'Best team ever': USC grabs historic 11th win

3 total TDs for Shaw; Jeffery named bowl MVP after big game

jkendall@thestate.comJanuary 2, 2012 

South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (1) make a grab for touchdown on a Hail Mary play to end the first half during the Capital One Bowl game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on Monday, January 2, 2012.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

— On the field, it wasn’t always pretty. In the record book, it will look beautiful forever.

South Carolina made history with its 11th win on Monday, beating No. 21 Nebraska 30-13 in a Capital One Bowl that made up for a lack of style with a dash of drama.

The No. 10 Gamecocks started slow, turned the momentum with a 51-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery on the final play of the first half and dominated the second half on the way to their first ever victory over Nebraska.

“We go down in history as the best team to play at Carolina,” safety D.J. Swearinger said. “We take pride in that.”

South Carolina finished the season 11-2 and probably will finish in the nation’s top 10 for the first time in school history. A crowd of 61,351 fans in Florida Citrus Sports Stadium watched it snap a three-game bowl losing streak and win its fifth bowl game.

The Gamecocks players will receive rings to commemorate the season, coach Steve Spurrier said.

“It will have a big ol’ 11 on it, and it is neat for this group of seniors to say, ‘Hey, I played on the best team ever from South Carolina,’” Spurrier said. “The record speaks for itself as the best team ever.”

During the trophy presentation on the field, Spurrier told the South Carolina fans in the stands that the game was as big as any he had ever won.

“He has done things for this program that nobody else has been able to do, and I’m sure it makes him proud,” said defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, whose unit held Nebraska to 253 yards, its lowest output this season.

The Cornhuskers scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and led 13-9 after Ameer Abdullah scored from 1 yard out with 3:33 left in the first quarter. Nebraska gained 147 yards on 51 yards after that play, while the Gamecocks ran off 21 unanswered points.

“I’ll say it straight out, our football team feels we are better, even after the game, feels we were the better football team than them,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “You have to earn it. You give them credit.”

Swearinger was stunned by Pelini’s assessment.

“I mean, shoot, I don’t know what to say that,” South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger said. “I really don’t. I really don’t. Thirty to 13, who’s… I mean, I don’t have any words for that. Thirty to 13 is all I have to say.”

The game turned late in the second quarter when Stephon Gilmore intercepted a Taylor Martinez pass at the South Carolina 35-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Connor Shaw heaved a ball from the 49-yard line that Jeffery caught on the 5 before diving in the end zone.

“I was like, ‘Yea, I’ve got a chance. I’m going to catch this one,’” said Jeffery, who had four catches for 148 yards before being ejected in the third quarter after a fight with Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (who also was ejected).

Shaw finished 11-of-17 for 230 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Gamecocks, who were led by Kenny Miles’ 67 rushing yards, gained 351 yards overall.

The team’s combined for 16 penalties -- 10 on the Huskers and six on the Gamecocks, who were flagged for three separate offenses on one play -- and each botched a handful of special teams plays, but the final result was sweet for South Carolina.

“I told our guys, next year’s team, they’ll try to win 12,” Spurrier said, “because 11 has already happened.”

1st2nd3rd4th-FINAL
Nebraska1300013
South Carolina9701430

First Quarter

Nebraska: K. Bell 30 pass from Martinez (kick blocked), 11:58.

USC: 2-point defensive conversion by Gilmore, 11:58.

USC: C. Shaw 1 run (Wooten kick), 6:04.

Nebraska: Abdullah 1 run (Maher kick), 3:33.

Second Quarter

USC: A. Jeffery 51 pass from C. Shaw (Wooten kick), :00.

Fourth Quarter

USC: Miles 9 pass from C. Shaw (Wooten kick), 12:25.

USC: Miles 3 run (Wooten kick), 3:05.

Attendance: 61,351.

NebSC
First downs1716
Rushes-yards46-13740-121
Passing116230
Comp-Att-Int10-16-111-17-0
Return Yards(-1)22
Punts-Avg.5-39.45-39.4
Fumbles-Lost1-11-0
Penalties-Yards10-586-66
Time of Possession30:4929:11

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Nebraska, Burkhead 23-89, Martinez 16-37, K.Bell 1-14, Marlowe 1-6, Abdullah 4-(minus 1), Reed 1-(minus 8). South Carolina, Miles 15-67, C.Shaw 19-42, A.Sanders 3-15, Byrd 1-3, Team 2-(minus 6).

PASSING: Nebraska, Martinez 10-16-1-116. South Carolina, C. Shaw 11-17-0-230.

RECEIVING: Nebraska, Burkhead 5-35, K. Bell 3-53, B. Cotton 1-22, Legate 1-6. South Carolina, A. Jeffery 4-148, A. Sanders 3-45, Miles 2-13, Anderson 1-21, Cunningham 1-3.

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