|Attendance – 72,217
With two teams coming into the game as evenly matched as No. 19 South Carolina and No. 23 Florida State, there was no doubt that the 43rd annual Chick-fil-A Bowl had all the makings of an epic battle that would prove to be the most-watched Chick-fil-A Bowl in history.
The game would be decided in unordinary fashion. Key offensive injuries on both sides, a lopsided turnover margin and a Chick-fil-A Bowl-record-tying four field goals by a single team would make the difference in Florida State's 26-17 victory over South Carolina.
The Gamecocks lost All-Everything freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore in their first drive on a crushing hit that lacerated Lattimore's lip and left him with a concussion, knocking him from the game. The was forced out with a concussion of his own.
Florida State grabbed the early advantage using steady play from back-up quarterback E.J. Manuel and riding kicker Dustin Hopkin's leg that tallied 14 of the Seminoles' 26 points by itself on four field goals and a pair of PATs.
The Gamecocks battled themselves, handing FSU five turnovers on three interceptions and two fumbles. But the stout USC defense kept it close throughout the first half.
The Seminoles finally found the end zone in the second quarter when Chris Thompson rushed for a 27-yard touchdown. However, South Carolina quickly marched its way down the field and kicker Spencer Lanning booted a 40-yard field goal as time expired to make it 13-3 at halftime.
The tenacious Gamecocks chipped away at Florida State’s lead in the third and fourth quarters, using two key drives to come to within two points. The momentum-changer came on a trick play. Faking out the Seminoles and most of the fans in the Georgia Dome, Garcia made a backwards pass to wide receiver Ace Sanders. With the focus on Sanders, Garcia drifted to the end zone. Sanders found Garcia wide open and the two connected for a three-yard touchdown pass closing the gap to 16-10.
Later, with Florida State up 19-10, South Carolina drove 79 yards on seven plays to score its second touchdown of the half. Tailback Brian Maddox, who had come in for the injured Lattimore, broke through the 'Noles defense on a seven-yard rushing touchdown with 11:56 remaining.
However, Florida State answered on its next possession with a controlled and methodical drive. Taking nearly six-and-a-half minutes off the clock, Manuel finally connected with Taiwan Easterling for a game-clinching, seven-yard touchdown pass at 5:27.
Chris Thompson was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player after recording 164 total offensive yards – 147 of which came on 25 rushes. Greg Reid was selected as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player with 71 return yards, five tackles, two forced fumbles and four break-ups.
Scoring: FSU – Hopkins 29-yard FG. FSU – Hopkins 48-yard FG. FSU – Thompson 27-yard run (Hopkins kick). SCAR – Lanning 40-yard FG. FSU – Hopkins 35-yard FG. SCAR – Garcia 3-yard pass from Sanders (Lanning kick). FSU – Hopkins 45-yard FG. SCAR – Maddox 7-yard run. FSU – Easterling 7-yard pass from Manuel.