1. The Gamecocks won nine games for only the seventh time in program history with the 26-19 upset win against Michigan in the Outback Bowl. USC trailed 19-3 at one point in the third quarter, but scored the game’s final 23 points.
2. Jake Bentley won the MVP award in a day that started slowly for South Carolina’s offense and ended with him hitting nine of his final 11 passes for 154 yards and a pair of scores.
3. The USC defense arrived in force, almost entirely smothering the Wolverines. The final tally included holding Michigan to its worst yards per play of the season, forcing a bowl-record five turnovers and yielding 13 points on six red zone trips.
4. Tailback Rico Dowdle made a surprise return to the lineup and helped USC in a big way. He ran for 45 yards, got 32 more through the air and scored USC’s first touchdown. Will Muschamp had expected him to miss the game because of a hamstring injury suffered after coming back from a broken bone in his leg.
5. The Gamecocks played with Bryan McClendon running the offense and making his case for the full-time offensive coordinator job. He got creative, but USC started slow, with 89 yards in the first half. Then they posted 211 in the second, with a slew of explosive plays.
6. Perhaps the most explosive plays were the touchdown passes caught by Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith. Following a turnover, McClendon went for the jugular, and Bentley threaded a perfect pass over several hands to a spot where Edwards could make an athletic, leaping grab on the post route. Later, Bentley led Smith perfectly on a fade route on a 53-yard touchdown to put USC up.
7. South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore became only the 15th player in NCAA history to lead his team in tackles all four seasons. He came close to his 15th career interception, which would have given him sole possession of the school record, and left the game saying it “meant the world.”
8. In another swan song for a USC stalwart, Gamecocks tight end Hayden Hurst ended a surprising and strong career by making the plays that mattered. He said he had a quiet day, but his 12-yard catch and drawn penalty took USC from first and 15 to setting up its first touchdown, and he made a tough catch to convert third and 17 right before the go-ahead score.
9. Ten Gamecocks started their 13th games: Bentley, Edwards, Hurst, center Alan Knott, defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth, defensive end D.J. Wonnum, linebacker T.J. Brunson, linebacker Skai Moore, safety Chris Lammons and cornerback JaMarcus King.
10. The Gamecocks played six true freshmen: receiver OrTre Smith (starter), Buck Brad Johnson, wide receiver Shi Smith, defensive end Aaron Sterling, linebacker Damani Staley and receiver Chad Terrell. They also played four other first-year Gamecocks: left tackle Dennis Daley, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, cornerback Keisean Nixon and running back Caleb Kinlaw.
11. Nixon, who had not played a competitive snap on defense this year, started for USC, as did redshirt freshman Randrecous Davis, whose only career start came early last season.
12. South Carolina leads the overall series with Michigan, 3-1, the past two coming in Tampa. The only Wolverines win came with current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh at quarterback.
14. USC’s four captains were Bentley, Moore, Hurst and D.J. Wonnum, the group voted permanent captains after the regular season.
15. The Gamecocks say goodbye to a small group of seniors heavy on playmakers, plus an early draft entrant: Cory Helms, Ulric Jones, Hurst, King, Knott, Lammons, Moore, D.J. Park, Dante Sawyer, Demetrius Smalls, D.J. Smith and Stallworth. USC projects to have a favorable schedule, and Muschamp sounded confident about what’s next.