East Carolina vs. South Carolina: Thompson Airs It Out, Leads Gamecocks over ECU

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East Carolina vs. South Carolina: Thompson Airs It Out, Leads Gamecocks over ECU
Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE

The big story going into the ninth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks' matchup with East Carolina was the news that quarterback Connor Shaw wasn't going to be playing.

Turns out they didn't need him.

Shaw, sidelined with a deep bone bruise in his shoulder after his heroic effort against Vanderbilt last week, watched as back-up QB Dylan Thompson shook off any nerves he might have had in filling in as the starter and guided the Gamecocks to a 48-10 win over the Pirates.

The first series for South Carolina seemed to set the tone for the game, as Thompson hit Damiere Byrd for 53 yards on his third pass. It set up a six-yard touchdown run for Marcus Lattimore, which tied him for the all-time career rushing touchdown total in Gamecocks history with 30.

From there, Thompson settled into a groove that saw him spread the ball around the field reminiscent of Steve Spurrier's "fun n' gun" offense from his years as Florida's head coach. Thompson's next four completions had him at more than 100 yards by halfway through the first quarter. He finished the game 21-of-37 for 330 yards and three touchdowns.

Lattimore continued his Heisman campaign,—though in a quiet effort from the South Carolina backfield—notching 13 carries for 40 yards and one touchdown.

Before game time, Lattimore was being cast as the workhorse of the Gamecock offense sans Shaw. Thompson's early productivity afforded enough rest for Lattimore to stay fresh as an auxiliary component of the South Carolina offense for most of the game.

It also allowed the Gamecocks to spread out the run game with Bruce Ellington and Kenny Miles, as the South Carolina running attack amassed 131 yards against the Pirates defense.

The South Carolina defense proved to be absolutely dominant and quickly took the Pirates out of the game early, forcing one fumble and four interceptions, including one returned back for a touchdown by Jimmy Legree.

With such an early deficit as the Pirates had, it forced their offense to take to the air for the rest of the game behind quarterback Rio Johnson, who finished with 193 yards on 18-of-29 passing with three interceptions before being pulled in the second half.

With one more non-conference game to go next week when UAB comes to Columbia, the Gamecocks get one more game to fine-tune the offense and to give Shaw's shoulder more rest before the heart of their SEC schedule begins; conference newcomer Missouri comes to town the week after.

With a confident and productive backup in Thompson at quarterback, it only serves to keep the Gamecocks offense balanced and viable while Shaw continues to heal.

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