South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier certainly possesses a flair for the dramatic. The former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who changed the way football is played after instituting the Fun ‘n’ Gun offense as a coach certainly enjoys some high-octane football.
However, not even he could have predicted the type of last-gasp, last-second heave that would be needed to eke out a 33-28 victory over the Michigan Wolverines.
Michigan’s former record-setting quarterback, Denard Robinson, rushed for an even 100 yards on 23 carries against Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of Spurrier’s monstrous D-line. Since he is still technically a quarterback, Robinson set the NCAA record for career yards rushing by a quarterback, raising his four-year total to 4,495 — 15 more than West Virginia’s Pat White ran for from 2005-08.
His replacement over the last five games, Devin Gardner, completed 18-of-36 passes for 214 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He led the Wolverines up and down the football field, handing a 28-27 lead over to the defense with under a minute remaining.
And all the Wolverines had to do for the win was shut down a backup quarterback.
South Carolina starter Connor Shaw completed 18 of his 26 pass attempts for 224 yards, two scores and no picks. He became the first signal-caller to throw for more than 200 yards against Michigan’s defense all season, and he also ran for 96 yards on 10 carries.
However, with the game on the line, the Ole’ Ball Coach rolled the dice, inserting Dylan Thompson into the fray.
Spurrier’s gamble paid off in a hurry. With only seconds remaining in the final game of the season for both teams, Thompson hit Bruce Ellington for a 32-yard, game-winning strike that gave his ‘Cocks their 11th win of the season.
The win gave the team 11 wins for the second consecutive season, a first for the once-downtrodden program. So proud was Spurrier – the school’s all-time winningest coach – that he gave game balls to both of his quarterbacks, according to ESPN.
“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.”
Michigan’s disappointing season began and ended with losses to SEC opponents, sending coach Brady Hoke back to the drawing board. It will be Devin Gardner’s team next season, and the program will be hoping for more than an Outback Bowl berth.
On the other hand, Shaw and Thompson may both still be around next season. No matter who is under center at any given moment, however, Spurrier will be expecting both to remain as positive and team-oriented as ever.
And both will be looking forward to guiding their team to yet another double-digit win season — if not a conference championship.
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