full time for two years Gamecocks, most notably during the 2000 and 2001 seasons under then head coach Lou Holtz.

In many ways, Petty's era was the beginning of a rebirth of sorts for the Gamecock program. After a bleak stretch where the team went 1-10 in 1998 and 0-11 in 1999, USC stunned the college football world when they recorded an 8-4 mark in 2000. 

That season included a win over a Georgia team that was ranked in the top 10, a victory that also stopped a long SEC losing streak. (Fans memorably tore down the goalposts at Williams-Brice Stadium after that contest).  That season concluded with a win over Ohio State in the Outback Bowl, which was only the second bowl victory in program history. Overall, that team's run is the greatest single-season turnaround in Division I-A history. 

In 2001, Petty again topped Georgia and also led the team to victories over Alabama and Clemson along the way. That season is remembered for the Gamecocks playing the first college football game after 9/11 when they took on Mississippi State on September 20. 

The team also hosted ESPN's College Gameday in Columbia for the first time during a November contest against Florida. And on New Year's Day they once again played Ohio State in the Outback Bowl where they won again on a field goal in the game's final seconds. Petty was named the game's MVP after throwing for 227 yards and two touchdowns.

Overall Petty commanded the Gamecocks to 17 wins in his last 23 starts, throwing for 4,079 and 17 touchdowns those last two seasons. In 2002, he was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. 

After college he took several assistant coaching jobs including at Cardinal Newman school and East Carolina University. Last season, he was an assistant at Gray Collegiate Academy in West Columbia. 

Petty was 43. A cause of death was not immediately known. 

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