Badgers gear up for Capital One Bowl against Gamecocks

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By Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Tuesday, December 31, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla.--Wisconsin's players and coaches have seen the hit over and over.

“Every day on SportsCenter,” senior tight end Brian Wozniak said.

The memorable highlight occurred during the fourth quarter of the 2013 Outback Bowl, courtesy of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

When Michigan's tight end and left tackle didn't attempt to block Clowney and unwittingly opened a lane into the backfield, the 6-foot-6, 274-pounder shot out of his stance and hit tailback Vincent Smith with such force that he dislodged the ball and knocked Smith's helmet off.

Clowney recovered the fumble at the Wolverines' 31. The Gamecocks, trailing, 22-21, scored on the next play and eventually won, 33-28.

With UW (9-3) set to face the eighth-ranked Gamecocks (10-2) at noon Wednesday in the Capital One Bowl, the hit has been a topic of discussion.

“The hit was on a running back, so …” UW quarterback Joel Stave said, with a grin.

So no quarterback draws in the UW game plan?

“I mean,” Stave added, “it looked like on that play he was unblocked. We're going to try to make sure we block him on every play and just go from there.”

Clowney, who is expected to turn pro after the bowl game and could be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, steals most of the headlines, but the Gamecocks have talent all over the roster.

Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, like Clowney a first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick by the coaches, has compiled better numbers this season than Clowney with 9 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.

“His stats are off the chart,” UW offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said of Quarles. “They are good all the way across. They are explosive.”

Quarterback Connor Shaw didn't garner any all-SEC honors this season. Those went to Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Georgia's Andy Murray and Alabama's A.J. McCarron.

Yet Shaw finished 14th nationally in pass efficiency with 21 touchdown passes and just one interception in 259 attempts. In addition, he is second on the team in rushing with 511 yards and five touchdowns.

“That's what Connor Shaw does,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “He is a runner and passer. He runs just as well as he passes. That's why he is a winner. That's why we've won so many games.

“You look back … third and 8, everybody's covered, they get a good pass rush and he runs out of there and makes a first down and we start all over again.”

Tailback Mike Davis, 5-9 and 215, was a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award and a consensus second-team all-SEC pick.

The sophomore rushed for at least 100 yards in seven games and recorded 49 or more receiving yards in four games. Davis is third on the team in receptions (32) and averages 10.7 yards.

“He is low to the ground, physical,” UW defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said.

Led by freshman linebacker Skai Moore, who has a team-best 51 tackles, the Gamecocks feature eight players who have recorded at least 43 tackles.

“The speed shows up,” UW coach Gary Andersen said. “They can really run. The front seven play … technique, pad level, consistency week in and week out.

“The Clowney kid obviously everybody wants to talk about, but there are some other good players on that defense.

“I don't think they are unsung heroes when I watch them. When I watch them, they are good football players.”

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