South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith will dominate highlights of the Gamecocks' thrilling 33-28 win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day, and rightfully so. It's one of those highlights that you can't stop watching.
But the highlight that won the game was from sophomore backup quarterback Dylan Thompson, and it could lead to an offseason quarterback battle in Columbia.
Thompson hit wide receiver Bruce Ellington in the closing seconds to give the Gamecocks the win when all they needed was a field goal, capping off a thrilling drive that saw Thompson take over for junior Connor Shaw mid-drive after Shaw tweaked his foot escaping a potential sack with 0:52 left in the game.
Not only did Thompson close out the win over Michigan, he threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in South Carolina's rivalry win over Clemson on Nov. 24 and tossed 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions on the season.
He has certainly proven that he has what it takes to be a successful quarterback at this level. So does head coach Steve Spurrier have a quarterback controversy on his hands?
It certainly appears that way.
"We will go through the spring and go through everything next year," said Spurrier in the postgame press conference (8:40 mark). "We always have competition for every position."
Starting quarterback Connor Shaw was banged up for the majority of the season. Because he's a dual-threat quarterback and takes more hits than Thompson, he's never going to be at 100 percent. But he completed 67.7 percent of his passes and tossed 17 touchdowns this season, in addition to his 435 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
The Gamecocks will enter 2013 without Marcus Lattimore as their starting running back for the first time since 2009 and could use Shaw's ability to make things happen on the ground.
Thompson looked great down the stretch, but struggled against Florida, going 8-of-20 and certainly doesn't have as much big-game experience as Shaw.
Whoever wins the job, expect both players to see significant playing time next season. The Head Ball Coach has never been afraid to play musical quarterbacks, and Shaw seeks out contact on runs that puts him at a greater risk of injury.
Who will win? Bleacher Report's Lafe Peavler gives the nod to Shaw. Based on how the two played in 2012, choosing between Shaw and Thompson is a good problem to have.
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