After three straight years of BCS bowl losses, Wisconsin hoped that its trip to the Capital One Bowl would be the start of better times in the postseason.
Instead, the 19th-ranked Badgers find themselves entering the offseason lamenting yet another missed opportunity.
Despite compiling 293 rushing yards against the Southeastern Conference's second-ranked rushing defense, Wisconsin couldn't overcome four turnovers and a late injury to its starting quarterback, falling 34-24 to No. 8 South Carolina on Wednesday.
Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw picked apart the Badgers' defense and was responsible for five touchdowns, including three passing,
"You kind of walk a fine line between being aggressive, getting after the quarterback and containing him," Badgers coach Gary Andersen said. "Our plan was to be aggressive. At times we didn't get the pressure we should have and at times he was able to extend plays."
Wisconsin (9-4) rushed for 293 yards, but had no rushing touchdowns. Wisconsin lost its fourth straight bowl game, failing to capitalize on 100-yard rushing games from both Melvin Gordon and James White, and struggling after quarterback Joel Stave left in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.
The Badgers hadn't lost by double digits since October 2010 (also 34-24 to Michigan State). Since then, they'd lost 13 times, all by seven points or less.
Shaw completed 22 of 25 passes for 312 yards. Shaw also had scores rushing and receiving. South Carolina (11-2) won its third straight bowl game to cap its third straight 11-win season.
Senior linebacker Chris Borland said the Badgers weren't surprised by Shaw attacking them both through the air and on the ground.
"We knew that coming in," Borland said. "He's kind of their engine and he does a great job of extending plays. He doesn't necessarily look to scramble, but to make a throw and he hurt us on that a couple times later in the game. He played well. We're kind of disappointed without being to contain him better."
After untimely injuries and losses culminated in the Gamecocks missing a spot in the BCS, Shaw said this performance offered some redemption.
"I told the team before the game that we've faced every possible scenario we could possible face this season and that Wisconsin would be no different," Shaw said. "I'm so glad the way we battled throughout the game and our defense came and played.
"I couldn't be more proud."
The game also turned out to be the final college contest for Jadeveon Clowney, who said afterward that he would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Bruce Ellington caught six passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Shaw Roland also hauled in six catches for 112 yards.
Shaw's receivers caught balls in traffic and in the open field, gashing a Wisconsin defense that surrendered 438 yards for the game. The Badgers also allowed two fourth-down conversions, one which set up a 22-yard touchdown pass from Shaw to Ellington that put the Gamecocks up for good late in the third quarter.
Backup Curt Phillips threw two interceptions.
While the Gamecocks couldn't contain the Badgers' rushing attack for most of the game, Shaw and his receivers did plenty to keep South Carolina productive on offense.
With South Carolina down 17-13 in the third quarter, Ellington reeled in a juggling reception near the sideline on a fourth-and-7 play. Two plays later, Shaw found Ellington for the 22-yard touchdown strike to put the Gamecocks up by three.
The Badgers lost Stave on the next series, and with Phillips taking over were stopped short on a fourth-down run inside the Gamecocks 30.
South Carolina took advantage, and needed just six plays for Shaw to find Jerrell Adams for a 3-yard touchdown that made it 27-17 with 11:05 to play in the game.
Wisconsin wasn't done. Kenzel Doe took the ensuing kickoff and ran it back 91 yards for a score to get the Badgers back within a field goal.
But Shaw went back to work.
Pinned inside his own 15 to start the drive, he used a combination of runs and passes to set up his 1-yard touchdown plunge to cap a nine-play, 81-yard drive that made it 34-24.
Wisconsin appeared to be done after Phillips was intercepted by Kaiwan Lewis with less than 5 minutes to play, but the Gamecocks gave it right back on Brandon Wilds' fumble on the next series.