With South Carolina starting two new defensive backs this season, one would naturally figure that facing East Carolina could pose a challenge to the Gamecocks.
The Pirates employ a spread, no-huddle offense that utilizes the short passing game and averaged 44 pass attempts per game last season. To make matters worse, the Pirates lit up the Stephon Gilmore (who is now with the Buffalo Bills) led defense for 260 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s 56-37 Gamecock victory.
However, the Gamecock secondary proved Saturday that it can take care of itself.
That group picked off ECU’s Rio Johnson and Shane Carden a combined four times during the 48-10 Gamecock victory Saturday afternoon.
While the defense did their job, the offense received an unexpected boost from back-up quarterback Dylan Thompson. The sophomore was starting in place of junior starter Connor Shaw, who is out with a shoulder contusion. Thompson passed for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Pirates, which came as a huge surprise seeing as Shaw was only able to pass for 67 yards last week against Vanderbilt.
While there is a big discrepancy in the defenses of ECU and Vanderbilt, Thompson’s performance came as a pleasant surprise for head coach Steve Spurrier, who spent all week building up Thompson’s confidence. The confidence booster was needed, as Thompson was benched for missing wide open targets at Vanderbilt after Shaw went down with the injury.
Spurrier said that there was a huge difference in the demeanor of Thompson today.
“A lot of you folks didn’t think that we had two (QB’s) that could play,” Spurrier said. “But at times, Dylan looks extremely good in practice, and today, just about every play was really good. The confidence he played with was thrilling for all of us to see.”
Going into next week’s game against the UAB Blazers, there is still uncertainty about whether Shaw will start or not. Spurrier said that the coaching staff will decide in practice this week if Shaw is ready to play.