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January 2, 2014

Five Key Plays: Capital One Bowl

Skai Moore's First Interception
Freshman linebacker Skai Moore had a breakout game in the Capital One Bowl, notching a pair of interceptions in the game. The first came late in the first quarter with the game still scoreless. Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave tried to set up a screen pass, but South Carolina got pressure on him and he had to throw the ball away. Stave tried to dump the ball into the turf at the feet of his receiver, but his pass hit lineman Rob Havenstein in the back of his foot and bounced into the air. Moore snagged the carom for a turnover, and on the next play Connor Shaw hit Bruce Ellington in stride for a 39-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.

Ellington to Shaw
Ellington and Shaw reversed roles for South Carolina's second touchdown. Shaw took the shotgun snap and handed off to Pharoh Cooper on slot sweep running left. Cooper pitched back to Ellington on reverse, and Ellington threw back to Shaw in the end zone for a nine-yard score. Both players had to sell the play for it to work. Ellington ran five yards down the field, as if running a pass route, then ran back to receive the pitch. Shaw stood still until his defender turned his head to follow Cooper, and then sprinted to end zone. It was a perfectly executed play, and served as a nice parting gift for Shaw in his final game.

Ellington's fingertip grab
Shaw and Ellington hooked up again (sensing a theme?) on the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter, but Ellington's fourth down conversion is the one that will make highlight reels. Facing fourth and 7 from the Wisconsin 44, South Carolina was in no man's land. It was out of field goal range, but a punt would accomplish little so Steve Spurrier decided to keep the offense on the field. Ellington got a step to the outside on his defender, but Shaw threw too long. Ellington had to adjust on the run and reached for the ball with his left hand. He barely got his hand on the ball, but it was enough to deflect the pass back to himself and he Ellington hauled in the deflection for a 22-yard gain.

Wisconsin stuffed on fourth and one
Ellington's touchdown catch following his fourth down conversion gave the Gamecocks the lead, but they needed a defensive stop to preserve the advantage, something that had been hard to come by. It looked like the Badgers would answer, although they faced third and one. Melvin Gordon averaged 5.7 yards per carry, so the first down seemed inevitable. Instead, he was stuffed on third down to bring up fourth down. The Badgers, on the Gamecock 26, chose to go for the first down instead of attempting a game-tying field goal. Gordon took the handoff and was met almost immediately by Sharrod Golightly, who came unblocked off the edge for the tackle. The defensive line knocked the Badgers back, and Gordon was quickly swarmed by Gamecocks. The Gamecocks scored on the ensuing drive to take control of the game.

Doe's kick return
Things were dire for the Badgers, but they made one last gasp. After the Gamecocks took a ten point lead at 27-17, Wisconsin was running out of time. They needed to score quickly, and the offense had no shown any quick strike ability. So Kenzel Doe made sure the offense never had to take the field. He fielded the kickoff at the nine, and raced up the left sideline. South Carolina's coverage got bunched up along the sideline, but Doe found a crease and got through. Kane Whitehurst tried to chase down Doe, but Doe easily stepped out of Whitehurst's diving tackle. The score brought the Badgers back within three. Their defense was unable to stop the Gamecocks, but Doe's score made things interesting.

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