Gamecocks will face angry Badgers in Capital One Bowl
COLUMBIA - There were harsh words and grim faces. Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, nose still red from the bitter cold outside, burned internally as he discussed his team's shocking loss to Penn State.
The defeat came out of nowhere. Penn State has overcome what should be debilitating NCAA sanctions, recording its second straight winning season this fall despite being ineligible for the postseason. Still, it was not supposed to beat Wisconsin.
Not inside Camp Randall Stadium. Not on the Badgers' senior day. Not with Wisconsin dreaming of a potential fourth straight Rose Bowl trip after winning six straight games.
Andersen didn't mince words with his team after its final regular season game. Right there, in the postgame news conference, the Badgers' first-year coach made expectations clear.
"They have unfinished business," Andersen said. "We're going to come back, we're going to go to work, we're going to prepare - and every person on this football team better understand that. We're going to prepare for a bowl game, and we're going to go and we're going to expect to win. We'll have a good time, but we are going to expect to win the bowl game."
The loss may not have altered USC's matchup for the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day, but it changed the storylines. The Gamecocks are the red-hot, 10-win team that hasn't lost since October. The Badgers are the program trying to regroup and erase a dismal end to the fall.
What Wisconsin lacks for momentum, it will compensate with drive and determination. South Carolina freshman linebacker Skai Moore knows his team will face an angry opponent in Orlando.
"We're expecting them to come out ready to hit us in the mouth to make a statement," Moore said. "We're just going to be ready for that, and we're going to come out there fighting as well and get ready for a good football team."
USC's motivation is unquestioned. The list of records the Gamecocks can accomplish with a Capital One Bowl victory is well documented, starting with an unprecedented third straight 11-win season.
But USC can't duplicate the bitter aftertaste left from a stinging loss. In its last regular season game, South Carolina pummeled in-state rival and then-No. 6-ranked Clemson, sparking celebration instead of despair.
Wisconsin's feeling this bowl season is considerably different.
After the Capital One Bowl matchup was announced, Andersen said his team will use the extra practices to fix what went wrong against Penn State. There were missed tackles and crippling breakdowns. Andersen said "big plays" cost his team the victory. Indeed, the Badgers' secondary allowed two touchdown passes of at least 59 yards.
Andersen knows his team can't afford the same mistakes against South Carolina. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier knows how to convert opponents' mistakes into game-changing highlights. That's why Andersen will have his players focused long before they arrive in Orlando.
"Senior day meant a lot to be able to get a victory for these kids, but I believe they'll bounce back and they'll prepare well for the bowl game," Andersen said. "If there's somebody on this team that doesn't want to prepare for the bowl game, then they'll miss the flight."