HOOVER, Alabama – When he was pulled from the game, Missouri was in control.
South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson was 15-27, throwing for 227 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Mizzou was winning 17-0 with just over three minutes left in the third quarter.
“I think you could just tell they were all in it together,” Thompson said of the Tigers last season against South Carolina. “They battled and our game was crazy with them. “
South Carolina would end up winning 27-24 in double overtime, no thanks to Thompson. It was the man Thompson backed up, Connor Shaw, who brought the Gamecocks back. Shaw sprained his knee and was too injured to start, but he didn’t look it when he entered the game in place of his backup.
Shaw was 20-29 with three touchdown passes. Thompson finished the game on the sidelines, watching as Shaw did what Thompson couldn’t – lead South Carolina pass the Tigers.
Shaw’s gone now, playing in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns. And finally it’s fifth-year senior Thompson's turn to be the starting quarterback for the Gamecocks. If the Gamecocks are losing, there will be no hobbled savior to take Thompson’s place under center.
“(My biggest) learning experience (as a backup) is Missouri,” Thompson said. “That was this past year, and I was forcing the issue a lot. I watched the tape many times, but just learning to be patient, and taking what the defense gives me. I think Connor did a good job of just being patient, and I can do a lot better job of that.”
Thompson and Shaw arrived in Columbia, South Carolina, as part of the same recruiting class. They became best friends. The higher ranked recruit of the two, Shaw wasn’t redshirted; Thompson was.
Shaw was South Carolina’s starter for three seasons. Thompson was his backup.
Thompson said he’s excited to finally be “The Guy.” Even though he’s attempted just 55 passes in his time with the Gamecocks, he said he’s never thought about transferring.
“It’s been tough,” Thompson said. “It’s been worth it I think. The process is the fun part, then you get to see the results.”
Thompson will have one year to show those results. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said his quarterback will “have to pack his college career into one season.”
The expectations for the Gamecocks are high this season, with most rankings placing South Carolina between eight and 10. And Thompson will play a role in how accurate that ranking is. Maybe that’s why he drew the biggest crowd of media of the three South Carolina players here in Alabama.
Thompson said he’s not the same quarterback that Shaw is – he told media members not to expect as many read option plays as Shaw ran – but that the overall quality won’t drop.
“The quarterbacks may change, but the caliber of the league will remain the same,” Thompson said. “Look at the number of people that are here to cover some guys talking. It’s pretty crazy.”
South Carolina’s opening game of the season — Thompson’s first as "The Guy" of the Gamecocks — will be against Texas A&M. It’ll be the first game Thompson has started since the Missouri game.
“That game was full of emotions,” senior defensive tackle JT Surratt said of the Gamecocks' game against Mizzou. “It was a learning curve. We all learned from it. What we took from that game was, Never give up. Just cause you’re done don’t mean you can’t come back.”
Thompson was done with 3:22 left in the third quarter. He comes back Aug. 28 against the Aggies.