Cloninger Soundoff: Time was wrong to put Thompson into the game

Posted by DAVID CLONINGER on October 6, 2013 

South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson (17) is sacked during the first half of the Gamecock's game against Kentucky Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.


Steve Spurrier said he was going to do it, and he stuck to his word. Dylan Thompson came into the game on the Gamecocks’ fourth series, as Spurrier said he would earlier in the week.

It’s been a strange week, anyway. Connor Shaw wasn’t going to play, this week or maybe next week. Then he wasn’t going to start. Then Shaw was starting and Thompson would play. Perhaps it was a case of rewarding Thompson for getting ready to start, then watching as Shaw made a miraculous recovery. Or (more likely), it’s the same system as usual. Thompson has to stay fresh in case Shaw gets banged up again, and the best way to do that is to give him some action every Saturday.

So in Thompson went, according to plan. What I’m curious about is why the plan didn’t change.

Hindsight is 20-20. And the way Saturday’s game turned out, it’s easy to second-guess. But facts are facts, and numbers are numbers — the game switched when Thompson came in, and the momentum switched Kentucky’s way. The Wildcats outscored the Gamecocks 28-14 from that moment.

All Thompson’s fault? Of course not. He didn’t fumble a kickoff, or commit a foolish personal foul on an incomplete pass. He also didn’t make a horrendous call on a touchdown that wasn’t a touchdown. And Spurrier pointed out that USC’s offensive line allowed jail-break rushes on him when he was in, so he never had a chance to make a play.

My thinking is this — the plan was to have him play that series. The plan should have been altered.

USC was rolling, Shaw directing three touchdown drives and Kentucky doing nothing. After the Gamecocks’ third TD, Kentucky put together a 14-play drive to score a touchdown.

USC needed to answer, with a romp suddenly becoming a two-possession second-quarter lead. The best chance to do that was either send in the guy who had led three touchdown drives, or if the backup quarterback had to come in, send in the starting tailback with him to ease the load.

Thompson went in with backup tailback Shon Carson. It was like a glowing sign reading “They’re gonna pass” was lit up over the Gamecocks’ offensive line. Most every opponent knows that Thompson can’t make a defense fear his running like Shaw can, and that he’s probably going to pass. In the five plays he ran, he threw two incompletions, one 13-yard strike to Rory Anderson, handed off to Carson for 4 yards and was sacked for 5 yards.

Words are bonds, and I respect that one was kept in this situation.

I just think that it could have been tweaked to be kept at a better time.

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