When Antonio Allen looks back at his South Carolina career, he can’t help but feel that it was almost perfect.
Though South Carolina has undergone a tremendous transition since the senior safety stepped on campus, he has yet to savor the sweet taste of a bowl victory.
He has hoisted no trophies with his teammates at the end of the season, and until he does, his South Carolina career will feel incomplete.
Getting a win Monday against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl would end a three-game losing streak in bowl games for the Gamecocks and it would also give the program its first 11-win season.
“It would be great to get that 11th win because no one has ever done it in South Carolina history. We want to be the first to make history,” Allen said.
South Carolina didn’t exactly have a rich tradition before Steve Spurrier arrived. Spurrier has done wonders for the program, but this group of seniors has also been a major factor in elevating South Carolina to a program that made it to its first SEC championship game in 2010 and won 10 games for only the second time in school history in 2011.
“We came a long way,” senior defensive tackle Travian Robertson said.
“It’s been a great ride coming from the bottom and trying to get to the top.”
But that run has come without much success in the postseason. Spurrier is just 1-4 in bowl games and the Gamecocks have been outscored 77-38 in their last three losses.
Allen said the losses have been frustrating, but what’s been more frustrating is seeing a lack of chemistry at times. Allen said that before last season’s run to Atlanta, he noticed that players were never as close as they should have been. The Gamecocks were more of a group than a team.
Now, Allen said he sees more of a family inside South Carolina’s football complex. There is more trust and players are happier around each other. That mentality has the Gamecocks feeling much more confident heading into the Capital One Bowl.
With South Carolina’s recent success have come heightened expectations. Robertson and Allen agreed that fans are proud of where the program has come but expect the winning to continue and expect the Gamecocks to be competing for championships more often.
Allen and Robertson are OK with that because they feel South Carolina is on track to do just that.
“We came in with the purpose to win and try to win championships,” Robertson said. “We’ve accomplished some of our goals, but it feels great to know that we started something that’s going to be great around here. I know that once we get it started, Coach Spurrier and all of the other coaches are going to keep it going.”
Regardless of Monday’s outcome, Allen said he’d always look back at his South Carolina career and feel as though he helped accomplish a lot for the program.
Still, hoisting that bowl trophy for the first time wouldn’t be so bad.
“Hopefully it means a lot and I can tell my kids and they can tell their kids about it,” he said. “Hopefully, the tradition doesn’t stop with me and it goes along with my kids.”