Some short, quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 34-24 victory over Wisconsin in the 2014 Capital One Bowl:
Final word. As I was finishing this piece I started to realize all the players and coaches I was leaving out, and how the accomplishments of this team and its seniors deserve more than what I have time to write. For all the Shaws, Clowneys and Ellingtons I mention, there are the Suttons, Quarles(es?) and Hamptons whom I don’t. For all the credit Steve Spurrier deserves, his staff of guys like Ward, Elliott and Mangus are second to none. We have tremendous individual talent on the field, on the sidelines and in the stands, but this program has become the epitome of TEAM. Everyone who has had a hand in our success deserves a handshake and a sincere thank you. This is indeed the Golden Age of Gamecock football.
11. A number with which all South Carolina fans should be quite familiar. For the third consecutive season the Gamecocks will finish with an 11-2 record and a top 10 finish. Our handful of seniors leave with a record of 42-11, easily the best four-year stretch in USC history.
Maybe you haven’t lost perspective during this run, but since I have I’ll remind everyone we only had ONE 10-win season in school history (1984) and ZERO top 10 finishes in school history before 2011. The record book continues to be re-written under Steve Spurrier.
Team Shaw. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I was ever worried we might lose to Wisconsin. There was no way number 14 in garnet was going to walk off that playing field in Orlando with a loss. Gman nailed it in a text to us shortly after the game yesterday – every time we think Connor Shaw can’t top his last feat, he somehow finds a way to amaze us in a new way.
Yesterday’s game was perhaps the best of his career, a tour de force performance that included 312 yards on 22 of 25 passing while accounting for five touchdowns – three passing, one rushing, and his first ever receiving touchdown.
The most remarkable stat? Shaw finished the season with 24 touchdown passes against only one interception. That is asinine. Also of note, yesterday’s game took him over 6,000 yards passing for his career (6,074), and he finished with 56 touchdowns against 16 interceptions.
Oh, one more thing – he finished 27-5 as a starter. The debate as to whether he is the best quarterback in Gamecock history is long over. We should probably be talking about where he ranks in terms of the best PLAYER in Gamecock history.
Stand of the game. After Wisconsin extended their lead to 17-13 via a bruising ground game to start the third quarter, Connor Shaw promptly made his only mistake of the game and fumbled on the first play of the next drive. Aided by a holding penalty, the Gamecock defense bowed up and eventually the Badgers missed a 42-yard field goal. The way Wisconsin was moving the football late in the first half and early in the second, a touchdown after the could’ve completely changed the complexion of the game
Play of the game. Following that missed field goal, USC quickly moved across midfield into Badger territory. Facing 3rd and 5 at the Wisconsin 42, the Gamecocks committed back-to-back false start penalties. An eight yard gain made it 4th and 7, and Steve Spurrier decided to go for it in no man’s land as opposed to risking a Tyler Hull punt (which is indeed risky).
Shaw floated a pass to Bruce Ellington near the left sideline that was behind him. Ellington reached up, tipped the ball, then spun around to make a spectacular catch and give the Gamecocks a much-needed first down. Two plays later Shaw hit Ellington for a 22-yard touchdown strike that put USC ahead to stay.
They’re not saying boo, they’re saying Bruuuuuuuuce. Ellington finished with six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns in perhaps his final game at South Carolina. If you had told me six weeks ago Ellington might leave for the NFL I would’ve said you’re crazy. But really, Bruce has nothing left to prove in college, and another year will probably not improve his draft stock. The downside for him is the 2014 wide receiver class is very deep.
I have no idea if Bruce Ellington will be successful in the League, but I wouldn’t bet against him. As someone who panned his decision to play football in the first place, I’m in no position to make judgments about number 23.
The HBC. Steve Spurrier was as happy and proud as we’ve ever seen him at the trophy presentation yesterday. He was downright giddy, thanking the fans, proclaiming Connor Shaw the best quarterback in the country, and yes, taking the obligatory shot at Clemson*.
Long live the HBC.
Gimme gimme gimme. The Gamecocks forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter yesterday, matching the three they forced in the fourth quarter against Clemson in their last game. That’s finishing strong.
Clowney goin’. JD, it seems like yesterday I closed the door to my office in the middle of the day just to see you announce your college choice. Thank you for coming to South Carolina. It has been nothing but an absolute pleasure watching you play football here. I’m glad you didn’t pay attention to the media/haters as much as we did. Best of luck, your place in Gamecock history is secure.
Shaq attack. Shaq Roland (6-112) continues fulfill his promise, and if Bruce leaves like we believe he will, becomes the number one receiving target next year. Some of his catches are Alshon-esque, and if he can work hard in the offseason and stay on the straight and narrow, he’ll be an all-conference performer in 2014.
The Rocket. Mike Davis faltered down the stretch this season. Despite his protestations, it was obvious he was not healthy from the Missouri game on. His violent running style caught up with him, and I hope he starts to realize avoiding contact as opposed to taking it head on (literally) is going to extend his playing days.
Young bucks. For our young linebackers yesterday was a microcosm of the season. Early on they seemed a little lost and confused and were having a hard time shedding blocks. By the middle of the third quarter they were more confident and flying to the ball with abandon.
I feel like this season has gone as planned for the linebacking corps. We have seen them go from a group that was a weakness for much of this season, to a unit that should be a strength in 2014. And I know I’m not telling you anything you haven’t already heard, but Skai Moore has a chance to be the best linebacker we’ve had on campus in several years.
Knight moves. Not only does the three-point win over Central Florida look better after yesterday, keep in mind without a Mike Davis fumble deep in Knight territory, and a brutal secondary breakdown late in the game, we win that game by two scores or more.
Happy New Year and here’s to a productive offseason! Go Cocks!