Jan. 2, 2012
ORLANDO, Fla. — No. 10/9 South Carolina wrapped up one of the most successful seasons in school history on Monday afternoon with a 30-13 victory over No. 21/20 Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
With the win, the Gamecocks finish the season at 11-2, becoming the first team in school history to reach 11 wins.
Junior receiver Alshon Jeffery played a key role in leading South Carolina to it’s record-setting win and made a little history of his own. Jeffery finished the day with four receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown on his way to earning bowl MVP honors. With the 100-yard receiving day, he set the school record for most career 100-yard receiving games with 12. He moved into a tie with former Gamecock Sidney Rice for most career TD receptions in school history with 23. Jeffery also moved into sole possession of second place on the SEC career receiving yards list with 3,042 yards.
Gamecock quarterback Connor Shaw had a stellar end to his sophomore campaign, completing 11-of-17 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He added 42 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Junior running back Kenny Miles finished with 67 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and had two receptions for 13 yards and a score.
The Gamecock defense delivered another solid performance, holding Nebraska to 253 yards of total offense with just 64 yards allowed in the second half. Carolina tied a season-high with six sacks on the day, including two from freshman Jadeveon Clowney and 1.5 from senior Melvin Ingram. Junior D.J. Swearinger and senior Antonio Allen led the way with seven tackles apiece.
The Cornhuskers (9-4) struck first after taking over at the Carolina 46 on their first possession of the contest. On Nebraska’s third play from scrimmage, quarterback Taylor Martinez found Kenny Bell for a 30-yard touchdown strike, but not all was lost for the Gamecocks thanks to a huge play on special teams. Senior Travian Robertson blocked the extra point and Stephon Gilmore returned it for two points to make it a 6-2 game with 11:58 left in the first quarter.
Freshman Bruce Ellington gave Carolina excellent field position on the ensuing possession with a 45-yard kickoff return to the Gamecock 45. A 24-yard run by Miles, his second longest of the season, set up the Gamecocks deep in Nebraska territory. Shaw capped the drive on fourth and goal by punching it in from a yard out, giving Carolina a 9-6 advantage at the 6:04 mark of the first quarter. It was the first touchdown for the Gamecocks in the first quarter of a bowl game since the 2006 Liberty Bowl.
Nebraska answered with an eight-play, 60-yard scoring drive to regain the lead. The Gamecocks forced the Cornhuskers to punt on the drive, but a 15-yard facemask penalty on South Carolina during the punt kept Nebraska’s offense on the field. Ameer Abdullah finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Cornhuskers a 13-9 lead.
The Gamecock defense came up big midway through the second quarter. After the Cornhuskers moved the ball to the Carolina 8, Abdullah a handoff around the right side, but Swearinger came in with a huge hit to knock the ball loose and teammate Aldrick Fordham recovered the fumble at the 15.
Carolina went deep on the first play following the fumble, as Shaw connected with Jeffery for a 78-yard pass play down to the Nebraska 7. However, the Gamecocks came up empty as Jay Wooten pulled a 20-yard field goal attempt wide left.
Nebraska moved the ball down to the Carolina 35 after the missed field goal, but Gilmore gave the Gamecocks one more chance to put points on the board before halftime by intercepting a Martinez pass at the Gamecock 26.
South Carolina took advantage of the turnover, going 71 yards in 38 seconds. On second and 1 from the Gamecock 49 with seven seconds left, Shaw rolled right and made one last heave to the end zone. Jeffery leaped over a defender, came down with the ball and fought his way into the end zone to give South Carolina a 16-13 lead heading into the locker room.
Nebraska marched down the field to open the second half, as a 36-yard scamper by Martinez moved the Cornhuskers down to the Gamecock 8. However, South Carolina’s defense buckled down once again and pushed Nebraska back 10 yards. Nebraska kicker Brett Maher then pushed a 35-yard field goal attempt wide right.
The Gamecocks pushed their lead to 23-13 early in the fourth quarter with a five-play, 41-yard scoring drive. Shaw hooked up with Ace Sanders for a 23-yard pass play on third and 18 to move the ball to the Nebraska 11. Two plays later, Shaw found a wide-open Miles for a 9-yard touchdown pass with 12:25 remaining.
Miles added a 3-yard touchdown run with 3:05 left to put the game out of reach.
Martinez completed 10-of-16 passes for 116 yards and one touchdown and had 37 yards rushing to lead Nebraska. Rex Burkhead added 89 yards rushing on 23 carries.