Badgers have no answer for Shaw
The Wisconsin Badgers will look back at the 2014 Capital One Bowl as a game of missed opportunities, and one where they let South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw play the game of his life.
“We didn't execute well enough today,” Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland said of his team's 34-24 loss to South Carolina. “(Shaw is) kind of their engine and he does a great job of extending plays. He played well. We were kind of disappointed without being able to contain him better.”
One of the more pivotal missed opportunities for the Badgers came about halfway into the third quarter.
Kicker Jack Russell missed a 42-yard field goal attempt with 8:24 left in the third quarter. Wisconsin held a 17-13 lead at the time. The drive followed a fumble by Shaw, but the Badgers were unable to capitalize on the turnover.
“The wind kind of picked up, pushed it to the right, and it just couldn't come back,” Russell said. “I've definitely kicked in worse conditions. I'm not going to complain about kicking in 70 degrees with a little bit of drizzle in the first half.”
Momentum shifted after that missed field goal attempt, with South Carolina driving down the field for a touchdown on the next drive. The Gamecocks would take control of the game and hold on for the win.
Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave left the contest with an injury with 1:10 left in the third quarter of a 20-17 game. Backup quarterback Curt Phillips played for the remainder of the game, and went 7-for-12 with crucial interceptions on each of Wisconsin's next two offensive drives following the Stave injury.
“I'm not sure when it was,” Stave said. “It was my throwing shoulder. If I would have tried to stay in, I would have just hurt us. It's definitely not my collarbone. I threw that one other ball after it happened. I don't think that could have happened if it was a broken collarbone.”
Stave was 9-for-13 passing with 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns prior to his injury. He also threw an unfortunate interception early in the game, with the ball bouncing off the heal of guard Rob Havenstein and into the arms of a South Carolina player.
“I was just trying to burn the screen,” Stave said. “Three inches in any other direction and it's not going to skip off the guy's heal perfectly like that. That's just football.”
The Badgers did have a few shining moments in the loss, however.
Wide Receiver Kenzel Doe returned a kickoff for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 27-24, but South Carolina responded with the final dagger on the next drive.
“I'm very proud of those guys,” Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said of his players. “You can't faze them. They just kept on fighting.
“We were going to be aggressive all day long. That was out plan. We were going to be aggressive by nature. But obviously we can do a better job of coaching them and we've got to make some plays.”
Running backs Melvin Gordon and James White combined for 254 yards on the ground in the game. With a season-total of 3,053 yards, it pushed the duo to the top of the record books. The tandem finished with the most rushing yards in a single season in Football Bowl Subdivision history.
The Badgers have now lost four consecutive bowl games, losing in the Rose Bowl in each of the previous three seasons.
Wisconsin will move on after the Capital One Bowl loss without White and Borland, who are both seniors sure to be selected in the NFL draft.