Another 11-win season.
A game Steve Spurrier figures is the most exciting of his eight-year South Carolina tenure.
And, yes, the question Gamecocks football can’t quite seem to shake: Who will be the starting quarterback the next time South Carolina takes the field?
That day won’t come until Aug. 29 against North Carolina, but the question will fill most of the time between that date and the Gamecocks’ thrilling 33-28 win against Michigan in Tuesday’s Outback Bowl. The choices are junior Connor Shaw, the incumbent starter, and sophomore Dylan Thompson, who keeps coming up big in dramatic moments.
“After the game, we both looked at each other and said, ‘We can’t wait until next year,’ ” Thompson said. “Whatever that entails, we will see.”
Shaw started and played most of the Outback Bowl, throwing two touchdown passes, a 56-yarder to Damiere Byrd and a 31-yarder to Ace Sanders. He started the game’s decisive drive and was moving the ball down the field, including making a key throw on fourth-and-three, but the foot injury that has nagged him for much of the season was aggravated again on a first down pass to Sanders.
Enter Thompson, who threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds left for the win.
“We tried to tell Connor it was his game, and it was his game, but Dylan was going to play,” Spurrier said. “It worked out beautifully as it turned out.”
Shaw finished the game 18-of-26 for 224 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the Gamecocks in rushing with 96 yards. Thompson was 7-for-10 for 117 yards and two touchdowns and had minus-12 rushing yards. The final tally for the season: Shaw — 154-of-228 for 1,956 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions and 435 rushing yards; Thompson — 66-of-127 for 1,027 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions and 23 yards rushing.
“We will go through the spring, and we will go through everything next year (with the quarterbacks competing),” Spurrier said after the game. “We always have competition for every position. We always try to encourage our guys to get better, don’t go bad on us.”
None of the Gamecocks asked Tuesday afternoon think a quarterback competition will slow the momentum they have built with 31 wins in the past three seasons.
“I want Connor Shaw, every time he steps on the field, to go 25-for-25 for 400 yards and five touchdowns, every time, and I think, honestly, he wants the same thing for me,” Thompson said. “When we are in there, we are both pulling each other on. When he threw a touchdown, I was probably the first one on the field to congratulate him and vice versa. We are excited. We love winning. We love competing, no better guy to do it with than Connor.”
Both quarterbacks are “super team-oriented,” Spurrier said.
“If one doesn’t start, they’re not going to pout,” Ellington said. “They are going to keep going every day and keep getting better and try to get that starting position.”
USC welcomed home