By Leo Haggerty

Had a chance to get a few questions in at the Outback Bowl post game news conference.  Got responses from both head coaches as well as the Outback Bowl MVP.

They are, in order, the following:

Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh
South Carolina HC Will Muschamp
South Carolina QB Jake Bentley

LH : Did you feel it slipping away at any time, or did South Carolina just get better as the game went along?

JH : I think they did get better. I think probably both those things. They got better as the game went on, no doubt, and made plays to win the football game. We didn’t get the knockout punch when we needed it. We didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that were there.

LH : Did South Carolina do anything, on either side of the ball, that you didn’t expect today?

JH: No, I can’t think of something different.

LH : With 5:45 left in the third quarter, you go down 19-3. Did anybody give the Knute Rochne speech on the sideline to the guys or did they just refocus?

WM : No, I wish those worked. I’d be good at them, but they don’t. No,  I think that it’s 365 days a year how you run your program and the culture of your program, and our guys understanding at halftime we’re at 9 3. We gave them three short fields.  We actually moved the ball decently well against a very good Michigan defense. But, you know, at the end of the day, we play for 60 minutes, and our guys
understand that, and they keep chomping and they keep hanging in there, and they realize when you have Jake Bentley and you have Hayden Hurst and you have Bryan Edwards and you have some guys that are able to make some plays, and those guys are eventually
going to make some plays for us, and that’s why you just keep chopping and keep playing. Never once did I feel like the game was in the balance as far as that was concerned.

LH : Defense is 90 percent effort. How proud are you
of your guys that you held a team that thrives on rushing the football to less than 100 yards on the ground?

WM : Well, we’ve come a long way. We couldn’t stop the run against anybody last year if you watched us, and so it’s good to see that you play blocks up front, you tackle, you leverage the ball, you understand formations. The one run that they had, we had people at the point of attack, and we missed a tackle on 22, Karan Higdon, down our sideline.  Again, being in the right spots and understanding leverage and formations, we’re getting stronger as a program. We’ve got to continue to do that. That’s going to be a huge part of our off season. You know, hand strength is critical for defensive players to be able
to disengage and get off blocks. We’ve come a long way, but we still have miles to travel.

LH : You’re down 19-3. Any special words in the huddle the next time you get the football?

JB : Not really. The big thing that I’ve learned, I guess, playing as a freshman, I just go back to the Florida game my freshman year. If things aren’t going well, and I was just sitting on the bench just by
myself not saying anything. So this year feel like I’ve done a better job, and I think it really showed today of just staying positive, continuing to go down the line along the bench and just stay positive and just keep the guys encouraged. Not one person on our offense got discouraged. Everyone had full confidence that we were going to come back and win. And that’s what it takes when you get down. If you have one guy that doesn’t believe we’re going to win, you’re not going to
win. That’s why I go back to it’s really about the whole offense to get this award.

LH : How important is it for South Carolina’s program to go into an off season program with a win?

JB : Yeah, I think it just propels us even more. Last year there was a few weeks where we had to get over the loss, and you kind of just – that mental block, I guess, of hey, we just lost our last game, but I think the guys are going to come back hungry. Now they know what it feels like to win a big bowl game, and they want more. That’s what we’re going to do, and that’s what Coach Muschamp told us in the locker room
after, that it’s all gas when we come back, and pedal to the metal getting to work.

All photos by photo-journalists Trace Crisp and Matt Crisp.