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October 27, 2013

Shaw switch sparks USC

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Two years ago, sophomore Connor Shaw got his first career start on the road against East Carolina. After getting down 17-0, he was promptly relieved by veteran Stephen Garcia, who rallied to lead the team to victory.

It was Shaw's first career victory, though Garcia earned it.

Fast forward two years, and this time it's the veteran Shaw, sick and injured, who is on the bench while backup Dylan Thompson makes a key start on the road.

In a script eerily reminiscent of the 2011 ECU game, Thompson also gets down 17-0 before being replaced by Shaw, who rallies the team to victory -- in this case, a thrilling 27-24 double-overtime win over the nation's No. 5-ranked team in Missouri.

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Though it was Thompson's third career victory, it was Shaw who earned it.

No one knows that better than Thompson.

"(After the game) I told him I loved him," said Thompson, who finished the game 15-of-27 passing for 222 yards and an interception. "Our friendship has grown a lot. We've been through a lot of things since I've been here, and I thought tonight was just an awesome picture of that.

"We moved the ball some in the first half and second half some, but couldn't get any points on the board. Coach (Steve Spurrier) obviously made a great decision to throw Connor in there to see if he could shake it up a bit, and (Connor) had my back."

For Shaw, playing was something he thought physically he could do since the doctors had cleared him, but it wasn't something he expected to do.

"I wasn't supposed to be playing this game," said Shaw, who finished the game 20-of-29 for 201 yards and three touchdowns. "I was considered to be out for two to three weeks.

"I practiced a little bit, I didn't take any reps with the starters this week. I told coach Spurrier I was OK and I was cleared by the doctors."

Thompson said while he didn't want to come out, he was happy the decision to replace him worked.

"You never want to come out as a competitor," Thompson said. "You never do. But seriously, whatever it takes for us to get wins, that's what you have to do. It turned out to be great for us, and all of Gamecock Nation is excited about it.

"It's awesome to have a teammate like that, a guy who can just come in and provide a spark, and I thought that was great for our team. We're just really enjoying this win right now."

Still, Thompson admitted he was frustrated that despite gaining yards, the offense had nothing to show for it.

"I think we moved the ball," Thompson said. "Obviously everyone saw that. But at the same time, no points were on the board.

"You move the ball up and down the field, seventy, eighty yards, and then no points, no points, no points? It is frustrating. You just have to stay positive. Our offensive line was in a good spot. They were encouraging each other.

"You have to trust your coaches. Coach Spurrier isn't called a great coach for no reason. He made a great choice tonight and I support him and Connor 100 percent. I think it's amazing to see how bought-in everyone is to this team. No one gave up hope, and you see the outcome."

For teammates such as Kelcy Quarles, Shaw's performance was one more reason he's so respected by his teammates.

"First of all, Connor wasn't supposed to be out there playing," Quarles said. "I wasn't supposed to play, either.

"For him to come out there and do what he did, that's amazing. I love that man to death. I wouldn't take no NFL Hall of Famer or no other quarterback over him. I love that man to death and I'm proud of what he did."

How did Shaw feel about it? About the same as you'd expect.

"(I tried to) stay calm," Shaw said. "We're not going to win the game on a series. We have to take it play by play, and I'm so proud of our guys who battled throughout the game. We'd been moving the ball on them all game long and had been shooting ourselves in the foot. I had peace of mind that we were going to be able to move the ball on them in the second half."

"I'm thankful to be able to play in this game. I feel truly blessed. Missouri has a lot of speed up front and all those guys can chase you down, as they did a couple of times. I tried to stay in the pocket as much as I could. They were really active up front, and I think we did a good job of noticing that and getting good play-calls in."

No call was bigger than the one on fourth-and-15 in the first overtime trailing 24-17.

"I tried to take what they gave me, I got to give us a shot in the end zone and that's what I did," Shaw said. "I saw the corner, he manned-up on the outside of the receiver and left Bruce on a corner route. It was pretty much a switch route. He ran with the outside guy, so I threw it to Bruce. It was a good call by coach Spurrier. Bruce made a heck of a play.

"To come in here on the road, night game, undefeated, we're coming off a loss, battled ourselves back in the second half, and now we have momentum going in and for the next few weeks at home."



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