South Carolina football completes third-straight 11-win season
ORLANDO, Fla. — When South Carolina took on Wisconsin in the 2014 Capital One Bowl, the 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 on New Year’s Day, and South Carolina was able to outlast its Big Ten opponent to emerge as 34-24 victors.
“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 triumph secured the team’s third consecutive 11-win season and its third bowl victory in a row and gave Spurrier a win in his 300th game as a college head coach.
The game’s MVP, senior quarterback Connor Shaw, finished up his career as a Gamecock in heroic fashion. 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 in Orlando.
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 the ball to his quarterback in the end zone for a trick-play touchdown.
According to Spurrier, the play that gave Shaw his first career receiving score 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 defensive unit was only to blame for 17 of the Badgers’ 24 points, as Wisconsin returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that blew open a game that looked to be sealed in the Gamecocks’ favor.
The effort by the defensive side of the ball for South Carolina was highlighted by several key turnovers, including two interceptions by 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 Chaz Sutton, Ronald Patrick and Jimmy Legree, as well as Shaw. Also suiting up for the last time were juniors Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles and Bruce Ellington, along with redshirt junior Victor Hampton.
After the game, with the season wrapped up and a number of program-records to hang his hat on, Spurrier allowed himself to reflect 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.”