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Gamecocks complete historic season

ORLANDO, Fla. – A great season just became historic. South Carolina has won 11 games for the first time in school history with a 30-13 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.

Quarterback Connor Shaw and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery hooked up for a 51-yard touchdown at the stroke of halftime.

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another to lead the offense and snap a three-game bowl losing streak. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery put his name on more lines in the record books with his four-catch, 148-yard receiving performance.

After allowing a pair of first quarter touchdowns, the defense tightened up. On the opening two drives, the Gamecocks allowed 106 yards. Over the final 48 minutes of the game, the defense allowed just 154 yards and no points.

South Carolina won the toss and opted to receive but the offense didn’t look anything like what it did the final three games of the season. Head coach Steve Spurrier elected to call four pass plays out of the chute, only one of which was completed. A short punt set up the Cornhuskers, bidding for their third straight 10-win season, for the opening touchdown.

It took just five plays for Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez to find a wide open Kenny Bell in the end zone from 30 yards out. Bell, who grabbed his team-high third touchdown, ran wide open between the two safeties. The point-after-try was blocked by Travian Robertson and returned for two points by Stephon Gilmore making it 6-2 before some could even make their way to their seats.

South Carolina took its first lead by getting back to what it does best – running the football. Behind Shaw and Miles, the Gamecocks rushed the ball on every play motoring down the field for 55 yards. The drive was capped by a fourth-and-1 sneak by Shaw for his first touchdown of the game.

Nebraska benefitted from a personal foul penalty on Kelcy Quarles to extend a drive that appeared to end on a punt. After the automatic first down, it took just three plays for Ameer Abdullah to score from a yard out and give the Cornhuskers a 13-9 lead.

It looked as though that’s how the game would enter the intermission, but Jeffery had other ideas. He snared a Hail Mary pass from Shaw with no time left on the clock and dove into the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown as the teams entered the locker rooms.

The 51-yard reception put Jeffery over the 100-yard mark for the first time this season and also tied Sidney Rice’s school record with 23 career touchdowns.

That was all that Jeffery would be able to contribute in the game. Jeffery and Dennard, who had a physical battle going all game, were both ejected with two minutes remaining in the third quarter for fighting.

Jeffery made enough of an impact on the game before departing to put his team in a good position. The Gamecocks went up two scores early in the fourth quarter when Shaw found Miles for a nine-yard touchdown. It was the first touchdown of the season for Miles and the second of his career.

Miles and Shaw kept the ball on the ground and melted the fourth quarter clock. South Carolina took the ball at its own 29-yard line with 9:25 remaining in the game and continued to move the chains.

The drive ended when Miles rushed for his first touchdown, his second of the day, to put his team ahead 30-13 with 3:05 remaining in the game. The three-yard run capped a 13 play, 71-yard drive that milked 6:20 off the clock.

Miles finished the game with 15 rushing attempts for 67 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two passes for 13 yards and a score.

Shaw completed 11-of-17 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked three times. The sophomore, who had to be taken out of the game after a late hit on the final drive, rushed 19 times for 42 net yards and a touchdown.

South Carolina will begin spring practice on Monday, March 12 and the Garnet & Black Spring Game is scheduled for Saturday, April 14. The 2012 season is scheduled to kick off in Nashville, Tenn. against Vanderbilt on August 30.

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