Notebook: History is made

For the first time in program history, South Carolina has won 11 games. Carolina defeated Nebraska, 30-13, in Monday's Capital One Bowl to finish the season 11-2 and will become the first team in the state of South Carolina to ever finish in the top 10 of the BCS.

Gamecock fans have just witnessed history.

In over 100 years of college football, the South Carolina football program had never won eleven games in one season. In Monday's Capital One Bowl, Carolina had an opportunity to make history and get its eleventh win against one of the most storied programs in NCAA history in the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

They did it.

"Wonderful win," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said. "We are proud of this team we have. Great win for all Gamecocks. We're a happy bunch of guys."

It was far from pretty, but very few games this season has been. Carolina has won four games by less than a touchdown and failed to score more than 20 points in four games. Carolina has also had to deal with adversity.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Stephen Garcia was benched five games into the season and permanently dismissed less than two weeks later.

All-American and Heisman candidate running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a season-ending injury during the Mississippi State game that same week.

They faced the task of breaking a three-game losing streak in bowl games against a team they had lost to in all of their previous meetings and a team that Spurrier's Florida team was embarrassed by the only time he'd faced Nebraska.

The 2011 Carolina football team heard it all, but it didn't matter. They knew they were the best team in Carolina football history. Now everyone else knows it too.

"It was a special team effort today," quarterback Connor Shaw said. "Proud of our team. We had adversity. It is good to finish on a positive note and win 11 games."

It is unknown what will happen in 2012, but with the talent that will be returning and what is coming in, leave the history book cracked open.

Tale of two halves

It was certainly a tale of two halves for both South Carolina and Nebraska. The Cornhuskers had done whatever they wanted, racking up 189 yards of offense and scoring touchdowns on each of its first two possessions. Rex Burkhead rushed for 71 yards on 15 carries, and Taylor Martinez had completed 6-of-10 passes for 89 yards.

Meanwhile South Carolina had continuously shot itself in the foot. Two horrible punts, a horrible kickoff, a penalty on a punt that led to the second Nebraska touchdown, and a stagnant offense had South Carolina in a tough position.

It all changed in a sequence of plays. With Nebraska holding a 13-9 lead and inside the Carolina 10, Ameer Abdullah took the handoff on a third-and-three, had it knocked from his hands by D.J. Swearinger, and Aldrick Fordham made the recovery at the Carolina 20. On the very next play Shaw hit Alshon Jeffery for a 78-yard gain to the Nebraska seven. Though the drive would end in a Jay Wooten missed field goal, there was life in the Gamecock offense.

After Stephon Gilmore picked a Martinez pass with just 38 seconds left in the game, the offense had life. After Shaw ran for 11 and hit Jeffery for nine more, Shaw would roll right, throw the ball up, and Jeffery would come down with it and dive into the end zone to give Carolina the lead at halftime. The final two Gamecock drives led to 153 of Carolina's 219 yards of offense in the first half.

The second half was a different story.

Burkhead rushed for just 18 yards on eight carries, Martinez would complete 4-of-6 passes for 27 yards and the Carolina defense held the Cornhuskers to just 64 yards of offense and sack Martinez five times. Nebraska would also commit nine of its ten penalties in the second half.

Meanwhile South Carolina would do just enough offensively to hold Nebraska at bay and dominate the fourth quarter to seal the win. Carolina had the ball for over 10 minutes in the fourth quarter and score two touchdowns to seal the victory.

"I thought we were going to have to score with them if it's going to be one of these kinds of games," Spurrier said. "Our defense I think kept playing the same stuff. The guys were in position and played better, and we had some minus plays by Nebraska. That helped. They had penalties and sacks."

Dominant defense

The defensive effort after the first two drives was superb. After giving up 106 yards on the opening two drives, Carolina limited the Huskers to 147 yards the rest of the game and was led by balanced pressure.

Nine players had at least four tackles and no player had more than seven. Nine players had at least one tackle for loss, and five combined for the six sacks.

D.J. Swearinger and Antonio Allen each had seven tackles, while Rodney Paulk, Stephon Gilmore, and Devin Taylor each had five. Swearinger, Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney each had two tackles for losses, Melvin Ingram and Travian Robertson each had 1.5 tackles for loss, and Swearinger, Allen, Gilmore, DeVonte Holloman, and Shaq Wilson all had one tackle for loss.

Clowney led the team with two sacks, Ingram had 1.5, Allen and Taylor had one, and Robertson had 0.5.

Bling, bling

Each of the Carolina players will receive a championship ring for winning the Capital One Bowl and getting their eleventh win of the season.

"We said, ‘hey, if we are fortunate enough to beat these guys, we'll get rings for you guys,'" Spurrier said. "We saved 300-350 bucks out of their allotment from the Bowl so they can get rings. It will have a big ‘ole 11 on them. It is neat that this group of seniors will say, ‘hey, I played on the best team ever from South Carolina.' The record speaks for itself as the best team ever."

Notes

General Notes


With the win, South Carolina set a school record for victories with 11 wins this season. The previous record was 10 set in the 1984 season.

The win gives South Carolina 20 wins over the past two seasons, extending their school record for wins in back-to-back years.

The Capital One Bowl victory is South Carolina's fifth bowl victory in 17 tries and snaps a three-game bowl losing streak. The previous bowl win for Carolina came in the 2006 Liberty Bowl over Houston.

The victory is South Carolina's first win in series history over Nebraska. Carolina had lost in three previous meetings vs. the Cornhuskers.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier now owns a 55-35 record at South Carolina in seven seasons at the helm. He is nine wins shy of the school record of 64 set by Rex Enright. Coach Spurrier is now 197-75-2 in his career as a head coach. He is now 8-10 in bowl games for his career as well.

South Carolina scored its first touchdown in the first quarter in a bowl game since the 2006 Liberty Bowl on the one-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw. In the last three bowl games, the Gamecocks scored just three points in the first half - a field goal in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl.

OFFENSIVE NOTES

Already the Gamecocks all-time leader in receiving yards, junior wide receiver Alshon Jeffery set a school record for 100-yard receiving games as he caught four passes for 148 yards - his 12th career game with 100 or more receiving yards besting the previous record of 11 set by Sidney Rice (2005-06). Jeffery also tied the school record for career touchdown receptions with his 23rd of his career on a 51-yard pass play to end the second quarter. He is tied with Rice for that school record. Jeffery now has 183 career receptions for 3,042 yards, 51 yards shy of the SEC record of 3,093 set by Terrence Edwards (1999-2002) of Georgia. Jeffery was named the MVP of the 2012 Capital One Bowl as well.

Junior running back Kenny Miles 24-yard run from scrimmage in the first quarter was his second longest run from scrimmage this season. His long was 28 yards on November 26, 2011 in the win vs. Clemson.

The nine-yard touchdown reception for Kenny Miles in the fourth quarter was his first touchdown of the season and his first career receiving touchdown. He also scored on a three-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. His other career touchdown came on a run against South Carolina State in 2009.

Connor Shaw's 78-yard pass completion in the second quarter to Alshon Jeffery was the longest play from scrimmage this season for the Gamecocks.

DEFENSIVE NOTES

South Carolina's defense had a tremendous second half pitching a shutout against the Cornhuskers in the final 30 minutes of the game and allowed just 64 yards to Nebraska as well in the second half.

South Carolina totaled six sacks in the game, tying a season-high set vs. Vanderbilt in September. Jadeveon Clowney finished with two sacks, Melvin Ingram with one and a half, Antonio Allen and Devin Taylor with one and Travian Robertson with 0.5.

Junior defensive back Stephon Gilmore's interception late in the second quarter was his fourth of the season and the eighth of his career.

Junior free safety D.J. Swearinger's forced fumble in the second quarter was his first of the season and the second of his career.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES

South Carolina blocked its first extra point of the season and returned it for two points with 11:58 remaining in the first quarter. Travian Robertson was credited with the block with Stephon Gilmore returning the PAT for two points.


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