TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Despite all South Carolina has accomplished under Steve Spurrier, the winningest coach in school history couldn't recall a finish quite like the one the Gamecocks pulled off in the Outback Bowl.
Down a point with 3:29 to go, Connor Shaw launched a game-winning drive that Dylan Thompson finished with a touchdown pass in the closing seconds to beat Michigan 33-28 and give South Carolina another 11-win season and consecutive bowl victories for the first time in over a decade.
"We haven't won one like that since I've been here, in eight years, so hopefully that will sort of tell us: 'Hey, we can do that.' It's possible. Just hang in there," Spurrier said Tuesday.
"I keep being reminded by a lot of my buddies, 'We used to leave at halftime before when it was going south on us. We don't leave anymore," the coach added. "So, that's encouraging."
Spurrier, who is well-known for benching struggling QBs, called on both of his talented passers to improve to 3-4 in bowl games with the 11th-ranked Gamecocks. No coach has led them to more postseason victories.
Shaw opened with a 56-yard touchdown pass to Damiere Byrd on the third play of the game. Thompson closed with a 32-yard TD strike to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds remaining.
"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,'" the Head Ball Coach 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."
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was quiet for much of the day but shifted momentum in the fourth quarter with a big hit on Vincent Smith that sent the running back's helmet rolling several yards backward and caused a fumble that the SEC defensive player of the year recovered to set up Shaw's TD pass to Sanders for a 27-22 lead.
The TD capped a three-play sequence that began with Michigan running its second fake punt of the game, gaining 4 yards to the Wolverines 41 for what was ruled a first down, despite not appearing be one when the officials called for a measurement. South Carolina challenged the spot, but the ruling on the field was upheld.
Clowney then leveled Smith just as he was taking the handoff from quarterback Devin Gardner, jarring the ball loose.
"I asked one of those other refs there. I said, 'You know the ball did not touch the first-down marker,'" Spurrier said. "He said, 'I know it didn't.' I said, 'Well, why did he give it to them?' and he said, 'I don't know.'"
"Clowney knocked the ball out the next play, so I'm glad they gave it to them. ... We gained about 10 or 15 yards."
Thompson replaced Shaw during the winning drive, covering the final 43 yards after Shaw began the march from his own 30 and kept it alive with a 6-yard completion to Ace Sanders on a fourth-and-3 play. Gardner's third TD pass of the game had given Michigan a 28-27 lead.