Shaw, Ellington trade roles, connect for 3 touchdowns
ORLANDO, Fla. — When South Carolina took on Wisconsin in the 2014 Capital One Bowl, the key question was whether the prolific Gamecock passing attack could put up more points than the Badgers’ punishing run game.
The two teams stayed true to form Wednesday, and South Carolina outlasted its Big Ten opponent to emerge as 34-24 victors on New Year’s Day.
“It was really neat to get us another bowl championship down here,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “Two-in-a-row at the Capital One, three-in-a-row in Florida. So it feels pretty good.”
The win secured a third-consecutive 11-win season and a third-straight bowl victory for South Carolina, and it gave Spurrier a win in his 300th game as a college head coach.
Senior quarterback Connor Shaw, who was voted the game’s most valuable player, finished up his career as a Gamecock in a game full of heroics.
Shaw completed 22 of his 25 attempts for 312 yards and accounted for five total touchdowns to cement his legacy as, according to his coach, one of the greatest quarterbacks in South Carolina history.
“I’m just proud of our team,” Shaw said. “We’re establishing a winning tradition.”
The senior’s performance was bolstered by a monster day from his wide receivers, as both sophomore Shaq Roland and junior Bruce Ellington put on a clinic for the crowd here.
Ellington hauled in six passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns while Roland caught six balls of his own for 112 yards.
“They told me before the game, ‘Just toss it up there, and we’ll go get the ball,’” Shaw said. “A couple times, I just threw it up, and Shaq and Bruce made some excellent plays, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
A testament to the success South Carolina was having through the air on the day, Ellington and Shaw were able to reverse roles in the second quarter when the wide-out launched it to his quarterback in the end zone for a touchdown.
Spurrier said later that the play that gave Shaw his first — and only — receiving touchdown in college had been in the playbook for three years before it saw the light of day.
While the offense gave Gamecock fans a sufficient fireworks show, it was a clutch performance by the South Carolina defense that sealed the victory in a game that was hotly-contested throughout.
“They had a lot of good runs, and even though we gave up a lot of rushing yards in the middle of the field, our guys were pretty tough,” Spurrier said. “So a good day for our defense, and we know that Wisconsin’s an excellent running team.”
The South Carolina defense was only to blame for 17 of the Badgers’ 24 points, as Wisconsin returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The effort by the defensive side of the ball for the Gamecocks was highlighted by several key turnovers, including not one, but two interceptions for freshman linebacker Skai Moore and a fourth-quarter fumble recovery by sophomore Kaiwan Lewis.
The contest was the last in a South Carolina uniform for seniors Shaw, Chaz Sutton, Ronald Patrick and Jimmy Legree. Also suiting up for the last time were juniors Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles and redshirt junior Victor Hampton. It may have also been Ellington’s last game at South Carolina, but the junior said after the game that he is undecided.
With the season wrapped up and a number of program-records to hang his hat on, Spurrier to reflected on his ninth year at the helm of South Carolina football. And all things considered, he said, he sees it as one of his best.
“This has been a wonderful season,” Spurrier said. “It could have gone the other way, but it went our way so often this year. We have a lot to be thankful for. We’ve been a blessed team this year.”