Steve Spurrier’s plan to use two quarterbacks in the Outback Bowl worked so well that Dylan Thompson and Connor Shaw both earned game balls.
That’s a first for the Head Ball Coach, who has a well-known penchant for benching struggling QBs. Except in this case, the Gamecocks’ winningest coach used his talented pair of passers by design.
Shaw began Tuesday’s 33-28 victory over Michigan with a 56-yard touchdown pass to Damiere Byrd. Thompson closed it out by throwing a 32-yard TD strike to Bruce Ellington in the final minute to help South Carolina match the school record for victories in a season.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever given two quarterbacks a game ball, but today I said: ‘Hey, we’ve got to give them to both you guys,”’ Spurrier said.
“Both those young men are just so super team-oriented. There’s no jealousy, nothing. ... Those guys are just really, really good teammates. Wonderful team players,” the coach added. “We tried to tell Connor: ‘It’s your game.’ And it was his game, but Dylan was going to play. He understood that. It worked beautifully as it turned out.”
Thompson replaced Shaw during the winning drive, covering the final 43 yards after Shaw began the march from his own 30 and kept it alive with a 6-yard completion to Ace Sanders on a fourth-and-3 play. Devin Gardner’s third TD pass of the game had given Michigan a 28-27 lead.
“I wasn’t nervous. I knew I had great guys around me, and I trusted them and just was confident,” Thompson said.
Shaw threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns after missing the Gamecocks’ regular-season finale with a left foot sprain. Thompson led the Gamecocks (11-2) to a victory at archrival Clemson, and threw for 117 yards and two TDs in the bowl.
Gardner threw for 214 yards in his fifth start for Michigan (8-5) since Denard Robinson injured his right elbow late in the season.