With Connor Shaw injured on the sideline, South Carolina got its fourth-straight victory in the Palmetto rivalry, winning 27-17. Dylan Thompson played in Shaw's place, and Thompson turned in a gem of a performance that will be remembered by Carolina fans as a classic story in this rivalry. On the other side of the football, Jadeveon Clowney backed up his claim earlier this week that he was 100% and ready to return to early-season form. Clowney had 4 1/2 sacks and solidified his claim to post-season honors. He should win everything he's eligible for other than the Bednarik, which will go to Notre Dame's Manti Te'o.
The game reminded me a bit of Clemson's game against Florida St., although ours was a lower-scoring affair. Clemson made some big plays early and seemed to be moving the ball at ease with a nice run-pass mix, but the Tigers abandoned the run game after the Gamecocks forced a couple of stops, and then the Gamecocks pass rush began teeing off on Tajh Boyd, forcing some mistakes. The other, related story of the game was Carolina's ability to control the ball for almost 40 minutes to Clemson's 20. Needless to say, our ability to do so played a role in limiting the Clemson offense, which never got in its rhythm. What was particularly notable was how we managed to control the ball. The Gamecocks didn't run the ball well until the very end of the game, but Thompson made clutch play after clutch play on third down. He even made a couple of long runs on third down, which must have been real back breakers to the CU defense.
For the Tigers, this loss has to sting more than any other in the Gamecocks' recent run. You couldn't ask for a more perfect setup if you were a Tigers fan. The game was at home, the Tigers were rolling coming in, and to top it all off, the Gamecocks were without their starting QB. After losing, if you were a CU fan, you would have to look around the country and see that the ACC went 0-4 against the SEC, including an ugly home loss by Florida St. to Florida. You have to wonder how much the pushover schedules played by FSU and CU inhibited them in these games. These are talented teams, but they failed to show the requisite physicality and mental toughness to beat their in-state rivals from the SEC. If I'm with one of these two schools or Virginia Tech, the only ACC schools that really seem to care about football, I would be really upset at the current state of the conference. After yesterday, it has to be perceived as a national non-factor even more so than it was before, and I doubt it's going anywhere quickly.
For the Gamecocks, the question is now which bowl we'll play in. Florida's win clinched the Gators' spot in the Sugar Bowl, so that's out. The Capital One is an option, but they probably go with the SECCG loser after having taken us last year. The Cotton Bowl goes with Texas A&M, perhaps matching the Aggies up with the Texas Longhorns. Another interesting factor is that Clemson's loss puts the Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which means the Atlanta bowl won't be taking the Gamecocks. That leaves the Outback or the Gator, both of which feature B10 opponents. I could get behind this if they give us a good match up. Wisconsin might be fun.
It'll be interesting to see if Spurrier considers giving Thompson another start after last night. I suspect that if Shaw is healthy, he gets the bowl start. However, I also think Thompson deserves at least nominal consideration as a reward for this performance. Of course, he's probably been getting serious consideration all year, which is part of the reason I think Shaw gets the job back. If the coaches thought Thompson was better than a healthy Shaw, we would have known it by now. It'll be an interesting story to follow, nonetheless. In any event, I won't doubt Thompson if he starts again.
For now, though, we can enjoy this one. This was a pretty sweet victory.