On Saturday afternoon, Dylan Thompson couldn’t think far enough ahead to imagine a time he would take joy in his accomplishment this season.
On Saturday evening, former teammate Connor Shaw assured Thompson that time would come.
“Congratulations to my good friend #DT17 on breaking the passing record today,” Shaw tweeted. “Tough to enjoy now, but you will appreciate it years to come!”
Thompson threw for 249 yards against Clemson, giving him 3,280 for the season and breaking Todd Ellis’ 27-year-old, single-season passing record at the school. It was tough to enjoy, of course, because it came during a 35-17 loss to the Tigers, the Gamecocks’ first loss to Clemson since 2008.
“Obviously, it’s not the best feeling in the world, but this is not going to define who we are,” Thompson said of the loss. “We have had many wins, many wins over these guys, but today they came to play and they beat us.”
Asked if the record provided any salve for the defeat, he replied only, “No.” He predicted he would be able to enjoy it “some time, way down the road.”
Thompson, who has a 9-6 record as South Carolina’s starting quarterback, became the fourth player in school history to surpass 3,000 passing yards in a season, joining Ellis (1986, 1987), Steve Taneyhill (1995) and Stephen Garcia (2010). What he will remember the most from the season, however, is his relationship with his teammates, he said.
“We just have a blast together and love every guy in that locker room,” he said. “Records, those things will be broken by different people down the road. That’s something that’s fleeting, but my teammates and the relationships we have, that will last.
“We wouldn’t choose anybody else to play with, our teammates, our coaches, we love each other. Obviously we don’t want to lose in this rivalry but it’s a blessing to be able to do what we do, and we’ll group and get ready for the bowl game, wherever they end up.”
Thompson was 21-of-39 for one touchdown and no interceptions against the Tigers. He was sacked four times and hurried eight more times. Head coach Steve Spurrier said his quarterback “played well.” Thompson finished the regular season with a 59.4 completion percentage, 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His touchdown mark ties him with Shaw for the second-best, single-season total in school history.
Sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, who has been on the receiving end of more Thompson passes than anyone this season, said he would be sad to see Thompson go after the team’s bowl game.
“It has been fun playing with Dylan on and off the field. Dylan is a great guy, very Christian, good quarterback, good role model,” Cooper said. “I appreciate everything Dylan does, and I’m sure everybody on the team does.”
Cooper, the SEC’s second-leading receiver, was held to two catches for 45 yards by the Tigers and aggravated a rib injury in the fourth quarter of the game.
“After he scored (on a 20-yard run in the first quarter), I kept reminding our guys, ‘Get it to Pharoh, get it to Pharoh,’ and we didn’t. Obviously, there were a lot of things we could have done differently, offense and defense.”
Cooper did not question the play-calling after the victory.
“I can’t really say on that,” he said. “Coaches call the plays. I can’t do anything about that. I am just out on the field trying to do the play call. Their defense, they had a good game plan for us. They showed us different looks, a lot of blitzes. They were mentally prepared for this game. They got the best of us.”