COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Steve Spurrier and No. 8 South Carolina made more school history with the Gamecocks' third consecutive 11-2 season. And the head ball coach doesn't believe the run of success is over yet.
The Gamecocks closed the season with their sixth straight victory — their third New Year's Day bowl win in a row — by defeating No. 19 Wisconsin 34-24 at the Capital One Bowl on Wednesday. It was another year of achievement under Spurrier, who has turned the Gamecocks into a Southeastern Conference Eastern Division power in nine seasons at South Carolina.
Spurrier believes the Gamecocks can take that next step in the SEC title game as East champions, even with team leaders like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and quarterback Connor Shaw leaving South Carolina.
Spurrier has South Carolina's returning players on board with that, too.
"I think the future's really bright," said freshman linebacker Skai Moore, who had two of South Carolina's three interceptions against the Badgers. "It's going to be really exciting for the fans because we're going to be putting on a good show the next few years."
The past four years haven't been too bad, either.
Spurrier sounded ready to walk away after the 2009 season, the team's third straight six-loss year. Things began to turn, though, with the addition of star tailback Marcus Lattimore and an influx of the state's top football prospects that had in the past gone to rival Clemson or left to star for teams outside the Palmetto State.
With Lattimore, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and receiver Alshon Jeffery — all three in the NFL — Spurrier began of string of success the Gamecocks hadn't ever seen in 120 years of football.
They reached the SEC championship game in 2010, then won 11 games in each of the next three years, a remarkable feat given the Gamecocks had only one 10-win campaign in their history before Spurrier succeeded Lou Holtz following 2004.
"This has been a wonderful season with maybe the team we have and the way it could have gone the other way," Spurrier said. "But it went our way so often this year. So we have a lot to be thankful for. We have been a blessed team."
Expect the blessings to continue.
South Carolina's biggest coming into the season — an untested defense behind Clowney and a running game to take over for Lattimore — were answered in a major way. Young linebackers like Moore and Kaiwan Lewis developed into aggressive playmakers who'll anchor next year's defense. Sophomore tailback Mike Davis had seven 100-yard games and led the SEC in rushing much of the season until injuries limited his effectiveness the past four games.