South Carolina wants to finish in style

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COLUMBIA — South Carolina star senior defensive end Melvin Ingram is ready to make even more history.

He thinks the rest of the 10th-ranked Gamecocks are ready, too.

It’s already been a historic season at South Carolina, which reached 10 wins for only the second time in 118 seasons of Gamecocks football.

The Gamecocks returned to the practice field on Saturday, starting serious preparations for the Capital One Bowl and No. 21 Nebraska on Jan. 2.

“Since I’ve been here, we haven’t won a bowl game and so we’re trying to go out and change that, got out and get that 11th win and make history,” Ingram said.

The Gamecocks haven’t won a postseason game since the 2006 Liberty Bowl against Houston.

They have had three consecutive bowl clunkers, falling to Iowa 31-14 in the Outback Bowl after the 2008 season, to Connecticut 20-7 in the Papajohns.com Bowl a year later and to Florida State 26-17 at the Chick-fil-A Bowl last December.

Throw in a 56-17 pounding to Auburn in the 2010 Southeastern Conference title game and it’s easy to see why Ingram wants things to change.

A bowl victory would cap a banner year for Ingram, who led South Carolina with 8½ sacks and had two interceptions, one off the team lead.

The 270-pound Ingram had perhaps the team’s most talked-about play of the year, a 68-yard touchdown run off a fake punt during the Gamecocks’ 45-42 victory at Georgia on Sept. 10.

Ingram was an AP first-team All-American this week. All that means, he said, is he’ll work harder than ever to close his career with a victory.

“We’re going to work hard every play,” he said.

South Carolina’s success already has impacted the program. Running backs coach Jay Graham left for a job on the staff at his alma mater, Tennessee. Assistant head coach and assistant in charge of defense, Ellis Johnson, interviewed with Southern Miss this week about their head coach opening. He was at practice, but declined to talk with reporters.

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