Wisconsin Badgers tight end Jacob Pedersen (48) is tripped up by South Carolina Gamecocks safety Kadetrix Marcus (25) as the South Carolina Gamecocks beat the Wisconsin Badgers 34-24 in the Capital One Bowl at Florida Citrus Bowl. (David Manning-USA TODAY Sports)
ORLANDO, Fla. — South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw did a little bit of everything, and the ninth-ranked Gamecocks needed all of it to get past 19th-ranked Wisconsin 34-24 in the Capital One Bowl.
The senior had a hand in all five South Carolina touchdowns, passing for three, running for one and catching one in a wild game that wasn’t decided until Wisconsin turned the ball over twice in the last five minutes.
Until then, Shaw and junior wide receiver Bruce Ellington combined on a series of sometimes incredible plays to give South Carolina (11-2) control of a game that it trailed 17-13 early in the third quarter.
Shaw completed 22 of 25 passes for 313 yards, ran 16 times for 47 yards and caught one pass for a 9-yard touchdown. Ellington had six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and he threw the scoring pass to Shaw in the second quarter.
“Connor likes the big games, and so does Bruce,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “We have some guys who get a little shaky in big games, but not those guys. Connor was sensational, and I think Bruce has made more big plays than any receiver I’ve coached in 25 years.
“That one-handed catch he made where he just reached up and tipped it to himself, that was really good.”
That play came in the third quarter with South Carolina trailing 17-13 and facing a fourth-and-7 from the Wisconsin 44-yard line. Shaw’s pass looked to be high and wide, but Ellington leaped, twisted in mid-air to stop the ball with one hand, then gathered it in with both arms for a 22-yard gain. Two plays later, he grabbed another Shaw pass, did a tap dance to stay inbounds and brushed the pylon on his way to another touchdown.
“Our receivers told me to just lay it out there and they’d go get the ball, and they did it today,” Shaw said.
Ellington’s catch was one of several plays in which South Carolina receivers beat Wisconsin defenders to the ball and made positive plays. Sophomore wide receiver Shaq Roland had six catches for 112 yards, 49 of which came when he jumped between two Wisconsin defenders to grab a Shaw bomb. That play led to a 3-yard scoring pass from Shaw to tight end Jerell Adams that gave South Carolina a 27-17 cushion.
“Their receivers made the contested catches, and that’s really the defining moment in football games,” Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. “When the ball is in the air and it’s contested, the question is who’s going to get it? South Carolina won that battle many times today.”
The Badgers (9-4) attacked primarily with the running game, picking up 293 yards against a South Carolina defense that featured two All-Americans, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles. Clowney announced after the game that he will enter the NFL Draft.
Wisconsin sophomore tailback Melvin Gordon had 143 yards on 25 carries, and senior running back James White gained 107 yards on 12 carries.
Badgers quarterback Joel Stave kept the Gamecocks defense honest, completing nine of 13 passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns before getting knocked out of the game late in the third quarter after a hit from Gamecocks cornerback Victor Hampton.
“This game reminded me of playing LSU. It was a knock-down, drag-out fight,” Hampton said. “They got some yards on us in the first half and Gordon was really impressive, but in the second half, it was all over. We shut ’em down.”
Shaw’s rushing touchdown put South Carolina up 34-24 with 5:48 left in the game, but Wisconsin defensive back Darius Hillary recovered a Gamecocks fumble at the South Carolina 48-yard line with 4:40 left in the game to give the Badgers another chance.
Curt Phillips, who replace Stave at quarterback, drove Wisconsin to the South Carolina 16, but on third-and-1, he was intercepted by linebacker Skai Moore in the end zone to end the threat. The Badgers had one more possession, but Gordon fumbled the ball at the South Carolina 17, and Gamecocks linebacker Kaiwan Lewis recovered.
The Gamecocks ran out the clock from there.