Shaw shines in swansong as Gamecocks top Badgers

uscfoot-shawbowlBehind five touchdowns from senior quarterback Connor Shaw, No. 8 South Carolina (11-2) claimed a 34-24 victory over No. 19 Wisconsin (9-4) in the 2014 Capital One Bowl.

The Capital One Bowl MVP, Shaw accounted for 369 yards of offense, going 22-for-25 in the air for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns while also running for 48 yards on 16 carries and a score. Shaw also caught a TD pass for 9 yards. Junior wide receiver Bruce Ellington caught six passes for a career-best 139 yards and two touchdowns and threw for another, while sophomore Shaq Roland pulled in six passes for 112 yards, both career bests.

The Gamecocks took the lead late in the third quarter behind the senior quarterback in his final game. Shaw found Ellington from 22 yards away to hand South Carolina a 20-17 advantage, but the duo had a much more pivotal play to keep the drive going. On 4th and 7, Ellington tipped the Shaw pass to himself before pulling it down and going out of bounds for a 22-yard gain and conversion. Shaw’s arm accounted for all but three yards of the series, completing six of seven pass attempts on the drive.

South Carolina’s defense stepped up to start the fourth quarter to snuff out a Wisconsin drive. With 1 yard to gain, the Gamecocks twice stopped Melvin Gordon, who rushed for 143 yards in the contest, for no gain to turn the ball over on downs. The Gamecocks proceeded to drive 74 yards in six plays to take a 10-point lead. Shaw twice found Roland on the drive, the second time a 49-yard catch that saw Roland’s concentration as he brought in the catch with two defenders around him. It was sophomore tight end Jerell Adams who scored from 3 yards out for the Gamecocks, pulling down Shaw’s third touchdown pass.

Wisconsin made it a one-score game again when Kenzel Doe found a seam and dashed 91 yards on the kickoff return, making it 27-24 in favor of the Gamecocks. It ranks as the first kickoff return allowed by the Gamecocks since 2011.

On the next possession, however, Shaw drove South Carolina 88 yards for another score, wrapping the drive with Shaw’s 1-yard sneak. Another big pass from Shaw to Roland, a 33-yard reception, helped keep the drive alive.

The Badgers, behind backup quarterback Curt Phillips, tried to answer on the next drive, but on 4th and 1 in the Gamecocks’ territory, the pass hit Jadeveon Clowney’s helmet and sophomore linebacker Kaiwan Lewis corralled it to end that drive. South Carolina gave the Badgers back the ball two plays later when Ethan Armstrong recovered the Gamecocks’ fumble.

After the fumble recovery, Wisconsin drove inside the 20, but Gamecock freshman linebacker Skai Moore came up with his second interception of the day in the end zone to stop the Badger threat. After the Gamecocks punted the ball back to Wisconsin, the Badgers drove again deep into South Carolina territory, but Lewis picked up the fumble on the catch-and-pitch attempt to end the final Wisconsin chance.

South Carolina took the initial lead after a Wisconsin turnover toward the end of the first quarter, when Moore picked off the pass from Badger starting quarterback Joel Stave. On the next play, Shaw hit Ellington for a 39-yard score. Wisconsin answered when Sam Arneson brought in the 1-yard pass from Stave on the tight end out, leveling the score at 7-7.

The offensive duo of Shaw and Ellington handed South Carolina the lead again but in reverse from their normal. To cap the 12-play, 86-yard drive, South Carolina called up a double-reverse, halfback pass, as Ellington took the second handoff before firing a strike to Shaw from 9 yards out to hand the Gamecocks a 13-7 lead after the PAT attempt failed.

Wisconsin claimed the halftime lead when Stave found Jeff Duckworth for a 3-yard score and its PAT kick went through the uprights. The Badgers made it a 17-13 lead when Jack Russell hit a 35-yard field goal to end the Badgers’ first second-half drive.

Shaw finished his Gamecock career in fourth on the career passing charts with 6,074 yards, while he holds the South Carolina record with 27 wins as a starting quarterback. The 312 passing yards ranks as the most during a single game in his senior season. Ellington moved into eighth on the Gamecocks’ career receiving TD list past Philip Logan with his two scores.

LLewis led the Gamecocks with nine tackles, while he and Moore both were credited with two takeaways. Moore’s two interceptions, the first Gamecock since Chris Culliver in 2008 to snag two in a game, doubled his total for the year, ending his year with the team lead. Clowney had five tackles, the most on the year, along with two pass break-ups, a quarterback hurry and a tackle for loss. He finishes his South Carolina career with 47 tackles for loss, second in program history.

Along with Gordon’s 143 rushing yards in 25 chances, Wisconsin’s James White ran for 107 yards on 12 carries, the first time South Carolina has allowed two 100-yard rushers in a single game since the 2010 SEC Championship Game against Auburn.

South Carolina matched its program record for wins for the third-consecutive year with the 11-win season. The Gamecocks have won their third-straight New Year’s Day bowl, a streak started in the 2012 Capital One Bowl. The Gamecocks also set a new high mark for total offensive yards with 5,880 on the season.

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

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