SOUTH CAROLING GETS ELEVENTH WIN WITH THRILLING OUTBACK BOWL VICTORY OVER MICHIGAN
University of South Carolina backup quarterback Dylan Thompson hooked up with two-sport star Bruce Ellington for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds left – lifting the tenth-ranked Gamecocks to an electrifying come-from-behind victory over the No. 18 Michigan Wolverines in the 2013 Outback Bowl.
South Carolina – which recorded double digit wins just once in its first 117 years of football – has now won 11 games in back-to-back seasons. The Gamecocks (11-2, 6-2 SEC) are also likely to earn their second consecutive Top Ten finish – another honor that had eluded the program until its recent run under head coach Steve Spurrier.
Thompson – who lifted USC to a convincing win over arch-rival Clemson two months ago – reentered the game on the final drive of a thrilling, see-saw contest that saw multiple lead changes all the way down to the wire. He came in for injured starting quarterback Connor Shaw, who moments earlier had converted a critical fourth down play to wide receiver Ace Sanders that kept the Gamecocks’ bowl-winning drive alive.
Sanders had whale of a game – catching nine passes for 92 yards and a pair of scores. He also returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown in the first half – extending his school record for punt return yardage in a season.
Shaw completed 18 of 26 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan – not a bad effort when you consider the Wolverines’ defense hadn’t surrendered more than 200 yards through the air all season. Thompson was every bit as effective, hitting on seven of nine throws for 117 yards and a pair of touchdown strikes. Neither USC quarterback was intercepted.
“Both those young men are just so super team-oriented,” Spurrier said after the game. “There’s no jealousy, nothing. Those guys are just really, really good teammates. Wonderful team players.”
Defensively, the star of the game was none other than All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney – who forced and recovered a fumble deep in Michigan territory midway through the fourth quarter after the game’s Big East officiating crew erroneously awarded Michigan a first down following a fake punt.
Of course when we say Clowney “forced and recovered a fumble,” those words don’t adequately describe what the sophomore sensation did to Michigan running back Vincent Smith.
Take a look …
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And yes, the last time we checked Smith’s helmet was reentering the atmosphere somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico.
Clowney’s seismic hit – and one-handed fumble recovery – was quickly the talk of the college football internets.
“Jadeveon Clowney decapitated Vincent Smith, then palmed the football,” the sports website Deadspin noted in analyzing a super slow motion replay of the hit.
Prior to laying the wood on Smith, Clowney had been pretty well contained by All-Big Ten offensive tackle Taylor Lewan – who was recently pegged by Sports Illustrated as a top five pick in the 2013 NFL draft. But it only took just one play for the 6-foot-5, 260-pound lineman to make good on his pre-game promise to “start (his) 2013 Heisman campaign” against the Wolverines.
“No he doesn’t hit that hard in practice,” Spurrier said after the game. “We have a rule, don’t clobber teammates.”
Clowney’s hit also paid immediate dividends, as Shaw hit Sanders for a 31-yard scoring strike on the very next play from scrimmage – giving USC a 27-22 lead with eight minutes left in the game. A much less violent instant replay showed Sanders maintaining possession of the football prior to tiptoeing the back line of the endzone …
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Michigan – which trailed USC until the last play of the third quarter – refused to back down, though. Led by quarterback Devin Gardner and all-purpose star Denard Robinson, the Wolverines embarked on a 10-play, 64-yard smash mouth scoring drive that gave them the lead with only 3:29 left in the game. Michigan’s drive was capped by wide receiver Jeremy Gallon’s second touchdown catch – a perfectly thrown 17-yard strike from Gardner.
Gallon finished with nine grabs for a season-high 145 yards. Meanwhile Gardner completed 18 of 36 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 12 times for 24 yards. Robinson – in his final game as a Wolverine – rushed 23 times for 100 yards. That gave him 4,495 rushing yards for his career – with him accumulating most of those yards as Michigan’s starting quarterback (a job he relinquished to Gardner earlier this season).
Trailing 28-27, the Gamecocks had one last opportunity – and unlike so many USC teams of bygone eras – they seized it, going seventy yards in 11 plays for the game-winning score.
Here’s Thompson’s touchdown pass to Ellington …
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