Once again, Dylan Thompson filled in for an injured Connor Shaw. And, once again, the sophomore quarterback from Boiling Springs played well enough to at least raise the question of who will start the next game.
This time, though, the next game is a month away. For now, South Carolina will be content to live on the memory of Saturday’s 27-17 win over Clemson, its fourth straight against its archrival, and take a break after a 10-2 regular season.
“I am not worried about (the bowl game) right now,” Thompson said Saturday night after throwing for 310 yards, three touchdowns and one interception against the Tigers. “We just beat Clemson for the fourth time in a row. I am just happy right now, and I’m going to celebrate this one.”
Shaw was sidelined by a foot injury that has bothered him for more than a month. He aggravated the injury in last week’s win over Wofford and was unable to practice last week. The Gamecocks decided to start Thompson against Clemson on Wednesday night and informed Thompson on Thursday, the quarterback said.
“It was time to give Dylan a shot,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “He played early in the year and played pretty well. It was time for him to get out there and get the balls in the air.”
Taking all the practice time helped Thompson immeasurably, he said.
“I think anybody will tell you, the more reps you get, the more comfortable you are, just seeing how they played certain formations and that sort of thing,” Thompson said.
After a shaky first quarter by all the Gamecocks, Thompson and his teammates settled down and outscored the Tigers 20-3 in the final 45 minutes.
“We just trust each other,” Thompson said. “That’s the biggest thing. After I threw my interception, the defense was like, ‘We got you, we got you.’ What happens? Brison (Williams) gets a pick. The trust level on this team is tremendous.”
Shaw could have played if needed Saturday and likely start the bowl game, Spurrier indicated. The Gamecocks aren’t expected to learn their bowl destination until early next week.
“Connor should be the guy ready to go,” Spurrier said.
Spurrier indicated during a halftime interview with ESPN that he might give Shaw a shot in the second half of the game, but that was never needed. Thompson led a 10-play, 85-yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter.
“For a guy who hadn’t played much, he had a pretty good game,” Spurrier said. “He missed a few here and there, but he hit a bunch here and there too. He was ready to play. He wanted to play. He’s not afraid to play.”
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