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2011 Capital One Bowl Recap

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs South Carolina Gamecocks - South Carolina 30, Nebraska 13

Once the hallucinations ended and something remotely resembling normal football returned to the proceedings, the South Carolina Gamecocks were able to win the 2012 Capital One Bowl. In so doing, they made a little history for themselves… and earned some legally-sanctioned jewelry from their head coach.

Before this game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said he would give rings to his players if they could deliver a win. South Carolina, in its long football history, had never won 11 games in a single season. The Gamecocks might have received a relatively soft SEC schedule this season – they avoided LSU and Alabama, for instance – and they played only one tough non-conference game (against Clemson), so many people wondered just how much meat on the bone existed. South Carolina lost at home to Auburn this past season, raising questions about the team’s legitimacy within the larger world of college football. Moreover, Nebraska – saddled with three losses entering this game – was intent on making up for its so-so regular season with a particularly spirited performance inside the Citrus Bowl stadium in Orlando. South Carolina should have been more than a two-point favorite on the raw merits, but the history of the Gamecock program suggested that this game could have gotten away from Spurrier’s team. That’s probably a big part of the reason why Spurrier offered the ring as an extra incentive for each and every one of his players.

As it turned out, the incentive might have worked a little too well in the first half, but once these teams flushed a lot of anxiety and passion from their systems, Carolina proved to be the superior team on the day.

The first half of this contest was pure madness. South Carolina came up with a two-point return of a blocked Nebraska extra point attempt. Spurrier – who hated the shotgun and the running game for so long in his career - employed shotgun snaps on zone-read-based runs from the 1-yard line. South Carolina turned a second-and-goal from the 2 into a scoreless possession, thanks to a false start and then a missed field goal. The Gamecocks committed a personal foul on a punt, thereby giving Nebraska a drive-extending gift. The Huskers committed a fumble just when they were on the verge of extending a 13-9 second-quarter lead to 20-9. The fumbles shot 15 yards into the air and was covered by the Gamecocks at the South Carolina 15. Then came the capper to the nuttiness in the first half: a Hail Mary touchdown to end the first half from South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery… who got into a fight and was ejected early in the third quarter. South Carolina seemed too motivated. It needed to relax and play its game. Ironically, the loss of its best player – Jeffery – seemed to give the Gamecocks the sober focus they really needed.

Over the final quarter and a half of this contest, South Carolina maxed out. Wiping away the turnovers and they brain cramps that marked the first two and a half quarters of the Capital One Bowl. The defense, led by its stellar front four, shut out the Huskers. Meanwhile, Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw led two extended touchdown drives which landed Nebraska on the canvas. The eleventh win was bagged because a team finally learned how to get out of its own way.

Now, some Gamecocks will literally “ring” in the New Year. Jewelry from Steve Spurrier awaits.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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