South Carolina won their 11th game of the season by beating Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl by a score of 30-13.
Breaking it Down…1st Quarter…South Carolina won the toss and elected to receive the ball. After a quick first down, Connor Shaw was sacked twice in the next three plays, and USC had to punt. Nebraska started their first drive at the Carolina 46 and scored 3 quick plays later. The extra point was blocked, and Stephon Gilmore returned it for two points to leave the score 6-2. On their second drive the Gamecocks kept the ball on the ground for 11 consecutive plays. On fourth and goal from the one Shaw snuck the ball in for the TD. The extra point gave SC a 9-6 lead. Nebraska gained a first down before being forced to punt, but during the punt USC was called for a facemask. With the extended drive, the Cornhuskers were able to score again and make the extra point. It started to look like Lorenzo Ward’s appointment as successor to Ellis Johnson was a big mistake. The Gamecock offense punted after three downs, and gave Nebraska good field position.
2nd Quarter…The Huskers made one first down and punted. South Carolina had the ball deep in their own territory and managed to move it out some but ultimately had to punt. Nebraska’s offense started to click again; they moved the ball down to the USC 8 when D.J. Swearinger forced a fumble, and Aldrick Fordham recovered. Shaw went up top and found Alshon Jeffery for a 78 yard completion down to the Nebraska 7. Despite getting to the one yard line, SC couldn’t punch it in, and to make matters worse they missed the field goal attempt from 20 yards out. Nebraska started driving again behind tailback Rex Burkhead’s rushing. Quarterback Taylor Martinez started throwing the ball more, and Gilmore intercepted a third down attempt at the USC 29. With time running out in the half, Shaw ran for a first down and found Jeffrey for 9 more to set the Gamecocks up at the 49 with 7 seconds left. Shaw took the snap and avoided going down twice before unleashing a hail mary pass to the endzone. Jeffery out jumped everyone and caught it at the four; he then turned and dove into the endzone for the TD as time expired. The extra point gave USC a 16-13 halftime lead.
3rd Quarter…Nebraska received the second half kick and looked to replicate their first quarter success. After a couple of first downs Martinez ran the ball down to the South Carolina 7, and the Huskers appeared certain to at least tie the game. Over the next three plays USC’s defense pushed them back to the 18, and a 35 yard field goal was missed. South Carolina’s offense quickly went three and out. Nebraska made a first down before shooting themselves in the foot with a plethora of penalties. On that series of downs, the Cornhuskers were called for an illegal formation, holding and two false starts. Then they punted. Shaw found Rory Anderson for 21 yards and moved the ball accross midfield. The Gamecocks couldn’t penetrate further and had to punt. Before they did, Jeffery and Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard were called for personal fouls for fighting and ejected.
4th Quarter…The first play of the last quarter was a Nebraska punt after they failed to gain a first down. Ace Sanders returned the punt into Nebraska territory. Pass interference was called on the defense on first down. USC then moved inside the 20 before Shaw found Kenny Miles in the end zone from 9 yards out to stretch the lead to 23-13. Nebraska made one first down but could do no more against a Gamecock defense that had found its groove and had to punt with just under 10 minutes in the game. Carolina took possession at their 29 looking to the melt the clock. A 13 play, 71 yard drive ensued. The Gamecocks twice converted on fourth down at the Nebraska 40 and 31 yard lines. Shaw ran the ball 25 yards to the three and was hit late on the ground. The penalty was called, but Shaw left the game. Miles ran it in on first down to ice the game and extend the lead to 30-13.
Nebraska received the ball with good field position but only 3:00 on the clock. The South Carolina defense knew they were going to have to pass, so the D-line was able to tee off on Martinez. On first down Melvin Ingram sacked Martinez for a loss of 6. On second down Jadeveon Clowney sacked Martinez despite being held on the play. On third down Travian Robertson and Devin Taylor combined for the sack. Not wanting to find out who was going to get the sack on fourth down, Nebraska punted. USC then knelt on it to preserve the win.
Stars of the Game….Kenny Miles…15 rushes, 67 yards, TD…2 receptions, 13 yards, TD…Alshon Jeffrey…4 receptions, 148 yards, TD….Connor Shaw…11-17, 230 yards, 2 TD…19 rushes, 42 yards, TD…D.J. Swearinger…7 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 forced fumble…Stephon Gilmore…5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 extra point return for score…Jadeveon Clowney 2 sacks…
What to Take Away From the Game…You don’t have to analyze a game like this too much. It was a great win which the team won going away. Despite Bo Pelini’s comments one got the feeling that if the game had continued for a 5th and 6th quarters, USC would have continued to add to its lead and shut down Nebraska.
Lorenzo Ward’s debut as sole coordinator was an unqualified success. He was able to shut down a team who would have traditionally given USC fits in the past. After some early scoring he adjusted and made the right calls to win the game.
This team has cemented their place as the greatest South Carolina team in school history with their 11th win. The only thing better than that accomplishment is the feeling that this isn’t a fluke season. It seems to be the natural result of years of program building. There’s no reason to think next year will be anything but a continuation of this year, and there will be plenty of time to talk about that. For now, enjoy 11 wins and a great season.
This and that…South Carolina improves to 11-2 on the season and set a school record for wins….20 total wins in the last two seasons is also the two year program record…The bowl win was the 5th for the program…The defense held Nebraska to just 64 yards in the second half….The defense tied their season high with 6 sacks….The extra point block was the first blocked extra point in the bowl play since 1989….