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January 1, 2014
ORLANDO, Fla. - A look at some notes and tidbits surrounding Wednesday's USC-Wisconsin game that took place -- mostly -- away from the playing field.
MIXING IT UP. South Carolina made changes to its lineup on both sides of the ball. Starting fullback Connor McLaurin broke his ankle in practice in the days leading up to the game, and was replaced by sophomore tailback Brandon Wilds and walk-on Garrison Gist, who alternated in the role. Junior receiver Damiere Byrd tore his meniscus in bowl practice before the team's trip to Orlando and was replaced by junior wideout Nick Jones.
On defense, redshirt juniors Victor Hampton and Sharrod Golightly missed curfew the night before the game and were not allowed to start. Hampton -- initially replaced by Rico McWilliams -- took the field early in Wisconsin's first drive, while Golightly -- replaced by Jordan Diggs -- didn't play until the second quarter.
Sophomore linebacker Marcquis Roberts started at the Will linebacker position over freshman Skai Moore, the team's leader in tackles heading into the bowl game. The linebacker combo of Roberts and Kaiwan Lewis switched off with the combo of Moore and T.J. Holloman throughout the game.
THE LEAGUE. The number of NFL scouts that could attend the game was limited by the NFL, but John Scheider, the general manager and executive vice president of the Seattle Seahawks, was in attendance.
SETTING THE TONE. Former Wisconsin running back and Heisman winner Ron Dayne spoke to the crowd gathered at Wisconsin's pep rally Tuesday afternoon, telling the Badger faithful that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is only one person, and that the All-American couldn't win the game by himself. Legendary head coach and current Wisconsin Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez spoke alongside Dayne at the rally, saying that he expected the Badgers' running backs -- with fresh legs after a month of short bowl practices -- to run all over South Carolina.
With the help of a police escort, Steve Spurrier raced over from the team's walkthrough at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium to arrive just in time to speak in the final moments of South Carolina's pep rally. Spurrier said that when he travels, he's most proud to tell people that his team has the nation's longest home winning streak. Spurrier also said South Carolina has the best fans and band in college football, and that "all our guys have to do is try not to mess up too much."
CAPTAINS. South Carolina's captains were Connor Shaw, A.J. Cann, Chaz Sutton and Kelcy Qualres. Wisconsin's captains were James White, Chris Borland, Ethan Armstrong, and Ryan Groy.
BIG GAME GARNET. South Carolina took to the all-garnet look it generally wears in marquee games, while Wisconsin wore its classic all-whites. But the Gamecocks mixed it up in the accessories department, wearing camo-chrome cleats, gloves and socks. The flashy new gear was shown off to fans in daily increments in pictures on the football team equipment staff's Twitter and Instagram pages.
NOT QUITE A SELLOUT. The atmosphere at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium probably didn't remind South Carolina players of Williams-Brice Stadium's. The stadium seats just over 65,000, but just 56,629 fans attended the matchup of ranked teams. Most of the upper deck -- and even some spots in the lower bowl -- went vacant, though South Carolina's fans appeared to outnumber Wisconsin's.
MORE THAN A GAME. The Capital One Bowl is widely known as one of the more prestigious non-BCS bowl games, but it also entails a week-long celebration that benefits the central Florida community. Florida Citrus Sports, the non-profit organization that runs the Capital One Bowl and Russell Athletic Bowl, reports an estimated annual impact of more than $80 million to the economy of central Florida.
Florida Citrus Sports hosts a variety of programs for kids in the community during bowl week in Orlando. One of them, Take Stock in Children, sponsors economically-disadvantaged students in the area to attend a two-year community college before continuing on to a state college. Florida Citrus Sports also hosts two summer camps for 300 economically-disadvantaged middle school children, and runs a "Day for Kids" where teams from the each of the bowl games hang out with physically- and economically-disadvantaged children.
PERKS OF THE JOB. Both teams were rewarded for making the Capital One Bowl with shopping sprees at Best Buy. Every South Carolina player received a $450 gift card to the store as part of the bowl gift package, and players wasted no time cashing in to get Beats by Dr. Dre headphones.
OTHER ENTERTAINMENT. The halftime show featured singer/songwriter and CMA Best New Artist of 2012 Hunter Hayes. The Teen Choice Awards Male Country Artist of the Year performed his hit song "I Want Crazy," and was joined on the field by a crowd of grade school cheerleaders who danced along with the song. Hayes also performed at the Fanfest outside of Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium before the game.
SWAN SONG. South Carolina's final game of the 2013-14 campaign season was the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium's last -- at least in its current form. The 77-year-old stadium, having fallen into disrepair, will undergo $200 million worth of renovations beginning in late January. The majority of the current structure will be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up. It is expected to be over 80 percent new and to be completed by November 2014.
The new facility will include new HD video screens and scoreboards, improved team facilities, technology upgrades, a 360-degree main concourse, wider and more comfortable seats, and new premium club and suite spaces.
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