COLUMBIA — Dylan Thompson really only felt pressure during South Carolina’s annual Garnet and Black Spring Game on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium once: on his trick-play pass to Gamecock women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley.
The senior quarterback knew that if he didn’t make a good throw during Spurrier’s annual, fun and illegal off-the-bench throw that he’d hear it from his teammates and coaches for a long time.
But the 30-yard pass play — longer than Spurrier wanted it to be — went off without a hitch, and Staley came down with the ball in the end zone for the touchdown just before halftime. Staley, who Spurrier said became the first woman he’s called a play for, added a few snow angels on the turf for celebration before being hoisted up by the offensive line.
“The best play of the spring game had to be the catch by wide receiver Dawn Staley,” Spurrier said after the game. “It was an excellent catch. That was probably the highlight play.”
The Gamecocks didn’t have much else special occur during the nearly two-hour spring contest. Quarterbacks determined the teams, and Thompson completed eight of his 11 passes for 129 yards to lead the Black team to a 28-10 victory.
“A lot of guys played pretty well,” Spurrier said. “Not much of a real game. The defense only played a couple of coverages and rushed four.”
The Garnet and Black sides combined for 420 yards of total offense. Running back David Williams, who’s been slowed this spring with a hamstring injury, rushed seven times for a game-high 35 yards and two touchdowns.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I came out here,” said Williams, who is competing for playing time this fall. “It felt good to get out there and score some touchdowns even though my hamstring was bothering me.”
Starting rusher Mike Davis had just two carries for 13 yards while Brandon Wilds rushed three times for 12 yards. Shon Carson caught a 37-yard pass out of the backfield but “cracked his shoulder” after falling down awkwardly, Spurrier said.
“Only injury of the game. Hopefully he’ll be ready to go (in the fall),” Spurrier said. “He had an excellent spring.”
Redshirt freshman Connor Mitch, who’s in the lead for the role of Thompson’s top backup, tossed that long pass to Carson and went 7-of-10 for 108 yards.
“I made some good reads, came off some to quickly,” Mitch said. “Overall it was a good day.”
Perry Orth completed six of his 10 passes for 86 yards and threw a 41-yard pass to Matrick Belton in the fourth quarter for the last score of the game. Brendan Nosovitch threw for 97 yards on 4-of-11 passing and rushed four times for 19 yards.
The defense forced one turnover for each side. Safety Chris Moody recovered a fumble forced by linebacker Skai Moore, who also had four tackles, for the Black squad while Jamari Smith picked off Orth for the Garnet team and returned it 23 yards.
It was difficult for USC defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward to get much of a read on how his unit fared in the contest, but he was pleased with how the entire spring.
“I understand what (the spring game is) about. You really want to see a guy play basic technique and fundamentals, but that’s not what we do on defense,” Ward said. “We’re a zone-blitz movement team.
“The guys understand. I think sometimes they get frustrated. We want to make our fans happy when they leave here so we like to see points on the board.”
Elliott Fry made one of his two field-goal attempts, a 22-yarder for the Garnet team.
Many of the 36,412 faithful in attendance departed after the halftime festivities, where Spurrier honored taley’s squad for winning its first ever SEC championship as well as past and present Gamecock football players. Connor Shaw, Jadeveon Clowney and Bruce Ellington were among several players in attendance from last year’s 11-2 squad who are looking to get drafted next month.
Spurrier also honored former stars Stephon Gilmore and Marcus Lattimore for helping build the program into a top-10 team. Lattimore, who wasn’t at the stadium Saturday, received the Legend Award.
“We are where we are now because of the contribution of No. 21,” Spurrier said about the current San Francisco 49er.
Numerous current Gamecocks were presented with awards for their efforts this spring. Receiver Pharoh Cooper was named the top offensive player of the spring while junior college transfer and defensive tackle Abu Lamin earned that honor on the defensive side. Kicker Elliott Fry was the special teams player of the spring. Thompson received the Dr. Harris Patides Outstanding Student-Athlete Representative of USC Award.
Shaw was named MVP of the Clemson game while Ellington and Victor Hampton earned Capital One Bowl honors for “Big Play Players.”
The spring officially comes to an end for USC, which opens the season Aug. 28 at home against Texas A&M. “I think we have a chance to have a good team,” Spurrier said. “We have a lot of guys back on offense, not as many on defense. We’ve got to go play and see if we’re any good or not.”
Noted: Radio personality and ESPN analyst Paul Finebaum apologized Saturday before the spring game for calling Clowney “the biggest joke in college football” last year after Clowney missed a game with a controversial rib injury.
“If there was something I could take back, it would be that moment,” Finebaum said in an interview with the media Saturday. “I deeply regret it. It was the wrong thing to say for someone in my position.”
Follow Brad Senkiw on Twitter @bsenkiwaim