Sapakoff: Clemson, Gamecocks have serious bowl star rebuilding work

  • Posted: Saturday, January 4, 2014 1:10 p.m., Updated: Saturday, January 4, 2014 5:12 p.m.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is brought down by Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley in the Orange Bowl

Most people come to Florida in the winter to escape, get some sunshine, maybe to enjoy some fresh Cuban food while spotting a manatee on the way to see Mickey.

The South Carolina and Clemson football teams did better, winning big bowl games and coming home with the T-shirts.

Palmetto State pride: if things break Clemson's way as expected, the Gamecocks (11-2) and Tigers (11-2) will finish together in The Associated Press top 10 for the first time.

"We're the first team from the state of South Carolina to ever win a BCS game," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney quickly pointed out Friday night after the Tigers' 40-35 Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State.

Yeah, and South Carolina beat Wisconsin 34-24 in the Capital One Bowl, and the Gamecocks beat two teams that won BCS games - Clemson and Central Florida.

This is only the third time the Gamecocks and Tigers have won bowl games in the same season (2001, 2012).

Bask and bask, respectively.

But beware. Getting back to 11-2 might take a while for both programs as their similar bowl victory formula showed. It became clear in Orlando and Miami that rebuilding jobs that seemed mostly confined to replacing the two best quarterbacks ever to play college football in South Carolina looms as heavier lifting: Both teams got major contributions from juniors either officially or probably on their way to the NFL.

Hampton's hit

For South Carolina, the stars aligned against Wisconsin, and most of them are leaving.

Senior quarterback Connor Shaw's farewell act was another thrill ride: 312 yards passing, three touchdown passes. He also ran for a score.

Junior wide receiver Bruce Ellington caught two touchdown passes and threw one.

Junior cornerback Victor Hampton's jarring hit on Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave permanently turned momentum South Carolina's way.

Junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney didn't have a sack, but he nagged Badgers backup quarterback Curt Phillips (0-for-2 passing coming into the game) with two key pass deflections late in the game.

Senior cornerback Jimmy Legree had eight tackles, senior defensive end Chaz Sutton had a sack and a tackle for loss and senior defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles had three tackles.

"It was great to win the game for all these guys going out," Ellington said, before announcing he was going out, too.

Chad Morris 'excited'

Senior quarterback Tajh Boyd had a hand in all six Clemson touchdowns against Ohio State.

Junior wide receiver Sammy Watkins set an Orange Bowl record with 227 receiving yards.

Senior running back Roderick McDowell rushed for 69 yards and got 5.8 yards per carry.

Junior wide receiver Martavis Bryant scored two touchdowns.

Senior tackle Brandon Thomas helped keep Boyd upright; Ohio State managed only two sacks on a busy passing night that included 40 attempts.

Clemson beat up Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, who left the Orange Bowl with a bruised shoulder and a "slightly cracked rib."

Junior defensive end Vic Beasley had four tackles for loss and added a sack to his stunning season total of 13 (10 more than Clowney).

Senior linebacker Spencer Shuey had a sack, a tackle for loss and clobbered Miller on a play that didn't deserve a late-hit penalty flag.

Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris knows what the Tigers are losing.

"Don't remind me," he said in the Tigers' locker room after the Orange Bowl. "But I'm excited. We have some guys who will have to grow up and we have some great guys coming in and there will be some great competition in the spring."

Morris is a great head coaching hire waiting to happen, and other coaches at Clemson and South Carolina might be in demand, too. That's what happens when teams win 11 games and finish in the top 10.

That's another reason why it's so hard to do it again.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff

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