Just like the Clemson game last season, backup quarterback Dylan Thompson gets his turn to step up Saturday night against Missouri.
USC coach Steve Spurrier confirmed Tuesday at his weekly press conference that Thompson will start in place of senior quarterback Connor Shaw, who was forced to leave the Tennessee loss with a sprained knee.
“(Shaw) may be able to dress and get back up, we don't know,” Spurrier said. “But Dylan is definitely going to start the game, and it'll be his game to go with.”
Thompson, the 6-3, 218-pound junior, responded to his spot start against Clemson by completing 23-of-41 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns.
Playing No. 5 Missouri (7-0) on the road will be a stern test as well for Thompson and his teammates. Spurrier hopes, however, that Shaw will make enough progress to get back in the lineup soon to finish out his senior season.
“The doctors, the trainers feel like a couple of weeks, two to three weeks, he may be close to a hundred percent on that thing,” Spurrier said. “The trainer did say though by the latter part of this week that he might be able to run around a little bit.”
The No. 20 Gamecocks (5-2) also have a few other injuries, including a couple on the offensive line.
Center Cody Waldrop (ankle) and guard Ronald Patrick (ankle) did not play against Tennessee, and Spurrier isn’t overly optimistic about their status this week.
“Ronald Patrick possibly could be back and ready to play. I doubt that Cody Waldrop will make it back for this one,” he said.
Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles (knee) also may not play against the Tigers.
“Kelcy is coming around,” Spurrier said. “He's probably doubtful right now, but he's walking around OK. He's off his crutches. If he's not back this week, he should be back maybe in two weeks.”
Spurrier looks around the conference and understands that it could be worse.
“Compared to a lot of teams around, we're pretty healthy at this time of year,” he said. “A lot of injuries, as we all know, have happened in football all over the place.”
After the unexpected loss to the Volunteers, the Gamecocks need to play much better against Missouri to have any hope of staying the in the SEC East race. Spurrier understands the questions that come after a tough defeat at the hands of an underdog.
“Any time you lose a game you always second-guess if you could have called this play, could have called that one at this time,” he said. “We're not the only team that's lost a heartbreaker that was in position. One or two plays caused us to lose.”
He believes the most important question involves how resilient the team is.
“We have to regroup, put it behind us. The ability to forget is something that winners have,” he said. “We should have forgotten about what happened at Arkansas when everything went our way out there. Now we have to forget about what happened at Tennessee except for the fact of trying to correct all the errors that we had.”
Spurrier did not have a beef with Kadetrix “J.J.” Marcus being ejected last week because of the targeting rule, even though the coach noted there was no ill intent on his player’s part.
“I told J.J. when we saw the replay -- even though both guys were going in the same direction -- he hit him with his helmet,” Spurrier said. “I said, ‘J.J., you can’t do that. That’s against the rules now.’ ”
Spurrier told the junior safety that he must aim lower on tackles.
“Hopefully he’ll learn from that. We didn’t argue the call at all. We need to do all we can to make this game safe, as you know,” Spurrier said.
On the run
Tailback Mike Davis leads the SEC in rushing with 879 yards, 125.6 per game, but Spurrier insists the offense can’t rely totally on the ground game to come out on top.
“Well, we have to run, we have to throw, and we’ve got to mix it up, stay on the field, all that kind of stuff,” he said.