Barring some type of health setback between now and the beginning of September, any questions surrounding who would fill the rather large shoes left by Connor Shaw‘s departure have already been answered.
Speaking at a South Carolina men’s basketball game Saturday, head coach Steve Spurrier left no doubt who will be under center when the Gamecocks take the field for the Sept. 6 opener against East Carolina. In fact, aside from an injury you can’t predict, the Ol’ Ball Coach left absolutely no wiggle room at the position.
“[Dylan Thompson] is without question going to be our quarterback unless he gets hurts,” Spurrier, who was recently on the receiving end of a contract extension and raise, said according to Josh Kendall of the Columbia State.
Tapping Thompson as his starter is far from surprising, even as it comes a couple of months ahead of the start of spring practice.
Thompson is the lone returning player at the position who has seen any type of meaningful action; the five other quarterbacks currently on the roster have combined to attempt five passes. Aside from the decided edge in experience, Thompson has also been very successful during the times he has seen the field.
In two starts in place of an injured Shaw last season, Thompson threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in each game, both of which were wins. He also threw the game-winning touchdown in the Capital One Bowl win over Michigan that season. In the one game he started this season, the Gamecocks knocked off unbeaten and fifth-ranked Missouri in Columbia, although in fairness Shaw fueled the comeback win in overtime by limping off the bench and onto the field late in the third quarter.
In other words, Thompson has earned the immense confidence and faith Spurrier has placed in him, that the soon-to-be senior can extend what’s already a school record streak of 10-plus wins to four consecutive seasons.
No. 12 Clemson (4-0, 1-0 ACC) seemed to have No. 6 Notre Dame under firm control as the rain came down Saturday night. A sure win, with Clemson leading the visiting Irish 21-3 in the fourth quarter, nearly washed away, but the Irish rally fell two points shy. Clemson stuffed a two-point conversion attempt by Notre Dame with seven seconds to play to preserve a 24-22 victory in the rain.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson struggled to get a grip on the football and completed just 11 of his 22 pass attempts for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His counterpart, freshman DeShone Kizer, had a much better day through the wet air after a sluggish start. Kizer ended the game with 321 passing yards and two touchdowns in leading the Irish rally from 21-3. Watson did add 93 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown to remind those watching just how effective he can be as a dual-threat.
Clemson’s offense got stuck in the mud after going up 21-3 in the third quarter, but the defense managed to hold on for the win. It was not easy, but forcing four turnovers helped. None may have been more critical than a forced fumble by Jayron Kearse on Notre Dame’s Chris Brown as the receiver was moving inside the five-yard line on a drive that looked to be reaching the end zone for Notre Dame. B.J. Goodson came away from the pile with his hands on the football, but Clemson’s offense would go three-and-out to give the Irish one last chance in great field position. It nearly paid off.
There were two decisions by Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly worth second-guessing that may have cost Notre Dame a win, or at least a chance to do something in overtime. Both occurred in the fourth quarter and involved two-point conversion attempts.
Notre Dame had a chance to make it a seven-point game early in the fourth quarter. After C.J. Prosise managed to stay in the field of play down the right sideline for a 56-yard touchdown pass, Kelly opted to go for two points instead of kicking the extra point. Had Notre Dame kicked the extra point, the Irish would have been down 11 points. Instead, after a failed conversion attempt, the Irish were down 12 points. As it turned out, had Notre Dame kicked the extra point, that would have put Notre Dame just one point away from tying Clemson in the final 10 seconds.
Speaking of that last Irish touchdown, Notre Dame obviously needed to go for the two-point conversion to force a tie game. The call was to run the football, and the ball was kept in the hands of Kizer. Kizer did end the game as Notre Dame’s leading rusher, but he had little room and no ability to make any push as the line collapsed on him. Prosise carrying the football may have been too obvious to fool Clemson’s defense must have been the logic in that situation. But this situation never had to happen in the first place.
Prior to the start of the 2015 season, most prognosticators had the SEC West coming down to either Alabama or Auburn. Five weeks into the season, neither of those teams sit at the top of the divisional heap.
With Kyle Allen triggering the offense and John Chavis orchestrating a virtuoso defensive performance, No. 14 Texas A&M had little trouble dispatching No. 21 Mississippi State in a 30-17 win that, for whatever reason, seemed much easier than the score makes it look. The 5-0 Aggies carried a 24-10 lead into halftime, and the 3-2 Bulldogs could only get as close as 10 points, 27-17, early in the fourth quarter on a Dak Prescott touchdown run.
As was the case in the first half, the true sophomore Allen was a big reason for the Aggies success.
Allen accounted for a career-high 385 yards of total offense, 322 passing and 63 rushing. The passing yardage is second only to the 358 he put up in last Saturday’s win over Arkansas, while the rushing yards are the most of his young career.
Tra Carson added 109 yards rushing and a touchdown to supplement the passing game.
The Bulldogs were able to move the ball in the second half — 233 yards in the last two quarters, compared to 173 in the first two — but could never mount much of a scoring threat outside of Prescott’s run that capped a 10-play, 68-yard drive. Prescott finished with more than 300 yards of offense, 210 passing and 96 rushing.
With the win. A&M moves to 2-0 in SEC play. LSU, also at 2-0, is the only other undefeated team in league play in the West. After a bye weekend, A&M will have its hands full the next two games as it hosts Alabama and travel to Oxford to face Ole Miss.