Chick-Fil-A Bowl, South Carolina Vs. Florida State: 'Noles Survive Gamecocks Rally, Win 26-17

Florida State gets 10th win of the season for first time since 2003 and gives Jimbo Fisher first bowl victory, as Gamecocks commit five turnovers.

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Chick-Fil-A Bowl, South Carolina Vs. Florida State: Seminoles Capitalize On Gamecock Errors, Claim 10th Win

South Carolina churned out more than 400 yards of offense. It’s much beleaguered pass defense allowed just 90 yards. Even without Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks rushed for 139 yards. Those are the kind of numbers that likely would have delighted any South Carolina fan and frightened any Florida State follower before the Chick-fil-A Bowl kicked off.

But the Seminoles forced five turnovers by the Gamecocks and ran for 218 yards, all while surviving a furious South Carolina rally in the third quarter to give Jimbo Fisher a bowl win in his first season as head coach in Tallahassee. The victory also gave the Seminoles their 10th of the year, a landmark the storied program hasn’t seen in seven years.

The biggest contributor for the Seminoles was Greg Reid, who forced two fumbles — one on the hit that knocked Lattimore out of the game — and had punt returns of 28 and 25 yards. Chris Thompson carried the ball 25 times for 147 yards and a touchdown, and Dustin Hopkins was perfect on four field goals.

The game started out sloppy, with neither team scoring a touchdown until the second quarter was almost over. At that time, Florida State had what seemed to be an insurmountable 13-0 lead. The Gamecocks did manage to kick a last-second field goal, but even the 10-point halftime margin seemed too much to overcome.

Down 16-3 in the third quarter, South Carolina started coming back. But the Seminoles stayed one step ahead of them. When the Gamecocks cut the lead to 16-10, Florida State added another field goal. Florida State answered a Brian Maddox touchdown with a touchdown of its own, taking a 26-17 lead late in the fourth quarter that effectively ended the game.

For Jimbo Fisher, it’s proof that being the man that follows the man might not be fatal. And it sets up the Seminoles to try to make another run at the ACC Championship Game next year, with E.J. Manuel looking solid taking over for Christian Ponder.

Meanwhile, South Carolina is left with another bowl loss, the fourth in five postseason appearances under Steve Spurrier. The 2010 edition of the Gamecocks still achieved a list of things that had never been done in school history — including an SEC East title. But the final two games, losses to Auburn in the SEC Championship Game and Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, make for another bittersweet ending for a fan base all too familiar with coming up just short.

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Chick-Fil-A Bowl, South Carolina Vs. Florida State: Seminoles Convert Third Downs, Taiwan Easterling Scores TD

On what might prove to be the game-winning drive, Florida State finds an answer to its third-down woes. After starting the game 1-of-9 on third downs, the Seminoles convert four on the way to a touchdown giving them a two-score lead.

E.J. Manuel hits a variety of short- and medium-range passes on the drive, going 7-of-7 for 50 yards. The longest pass of the drive is for 17 yards. The Seminoles knock almost six-and-a-half minutes off the clock, giving South Carolina almost no time to come back and score twice. The seven-yard touchdown pass goes to Taiwan Easterling on third-and-goal.

For South Carolina, the late rally might have started just a bit too late. They didn’t go too far down, but the offense couldn’t really be bothered to show up in a meaningful way until the third quarter. Once Florida State got its own offensive issues figured out, it was always going to be hard for South Carolina to come back.

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Chick-Fil-A Bowl, South Carolina Vs. Florida State: Stephon Gilmore, Kenny Miles Orchestrate TD Drive

As the third quarter comes to an end, South Carolina finally decides to bring out its Wildcat formation, quarterbacked by Stephon Gilmore. After handing off once and keeping it on the next play, Gilmore chucks the ball 29 yards down the field to Alshon Jeffery.

Florida State commits a personal foul on the next play, giving the Gamecocks 15 more yards. Two runs by Kenny Miles, subbing for the injured Marcus Lattimore, get the ball down to the Florida State 7. He’s spelled by Brian Maddox, who scores a touchdown to keep South Carolina in the game.

Miles has run for 70 yards tonight and Maddox has added another 53, helping South Carolina to make up for the loss of Lattimore. Of course, South Carolina’s problem hasn’t been generating yardage, but holding onto the football. Improving that has keyed the Gamecocks rally, but they’re still behind with the clock running.

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Chick-Fil-A Bowl, South Carolina Vs. Florida State: Ace Sanders Throws For First Gamecocks TD

After five turnovers and 41 minutes of game time, the South Carolina offense has decided to show a few promising glimpses of competence. And all of a sudden, we appear to have a football game on our hands.

Florida State opens the second half with a drive that ends with — what else? — a field goal. The Gamecocks respond by putting together the beginnings of a drive, before Greg Reid jars the ball away from Alshon Jeffery. That continues a great night for Reid, who’s the best possible candidate for player of the game at this point.

Stephon Gilmore then picks off a Florida State pass inside the South Carolina 10, and the Gamecocks are off. Stephen Garcia goes 4-of-6 for 76 yards to help guide South Carolina inside the Florida State 5. Then, on third down, Garcia throws the ball back to Ace Sanders, who eventually finds a wide open receiver in the end zone: Garcia.

The Gamecocks, finally, have found the end zone. But after the teams trade punts, the Seminoles get on the board with another field goal, and the Florida State lead is now nine.

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Chick-Fil-A Bowl, South Carolina Vs. Florida State: Marcus Lattimore Out After Sloppy First Half

The hits keep coming for South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl: Marcus Lattimore, the running back credited with helping power the Gamecocks to the first SEC East championship in school history, is out. Steve Spurrier told ESPN at halftime that Lattimore has a concussion and won’t return after getting shellacked by Greg Reid early in the game.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Lattimore to the South Carolina offense. With him, South Carolina can either run the ball effectively or help free up wide receiver Alshon Jeffery by forcing the defense to focus on stopping the run. Without him, the Gamecocks have a difficult time running as well, and allow the defense to devote more time to stopping Jeffery — the only other truly explosive offensive threat on the field.

Not that everything is well on the other sideline. After looking largely ineffective at the beginning of the game, Christian Ponder is doubtful for reasons that haven’t been completely explained. E.J. Manuel is filling in for Ponder right now, and actually led the Seminoles to the first touchdown of the game.

So those expecting for the sloppy first half to be followed by more points in the second half are likely to be disappointed. At this point, both teams are going to be doing well to field an offense. With 13 points on the board at halftime, Florida State might have already won.

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Chick-Fil-A Bowl, South Carolina Vs. Florida State: Seminoles Remember That TDs Count, Lead 13-3

Florida State appears to have discovered that points can be scored more than three at a time. Near the end of a largely forgettable second quarter, the Seminoles launch the most successful drive of the day.

Seminoles QB E.J. Manuel, in for a mysteriously doubtful Christian Ponder, runs for 32 yards on second down, getting the ball to the South Carolina 27. Two snaps later, Chris Thompson runs the ball in from there. After almost 29 minutes of play, we finally have our first touchdown.

The score finally seems to rouse South Carolina’s offense from its sleep. Stephen Garcia develops something resembling a rhythm, going 6-of-8 for 57 yards to set up a Spencer Lanning field goal. Lanning’s kick is good, and South Carolina goes to the locker down by 10 points but with three on the board — which is a lot better position than they should be in given how they’ve played so far.

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Chick-Fil-A Bowl, South Carolina Vs. Florida State: Gamecocks Turnovers Leading To Seminoles Field Goals

We’ve noted that the Chick-fil-A Bowl is a matchup between two teams that just missed the BCS. They’ve spent most of the first quarter showing why they missed the BCS.

South Carolina has already turned the ball over three times; not to be outdone, Florida State has almost turned the ball over twice. A South Carolina fumble on the first drive led to a field goal by the Seminoles.

South Carolina starts to move the ball again on the next drive, getting into Florida State territory before Stephen Garcia lobs a ball to the one-yard line — and into the waiting arms of Mike Harris. Who is not on Garcia’s team.

But the South Carolina defense holds and forces a punt, which along with an illegal block forces the Gamecocks to start at its own 27-yard line — which is exactly where Florida State takes over when Stephen Garcia is intercepted by Kendall Smith. Christian Ponder is promptly sacked, knocking the ball loose. Florida State recovers, but has to settle for another Dustin Hopkins field goal.

The next drive by the Gamecocks features two Garcia sacks, but seems harmless enough when Spencer Lanning booms a deep punt. Unfortunately, Lanning’s teammates have to make a tackle, something they have trouble doing as Greg Reid carries it inside the Gamecocks 40. The first quarter ends with Florida State trying to score something more than a field goal.

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Chick-Fil-A Bowl, South Carolina Vs. Florida State: Greg Reid Forces Fumble, Marcus Lattimore Injured, Seminoles Lead

The Chick-fil-A Bowl starts out about as well as it could for South Carolina. The Gamecocks drive into the Florida State red zone on the fourth play of the game, getting most of the yardage on a 53-yard rush by star running back Marcus Lattimore.

Then, on 3rd-and-4 from the Seminoles’ 20-yard line, Marcus Lattimore takes the ball and runs for what appears to be a first down — before Greg Reid levels him and knocks the ball loose. Kendall Smith picks the ball up and runs down to the South Carolina 29, as Lattimore lies on the ground with what we are later told is a mouth injury making him questionable for the rest of the game.

Florida State, apparently being unaware that the South Carolina secondary does about as good a job of defense as the Maginot Line, calls seven straight runs, including an option on 2nd-and-goal that nearly ends in disaster when Christian Ponder misses the running back. Florida State recovers the ball but loses seven yards.

Ponder’s pass falls incomplete, forcing the Seminoles to settle for a field goal. Dustin Hopkins is good from 29 yards, giving Florida State an early three-point lead.

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2010 Chick-Fil-A Bowl Game: Time, Location, History And More

To help prime you for Friday's college football quadrupleheader, we've compiled this handy list of fun factoids concerning the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Proper name: A deliciously named bowl. The proper name is, as it says, the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Formerly the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the bowl name changed to just include its title sponsor in 2006.

Setting: The Georgia Dome in the ATL. 

Traditional conference pairing: ACC versus SEC.

2010 matchup: The South Carolina Gamecocks and Florida State Seminoles.

Announcers: Three people I've never heard of. Ron Franklin and Ed Cunningham will have the call while Jeannine Edwards roams the sidelines. Last year we were treated to Matt Millen, so consider yourselves lucky.

Weather: It's a dome, so temperatures should be a climate-controlled 72 with a 100 percent chance of artificial light. Wind should be at a minimum unless someone leaves a door open.

Neatest fact: With most bowls struggling to fill the seats, the Chick-fil-A Bowl has had no such problem. Among non-BCS bowls, the Chick-fil-A is the highest attended of them all, boasting nine-straight sellouts.

Closest finish: Texas Tech and Vanderbilt tied in 1974. If ties aren't your thing, the Chick-fil-A Bowl has also seen four one-point games, the latest of which came in 1989 when Syracuse inched by Georgia Tech.

Most lopsided finish: A 37-point drubbing of Miami by the LSU Tigers in 2005.

Tidbits of interest: I've never been to Chick-fil-A, but I hear it's delicious and that I may be missing out. The Chick-fil-A Bowl is the most giving bowl of them all, giving out charitable contributions to the tune of just about $3.5 million over the last six years.

The 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl kicks off at 7:30 p.m. EST, Friday, December 31. The game will be televised on ESPN. For a complete list of bowls, browse our 2010 college football postseason schedule.

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Chick-Fil-A Bowl, South Carolina Vs. Florida State: Two Near-BCS Teams Do Battle In Atlanta

The Chick-fil-A Bowl, formerly known as the deadly combination that is the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, features a matchup of two teams that narrowly missed winning their conferences. No. 20 South Carolina, losers of the SEC Championship, battles No. 23, losers of the ACC Championship, duke it out at the Georgia Dome on Dec. 31. Two 9-4 teams enter, one will emerge with the prestigious Chick-fil-A trophy.

The South Carolina Gamecocks, winners of the SEC East, capped the regular season with a loss to BCS No. 1 Auburn in the SEC title game at the same site as the Chick-fil-A bowl. The Gamecocks are looking for redemption after putting together a surprising year in the SEC. South Carolina started strong, winning its first three games, before losing to eventual SEC champion Auburn on Sept. 25. Three-straight wins to end the regular season brought South Carolina to within inches of a BCS game, but a loss in the SEC title game ended the dream. Instead, they'll settle for a Chick-fil-A Bowl berth and chance to end the season on a high-note.

Florida State took a similar route to its bowl game, winning its last three regular season games before falling to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. The Seminoles dropped an early non-conference game to Oklahoma before stringing together five straight wins. North Carolina and North Carolina State put up a road block for Florida State to break the streak, with each team tripping-up the Seminoles on back-to-back weeks. The Seminoles hung on to win the ACC's Atlantic Division, but, like South Carolina, fell just short of a BCS game.

The Chick-fil-A bowl kicks off on Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.

Stay tuned to this StoryStream right up through game time, as we review key unit matchups, odds, bowl history and more, and connect with South Carolina fans at SB Nation's Garnet And Black Attack and Florida State fans at Tomahawk Nation. For a complete list of bowl games, browse our 2010 college football postseason schedule.

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