Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised with college football's favorite troublemaker, Joe Tessitore, in the booth for the Capital One Bowl between South Carolina and Nebraska. Or maybe we shouldn't be surprised at anything that happens in a South Carolina game any more, not after the way the Gamecocks have won football and baseball games for going on a year now.
But in one of the most bizarre games in what has been a season of strange wins, the Gamecocks secured the first 11-win and Top 10 season in team history. It was a game that featured a blocked extra point returned for two; a Hail Mary touchdown at the end of the first half after clock management that would have made Les Miles look good; and an MVP who was ejected in the third quarter but won the honors anyway.
Somewhere in between all that, Connor Shaw looked as good at quarterback as he has all year, the Gamecocks defense shut down Nebraska in the second half after getting pushed around in the first quarter, and Alshon Jeffery showed up for his best game of the year. Or most of it.
Shaw was 11-of-17 for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Even with Marcus Lattimore out, the Gamecocks' rushing game continued what it has done since his absence: Be as effective as it needs to be to win the game, gaining 121 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries.
Then there was Alshon Jeffery. The wide receiver, who seemed to go missing for most of South Carolina's most accomplished season, showed up with four catches for 148 yards and a critical touchdown. With time running out on the first half, in part because of bungled clock management by Steve Spurrier, Jeffery leaped into the air among several players, snared Shaw's Hail Mary pass, twirled and extended the ball over the goal line to give the Gamecocks a 16-13 lead that they never gave up.
And that 148 yards came before Jeffery was controversially kicked out of the game in the third quarter. Jeffery and Nebraska defensive back Alfonzo Dennard were ejected after a fight, though Twitter appeared to be mostly of the opinion that Jeffery should have stayed in the game. It didn't matter; he won the MVP award anyway based on two-and-a-half quarters of work.
From there, South Carolina tacked on two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make it an easy win. Like most of the Gamecocks' wins this season, it wasn't pretty, and there's an air of mystery about how they came away with the victory when it was over. But when it's taken 120 years for the team to get this far, you'll take the best season in school history any way you can get it.