South Carolina rallied late in the 4th quarter to win the 2013 Outback Bowl 33-28. The Gamecocks scored with 11 seconds left to take the lead for good. Overall, the game was uneven. There were very bright spots and puzzling shortcomings.
Over the last three years South Carolina has created a formula for success. Generally speaking, the defense plays well; the running game is effective, and the offense controls the clock. That wasn't exactly the formula Carolina used today.
Usually, the running game is productive. Today it wasn't. USC finished with 85 yards on 17 carries. One Connor Shaw run covered 64 yards. The other 16 carries amassed 21 yards. That isn't a common way to succeed.
Usually, South Carolina controls the clock, like they did against Clemson. Michigan controlled the clock today. Through three quarters the Wolverines held the ball for 31:28. Rather than wearing the opponent's defense down, the Gamecocks defense was in danger of being worn down.
Usually, South Carolina doesn't settle for field goals. Today they settled for two attempts which resulting in zero points.
Usually the defense shuts down the opponent. Today the Gamecocks gave up 28 points and 355 yards.
Usually South Carolina converts more third downs than their opponents. Carolina converted only 3 of 10 today, while Michigan converted 8 of 19 (and 3 of 4 4th downs).
Usually, South Carolina wins ... especially in the last two seasons. USC has now won 22 of its last 26 games. Toay they won.
They won by changing the narrative in the fourth quarter. After not controlling the clock all game, they held the ball for 8:29 of the final 15 minutes.
They won by coming back, twice.
They won by playing strong defense despite being on the field most of the game. The Wolverines were held to 3.1 yards per carry. They forced Michigan to settle for three field goals.
They won by making the big plays when it mattered. Connor Shaw started the game with a big play touchdown to Damiere Byrd. Ace Sanders kept the momentum going with his punt return and a great fourth quarter touchdown catch. Jadeveon Clowney shifted the game in the fourth quarter with the biggest hit in Gamecock history. At the end, when there was no substitute for a big play, Connor Shaw converted a fourth down by finding Ace Sanders. Then he got hurt. So Dylan Thompson came in and won the game by finding Bruce Ellington.
South Carolina didn't play their typical game. They played a style that is more reminiscent of Ray Tanner's baseball teams than recent football teams. They found a way to win anyway against a motivated opponent. They found a way to overcome injuries and officiating adversity to claim their 11th win. And with a second 11 win season they may have found a way to change the trajectory of a program.