ORLANDO, Fla. — South Carolina and Nebraska both entered the 2011 college football season primed to make a run at conference championships.
Those aspirations didn’t pan out. But entering today’s Capital One Bowl, the No. 10 Gamecocks and No. 21 Cornhuskers are more than willing to settle for one final victory to end a year of transition for both.
The Cornhuskers (9-3) are wrapping up their first year in the Big 10 with a chance to win 10 games for the third consecutive year.
For the Gamecocks (10-2), the goal is also all about the numbers as they look to be the first team in program history to post 11 victories.
“It’s important to all of us to try to do things that have never been done before,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said going into the off-season on a positive note was the only focus this week.
“I can just put it this way, winning’s a lot better than losing – whether it’s a bowl game or anything else,” he said. “Someone’s going to win this game and someone’s going to lose it. That’s the way it’s going to be. I know both teams are going to play hard and want to win in the worst way. And that’s what’s going to make the game great.”
The Gamecocks started the season 4-0 before coming up a field goal short against Auburn.
Then, problems increased.
Embattled quarterback Stephen Garcia, suspended twice in the spring for the fifth time during his career, was dismissed in early October after a failed alcohol test.
Barely a week later during South Carolina’s narrow win over Mississippi State, standout sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season after tearing a ligament and sustaining cartilage damage in his left knee.
And finally, last month South Carolina notified the NCAA that it agrees that major violations took place in its football program
Though a late-season loss to Arkansas kept the Gamecocks from making a second consecutive trip to the Southeastern Conference title game, the players are excited that there is still something to play for.
“We’re trying to build a winning tradition, so this is just another stepping stone,” South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram said.