The last time Dylan Thompson started a game for South Carolina, it was on the road in a hostile environment.
A 27-17 win against the No.11-ranked Clemson Tigers in the always tough Memorial Stadium, otherwise known as "Death Valley."
South Carolina is hoping for a similar result this Saturday when backup quarterback Dylan Thompson takes over for an injured Connor Shaw this week as South Carolina travels to Columbia, Missouri to take on the No. 5-ranked Missouri Tigers.
Thompson threw for 310 yards in his last road start, including three touchdowns, as he commanded the offense extremely well. This time, though, Thompson will likely face a much tougher defense than what he faced in Clemson last year.
Missouri will have its stellar defense ready to go against the Gamecocks pro-style quarterback who isn't quite as mobile as Connor Shaw. The Tigers have 23 sacks this season with defensive end Michael Sam leading the way with 9.0 so far this year. They've also intercepted 14 passes this season and recovered seven fumbles this year. Coach Spurrier mentioned on his teleconference Wednesday that the Tigers bring a lot of pressure without the need for blitzing. The Gamecocks will need Thompson to be ready and be able to make the plays down field.
The opportunity that Thompson has is one that Spurrier is ready to see. Coach Spurrier said it's time to see what Dylan can do this week, which is why he plans to start Thompson even if Shaw is healthy enough to play this weekend. Shaw is expected to be the backup for the Gamecocks as he's recovering nicely but Thompson will get the call on Saturday.
“Dylan’s a good player,” said quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus. “He’ll get his chance to go this week. He’s practiced good the last couple of days, but he always does. Dylan gets himself ready like he’s a starter, that’s why I don’t worry about Dylan. He’ll be ready to roll.”
Thompson understands this opportunity that's in front of him and he's looking forward to it.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” said Thompson. “Missouri has a great defense. They’re really talented. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to go in there and looking forward to that challenge. We’ve done it before."
They've certainly done it before with Thompson at the helm. South Carolina is 2-0 in games that Thompson has started and he's averaging 320 yards passing per game with three touchdowns. Missouri is allowing over 260 yards of passing offense per game this season so Thompson will have a chance to move the ball through the air. How he performs on Saturday will be crucial to South Carolina's success against the Tigers.
This game is huge for South Carolina as it's likely the final chance to stay in the hunt for the SEC East division title. They need to beat Missouri in order for that to happen and the Gamecocks are preparing for this to be the biggest game of the season as Thompson mentioned on Wednesday.
"I’m really excited about the game and about our team this week. We’ve really prepared well and we’re looking forward to the challenge. This is the biggest game we’ve played yet. Coach does a good job of making it about the next game and right now Missouri is the next game. That’s what we’re going to focus on. That’s what we’ve been working for all this week.”
Thompson beat a team of Tigers the last time he started a road game.
The Gamecocks would love nothing more for him to do it again.