South Carolina Defense Dominates in 2012 Capital One BowlJanuary 3, 2012
Orlando, Fla. – The 2012 Capital One Bowl in Orlando's Citrus Bowl featured the nationally ninth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks against the No. 20 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Many analysts indicated this could have been the best non-BCS bowl game of the year, but the question is…did it live up to the hype?
The game marked the first time Nebraska played at the Citrus Bowl since they lost handily to Georgia Tech 45-21 in 1991, and the first time that South Carolina had visited this stadium since 1975 when they lost to Miami of Ohio 20-7.
At the end of the first quarter it was pretty clear that South Carolina needed to play smarter. Two huge personal foul penalties cost them good field position and extended a drive which ultimately led to Nebraska points.
One of the best wide receivers in college football, Alshon Jeffrey of the Gamecocks, didn’t even have the ball thrown in his direction. Currently projected as the 27th pick in the upcoming April NFL Draft, you’d think that Coach Spurrier would want to get his biggest weapon involved early and often. He reeled in his first reception of the day at 8:31 left in the first half. Quarterback Connor Shaw connected with Jeffrey for a 78-yard pass from the South Carolina 15-yard line down to the Nebraska seven. After a few running plays and a delay of game penalty called against Shaw, the Gamecocks settled for a 30-yard field goal attempt, which Jay Wooten missed left. Nebraska took over on their 20 yard line and drove the ball 45 yards on 11 plays using 5:11 off the clock, however Cornhusker QB Taylor Martinez threw a costly interception at the South Carolina 26-yard line.
With seven seconds left in the first half, Jeffrey made a spectacular catch on a 51-yard hail mary from Shaw, and he caught the ball amongst three defenders at the four yard line, spun and dove into the end zone for the go ahead score. At halftime the Gamecocks held a three point lead 16-13.
The second half began with Nebraska getting the ball but they couldn’t get out of their own way, commiting four penalties which backed them into a third-and-25. False starts and illegal formation penalties killed any kind of momentum Nebraska could even think of gaining. However, one of the biggest momentum-turning plays happened at the 2:11 mark in the third quarter when Nebraska cornerback Alfonso Dennard and Jeffery got into a shoving match at the end of a play which got both players ejected from the game. It was a dramatic a loss for South Carolina because at that time Jeffrey had already caught four passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. He had clearly been a game changer and was well on his way to making his case for being considered the best wide receiver in the nation over Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd or Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon.
The fourth quarter was more of the same for Nebraska. They couldn’t sustain many drives against South Carolina’s number four ranked defense (based on yards per game average), while the Gamecocks continued to put together lengthy drives that resulted in points. Connor Shaw threw another touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, this one to running back Kenny Miles. Miles also added a rushing touchdown to his stat line in the fourth quarter which put the game out of reach for the offensive penalty-riddled Cornhuskers. In the end though, what really made the difference in the game was the play of sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw, who completed 11-of-17 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns, along with 19 rushing attempts for 42 yards gained and a touchdown. Alshon Jeffrey was awarded the Most Valuable Player Award to the surprise of many in attendance due to his early exit.
In the end, Coach Spurrier and his Gamecock defense did exactly what they were supposed to do…shutdown Rex Burkhead, Taylor Martinez and the potent Cornhusker rushing attack, which they did, holding them to only 137 rushing yards, which is significantly lower than Nebraska’s per game average on the season of 223.92 yards. Burkhead, who had 1,268 rushing yards through the regular season, finished with 89 rushing yards on 23 attempts, however he was unable to score. The Gamecocks also sacked Martinez six times and recorded 12 tackles for a loss as they scored the final 21 points in the game and held Nebraska scoreless through the final three quarters en route to a 30-13 victory. This is the first ever 11-win season in South Carolina school history. They finish off the season with an 11-2 record and position themselves nicely to build on this great season, which should do wonders for recruiting going forward.