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Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Season wrap: South Carolina

By Alex Scarborough

A few weeks after South Carolina beat Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl, Steve Spurrier asked reporters if they could name how many teams won 11 or more games in each of the past two years.

"I've got a bonus for you if you know the answer," he said, looking around.

"Alabama is one of them," someone said.

"Can you name all that have done it?" Spurrier asked again.

"South Carolina, Alabama, Oregon ... Stanford?" the crowd answered.

"Aww, you got em! There are four," Spurrier said with a grin, his point now proven. "For South Carolina to be in the same neighborhood with Oregon, Stanford, Alabama ... is sort of neat."

Spurrier has gotten South Carolina where very few thought he could. The 2013 season was a near-miss on reaching the SEC championship game, but ultimately it was a successful campaign that culminated in 11 wins, two losses and the title Spurrier bestowed of "bowl national champs."

Offensive MVP: Connor Shaw wasn't the most talented guy on the field. He wasn't even the most gifted quarterback at all times. But he was the heart and soul of the Gamecocks' offense. He gritted out an 11-win season and wound up with good numbers to go along with it: 63.4 percent passing, 30 total touchdowns and 3,005 total yards of offense.

Defensive MVP: It was The Year that Wasn't for Jadeveon Clowney, but we're not going into that here. You've heard enough about his up-and-down season. Clowney didn't show out like many predicted, but South Carolina's defense wasn't without a star. Defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles picked up the slack, and then some. The 298-pound junior tackle made the first-team All-SEC squad after racking up a team-leading 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.

Best moment: South Carolina had no business beating Missouri, given the circumstances. On one hand, the game was in the wrong Columbia -- Missouri, not South Carolina. On the other hand, the Gamecocks fell behind by 17 points, Shaw was out with an injury and Dylan Thompson was a wreck. But then came the fourth quarter South Carolina fans won't soon forget. Shaw came on the field and led a furious comeback by throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Gamecocks won on an Elliott Fry field goal in overtime.

Worst moment: The 11-point loss at Georgia was a tough pill to swallow, but going on the road to Rocky Top was an utter meltdown. The Vols scored two touchdowns before halftime to take the lead, South Carolina responded with back-to-back touchdowns of its own in the third quarter and then it all fell apart. Two field goals, including one at the buzzer, was enough to doom the Gamecocks. Shaw had one of the worst games of his career and South Carolina lost to a sub-.500 team, a loss that would ultimately cost the Gamecocks a trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship game.