While not having the overall bowl history of many SEC schools, the South Carolina Gamecocks have put together a solid resume of appearances in good bowls since the turn of the century while reviving their bowl fortunes all together.
So what are the top five bowl appearances in Gamecock history? Here are our takes in no particular order:
1995 Carquest Bowl
South Carolina 24, West Virginia 21
You might be saying, ‘what? the Carquest Bowl?’ Yes, the game currently known as the Camping World Bowl makes an early appearance on the list. Born as the Blockbuster Bowl with numerous other monikers including MicronPC, Tangerine and Russell Athletic and a relocation from Miami to Orlando, this game is notable as the first bowl win for South Carolina.
Yes, that’s correct, the Gamecocks did not win a bowl game until 1995. Up to that date, they were 0-8 in bowls with the closest previous loss being a seven point loss to Oklahoma State in the 1984 Gator Bowl.
The 1995 Carquest Bowl matched South Carolina (6-5 after the regular season) with West Virginia (6-6) at the stadium now known as Hard Rock Stadium outside Miami.
South Carolina jumped out to a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter as the Steve Taneyhill led Gamecocks never trailed. West Virginia pulled within a field goal on three separate occasions but Carolina responded and held on despite a late WVU touchdown pass game the game its final margin.
2001 Outback Bowl
South Carolina 24, Ohio State 7
After the 1995 Carquest Bowl, the 2001 Outback Bowl would be the Gamecocks’ next bowl appearance. Lou Holtz’ second season in Columbia was one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college football history and was capped with the victory over the Buckeyes in Tampa.
Entering the season, South Carolina had lost 21 consecutive games and 18 straight SEC games. Those streaks came to a quick halt as the Gamecocks won their season opener before upsetting Georgia the second week of the season. The 5-3 SEC record (8-4 overall) garnered the first of South Carolina’s now five appearances in Tampa.
South Carolina would run away with the bowl game as a slow first half turned into a second half blowout over Ohio State. Ohio native Ryan Brewer picked up more than 200 combined offensive yards for the Gamecocks and a trio of touchdowns in the last game coached by John Cooper at Ohio State.
2012 Capital One Bowl
South Carolina 30, Nebraska 13
Following a ten win regular season, Steve Spurrier’s 2011 Gamecock squad picked up an invite to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. While the 2010 team won the SEC East with a 5-3 SEC record, that team went to the Peach Bowl and dropped the bowl game to Florida State.
The January 1, 2012 game was a different story. Entering the postseason on a three game winning streak including wins over Florida and Clemson, South Carolina held Nebraska scoreless for the last three quarters of the game en route to a big win.
Alshon Jeffery caught a 51 yard touchdown pass from Connor Shaw as time expired in the first half to give South Carolina the lead and a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns gave the game the final margin. Jeffery picked up the bowl MVP award with the aforementioned touchdown catch and 148 receiving yards despite being ejected for fighting a Nebraska defender.
The second half also featured a standout performance from the South Carolina defense. The Cornhuskers only gained 64 yards in the second half and, for the game, were sacked six times by the Gamecock defense. Freshman Jadeveon Clowney picked up a pair of sacks and Melvin Ingram closed out his college career with 1.5 sacks.
The win gave South Carolina their first top ten ranking in the season ending polls. The Gamecocks placed ninth in the AP Poll and eighth in the Coaches Poll.
2013 Outback Bowl
South Carolina 33, Michigan 28
After another ten win regular season, the 2012 South Carolina squad ended the season again in Florida, but a short trip down I-4 in Tampa at the Outback Bowl.
While the game was a back and forth affair with four second half lead changes, it is best remembered for The Hit. With under nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and Michigan holding a one point lead, Clowney unleashed one of the most memorable hits in recent college football history on running back Vincent Smith. Smith’s helmet went flying and, after he fumbled the ball, South Carolina recovered.
South Carolina would score on the next play following the fumble as Shaw hit Ace Sanders for a 31 yard touchdown pass. After Michigan responded to take the lead back, Dylan Thompson completed a touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining to give South Carolina their second consecutive 11 win season.
2014 Capital One Bowl
South Carolina 34, Wisconsin 24
The 2013 Gamecocks won ten regular season games again but losses on the road at Georgia and Tennessee (who both finished with at least three SEC and five overall losses) doomed South Carolina to finish behind Missouri in the SEC East. The ten regular season wins did garner a third consecutive trip to Florida, this time back to Orlando.
Connor Shaw accounted for all five of South Carolina’s touchdowns with three passing touchdowns, a rushing score and a receiving touchdown as South Carolina took advantage of four Wisconsin turnovers for a ten point victory.
Wisconsin’s offense saw Melvin Gordon and James White both go over 100 yards rushing but with quarterback Joel Stave getting injured in the second half, South Carolina intercepted his backup twice in the second half.
Current LSU defensive coordinator’s unit struggled with the Carolina offense with Shaw passing for over 300 yards and both Bruce Ellington and Shaq Roland eclipsing 100 receiving yards.