Jeffery goes out a winner?

Its rare for a game's Most Valuable Player to earn such a title without being involved in a single play in the fourth quarter. But then again, there wasn't much convention in Alshon Jeffery's performance at the Capital One Bowl on Monday afternoon.

Jeffery sent the South Carolina Gamecocks into the locker room at halftime with a reverberating momentum swing in the final seconds. With seven seconds left, Carolina had the ball at their own 49-yard line, trailing 13-9 and only one prayer at regaining the lead before half.

"We put three out there and threw it up in the air… Connor rolled out and dodged one or two guys, stumbled a bit, then the next thing I know he got his feet and got a good throw on it," coach Steve Spurrier recalled. "I don't know if the wind carried it right beyond one of their guys or what, but I looked up and I saw Alshon pluck it out of the air and then I think he made an excellent dive into the end zone.

"Obviously a big play."

So Jeffery and the Gamecocks trotted into the locker rooms at halftime as a sea of Carolina fans showered them with cheers. With a lead and all the momentum a team could have, It was the perfect way to end a half.

But not even a quarter of football later, the scene was quite different, as Alshon Jeffery trotted back into the locker room sooner than anyone had imagined. A deafening silence engulfed the stadium late in the third quarter as Jeffery, along with the star Nebraska cornerback, Alonzo Dennard, who had been burned in the worst of ways, had been ejected from the game for exchanging punches.

With the ejection, Jeffery could no longer build on his heroic bowl performance which had already amassed 148 yards and a touchdown, including a 78-yard catch-and-run as well as nearly 90 percent of the team's yards through the air. He couldn't finish off his electrifying display to the plethora of NFL scouts at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, who all had a watchful eye on the junior wide out with the size and skills to be a lottery pick.

And he couldn't achieve history in one last way, by breaking the Southeastern Conference record for receiving yards, a record he was just 52 yards shy of. That is, not unless he does the unthinkable and returns for his final year at Carolina.

It was the most imperfect way to end a career.

But things shaped up rather well for the Gamecocks, and for Jeffery as well. Carolina didn't miss a beat, shutting out the Cornhuskers in the final three quarters of the game en route to a 30-13 victory, snapping a three game bowl losing streak and concluding the school's first 11-win season in history. Jeffery was awarded for his dominating two-plus quarters of football with the Capital One Bowl's Most Valuable Player award. As for the incident that caused Jeffery's abrupt exit, Spurrier didn't see it.

"Alshon's never swung at a guy since he's been there. I told that referee, I said, 'That doesn't sound like him. I hope you told that guy who called it, he needs to be right,'" Coach paused. "I might get in trouble. We'll have to wait and see the replay. Everyone will get a chance to see the replay, I guess."

In a way, the MVP award compensated the player who was ousted from a game that he took complete control of, whether the decision was just or not.

As Jeffery hoisted his MVP trophy, proudly displaying it to a standing ovation of Gamecock faithful, it was the most fitting way for a Gamecock legend to finish a career.

Of course, this is all under the seemingly unanimous presumption that Jeffery enters the 2012 NFL draft. After all, even Spurrier himself has said numerous times if a player is projected to be a first round pick they are encouraged head in that direction.

So if logic withstands, the last time Jeffery walks off a field in garnet and black, he wasn't bowing his head, praying that "What if?" wouldn't be the question resounding in his mind in about eighteen minutes of regulation.

He wasn't worried his a career that put him first in receptions and receiving yards in school history, and took the school places it never dreamed of going, didn't end in shame.

Instead, he rode off into the sunset, with all the glory and pride he deserved well in tact, and not a single doubt or regret in sight.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories