|South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney delivered one of the top hits of the year in the Outback Bowl. (US Presswire)|
This could prove to be the most exciting game in this year's bowl season.
The Gamecocks relied on big plays all afternoon. QB Connor Shaw, who split reps with backup Dylan Thompson throughout the game, found WR Damiere Byrd for a 56-yard touchdown reception to put South Carolina up 7-0 in the opening moments of the game.
South Carolina WR/PR Ace Sanders added a 4-yard touchdown reception and a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown to help the Gamecocks build a 21-13 lead at the half.
Michigan kept it close, though.
QB Devin Gardner took most of the direct snaps, but Denard Robinson, who battled through an injured elbow, played QB, RB and WR for the Wolverines (8-5). Robinson had 100 yards on the ground, while WR Jeremy Gallon had 145 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
The Wolverines clawed back to take a 22-21 lead after Gallon caught his first TD pass late in the third quarter.
A three-play sequence early in the fourth quarter was one of the wildest of the year. Michigan faked a punt and appeared to come up just short. Even with the chains brought out, it appeared the Wolverines were a chain link short, but the officials granted the first down. DE Jadeveon Clowney made it a moot point on the next play when he forced a fumble that he recovered after a vicious hit. Shaw then hit Sanders for a 31-yard TD strike on the next play to put the Gamecocks back up.
The Wolverines fought back. They put together an impressive drive and Gallon's second touchdown reception gave Michigan a 28-27 lead with 3:29 remaining.
South Carolina wasn't done yet, either. The Gamecocks, utilizing both Shaw and Thompson, marched down the field. After a gutsy fourth-down conversion pass by Shaw, Thompson took over and found WR Bruce Ellington behind the defense for an easy 32-yard touchdown reception with just 11 seconds remaining to earn the Gamecocks their second consecutive 11-win season.
When the game turned: It was a game full of twists and turns, but the gutty, last-minute drive by South Carolina ultimately led to the win. The Gamecocks converted a fourth-and-3 situation with 1:30 to play at their own 37-yard line. That got them near midfield and eventually set up Thompson's perfect throw to Ellington.
Highlight moments: Clowney's hit and forced fumble on RB Vincent Smith was one of the plays of the year. He sliced through Michigan's offensive line and blasted Smith, whose helmet popped off while the ball popped loose. Clowney reached over and palmed the loose ball for the fumble recovery. … It might be more of a lowlight than a highlight, but the officials awarded Michigan a first down despite a measurement appearing to clearly indicate that it was short (view both on Eye on College Football's blog here). … Michigan kicker Matt Wile drilled a 52-yard field goal in the third quarter that set an Outback Bowl record for the longet made field goal. … Shaw also had a nifty 64-yard run that ultimately went unrewarded when South Carolina's field-goal attempt was blocked.
|Michigan RB Vincent Smith is still trying to figure out who or what hit him. (US Presswire)|
Significance of South Carolina's victory: The Gamecocks wrapped up an 11-2 campaign that included four straight victories after they lost star RB Marcus Lattimore to a knee injury in a win over Tennessee on Oct. 27. It's also the second consecutive bowl win after dropping three straight from 2008-10. The Gamecocks won 11 games for the second consecutive season for the first time in program history.
Significance of Michigan's loss: It ended a somewhat frustrating year for a Michigan team that began the season with title hopes. The Wolverines lost to some of the best teams in the country -- Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and now South Carolina. Nebraska was the only loss where Michigan was the clear favorite going in. There's not much shame in its list of losses, but five total is more than it expected this season.
- South Carolina's Shaw: 18 of 26, 224 yards, 2 TDs; 10 rushes, 96 yards
- South Carolina's Sanders: 9 receptions, 92 yards, 2 TDs; 63-yard punt return TD
- South Carolina's Clowney: 4 tackles, TFL, forced fumble, fumble recovery
- Michigan's Gardner: 19 of 36, 214 yards, 3 TDs, INT; 24 rushing yards
- Michigan's Robinson: 22 rushes, 100 yards; 2 receptions for 7 yards
- Michigan's Gallon: 9 receptions, 145 yards, 2 TDs
What they said: “Clowney knocked it loose on the next play, so I'm glad they made it. -- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said (via ESPN's broadcast) about the apparent bad call on the first down measurement.
Numbers you should know: 7. Combined touchdown passes thrown, compared to just one interception. ... 1. Total number of rushing yards accumulated by South Carolina running backs -- think they might've missed Lattimore in this game? ... 10. Number of receivers who caught at least one pass in this game for South Carolina. ... 4,495. That's how many rushing yards Robinson finished his career with. That sets a new NCAA rushing record for a QB. ... 38. That's how many wins South Carolina's senior class is departing with -- the most in school history over a four-year span.
(For more on the Outback Bowl, check out the Eye on College Football blog)
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from SEC bloggers Daniel Lewis and Larry Hartstein, follow @CBSSportsSEC.