Backup QB Dylan Thompson answers the call for Gamecocks

Thompson had know since Thanksgiving Day that he'd be the starter against Clemson

Clemson defensive end Malliciah Goodman forces a fumble by South Carolina's Dylan Thompson. Thompson recovered the ball.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson defensive end Malliciah Goodman forces a fumble by South Carolina's Dylan Thompson. Thompson recovered the ball.

Two hours before No. 13 South Carolina's monumental showdown with in-state rival No. 12 Clemson, Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier made a surprise announcement that backup QB Dylan Thompson would likely start the game over Connor Shaw, who's been battling a sprained left foot.

Thompson's known since Thanksgiving Day he'd be the man in the biggest game of the season, and it was a decision the Gamecock faithful will remember for years to come.

Shaw stood on the sideline watching his teammate Thompson torch the Tiger defense for 310 yards and three touchdowns on 23-of-41 passing to lead USC to a fourth consecutive win over the Tigers, 27-17.

"Guys go down and the next guy's got to be ready," said Thompson, who had one interception. "That's happened here last year and this year. It was my opportunity."

Spurrier said Shaw didn't get enough practice time this week while Thompson ran with the starting offense, giving him confidence.

"That's huge," he said. "The more reps you get, the more comfortable you are. Just seeing when they played certain formations and that type thing, it's a big deal when you get a lot of reps."

Thompson, who went over 300 yards for the second time in his career, carved Clemson's secondary for all four quarters. The Tigers were able to get to him at times with pressure, recording four sacks.

But eventually, Thompson began showing some athleticism with critical runs.

None were bigger than USC's final scoring drive of the night. Up 20-17 and looking to put the Tigers away late in the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks faced a third-and-19 deep in Clemson territory.

Spurrier called a QB draw, and Thompson ran 20 yards to the Tiger 6.

"I was expecting a big zone (defense), but it turns out they were in man," Thompson said. "It was just a great play call by coach and I just tried to get the first down and get us a win."

That led to a short TD pass to Bruce Ellington that gave USC the final 27-17 lead.

"That was a key play in the game," Spurrier said. "A six-point lead would not have been much of a lead."

Thompson started one game this season against East Carolina, throwing for 330 yards and three scores. He took over for an injured Shaw against UAB a week later and tossed 177 yards in the second half.

Saturday, Thompson finished the night 7-of-14 passing on third downs, which kept the Tiger offense off the field much of the night.

Thompson also had 38 rushing yards in the game. That helped Spurrier make the decision to keep Shaw on the sideline.

"For a guy who hadn't played much he had a pretty good game," Spurrier said. "He likes playing. He's not afraid to play."

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