The 2013 Outback Bowl will be one remembered for a long time by the Gamecock faithful. There was the big hit by Jadeveon Clowney and the game-winning touchdown with :11 seconds left to play in the fourth quarter on the hook up from Dylan Thompson to Bruce Ellington.
A lot of special moments to remember in this game. South Carolina came away victorious when all things seemed stacked against them heading down the wire. However, the true resolve of this football team showed its colors down the stretch and there was just some amazing plays that will make this one that will be watched over and over again.
With all that said, here are some second thoughts on South Carolina's 33-28 win over Michigan in the 2013 Outback Bowl:
- I think there is a man that deserves a lot of credit for the job he's done this year and his name is GA Mangus. The Gamecocks' QB coach has done a tremendous job as evident by the coaching job with Dylan Thompson. Thompson has come in this year like a man possessed and has showcased that he's not just some backup quarterback. He's a legit threat to lead this team to great things. Look at what he did to Clemson. Then he followed that up with a great performance in the Outback Bowl off the bench. The last throw sums up Thompson perfectly. Thompson took the snap, made his drop and saw a streaking Bruce Ellington running a go route up the field. He stood in the pocket and launched a perfect pass on the money while getting drilled by the Michigan defender. He helped win the game for South Carolina and the coaching job that Mangus has done with him has been impressive.
- With Thompson emerging, and Shaw showing he's still capable of great things with his performance in the Outback Bowl, South Carolina will soon have an abundance of quarterbacks on hand. You've got two SEC starters in Shaw and Thompson, throw in the redshirted Brendan Nosovitch(who turned heads all season long) and then welcome top recruit Connor Mitch in January. This is a lot of quarterback talent that Steve Spurrier just hasn't had during his time in Columbia. Don't be surprised if this group of guys keeps him happy for years to come.
- Jadeveon Clowney is a man-child. The things this guy can do on the football is absolutely unreal. Did he have a great game? Not necessarily. His stats weren't off the chart but he was going up against a first-round NFL draft pick. Clowney faces constant double teams, holds, you name it all game long but somehow comes away with a moment that will leave you breathless. That was the hit for me on Tuesday. I've never seen such a ferocious hit in my life. And you know what's the good thing? It was a clean. Clowney didn't lead with his head. He hit Smith with the shoulder square in the chest. It just so happened to look like a Mack truck hit Smith but that's our Jadeveon Clowney. This play has been the talk of the Internet since it happened and I don't think it'll go away anytime soon. I'm okay with that. I can't get enough of it myself. If you want to see what highlight should be used for Clowney's potential Heisman campaign, look no further than "The Hit."
- Ace Sanders has turned into a potential superstar. This is a young man that never quite fulfilled all the talent during his first few years at South Carolina. He didn't have any terrible seasons but he never quite showed the playmaking ability like he has this year. He's a threat. Simple as that. Sanders is likely the most lethal punt returner in college football. I'm not sure what's happened but the switch is on with Sanders right now and his 63-yard punt return for a touchdown shows you exactly what he can do with the football. He's also turned into a very reliable receiver as he made crucial catches on the final drive for the Gamecocks, including the fourth down conversion. It was a huge moment for the Gamecocks but Sanders made it look easy. He's a guy that will test the waters for the NFL but, hopefully, he'll be back in the Garnet and Black.
- I'm not sure what the issue was but South Carolina's run game was nonexistent. Michigan had their way with Carolina's running backs and completely shut down any run whatsoever. Shaw was able to break free for a long gain, but was basically the only running option for South Carolina. I questioned why we didn't see Mike Davis more in this game but that's why I'm here and not a coach for the Gamecocks. I would have thought his tough running style, with his burst of speed, would have been a good combo to at least attempt to get the ground game flowing. Offensive line is likely to garner some of the blame as its been inconsistent most of the season. The talent level is increasing and will add several big time recruits in 2013. Shawn Elliott is a good coach and I have faith he'll get things going.
- The Gamecocks will miss the veteran defensive players next year. Guys like Shaq Wilson and DJ Swearinger have made their mark on this South Carolina defense. Swearinger is the emotional leader of this squad and his intensity is something that will be tough to find next year. South Carolina will have some talent, though, to fill in the gaps but there's just something about someone with so much "swag" on the field that gives this team an energy boost.
- It was great seeing Marcus Lattimore on the sidelines. We all know how great of a leader he is and an even better person and teammate. This team respects him and surely played to win one for No. 21. He's going to be an all-time favorite in South Carolina football history and it's tough that his last two seasons ended in terrible knee injuries. If there is a player that will be rooted for by the world, it's Marcus Lattimore.
- The Gamecocks ended their season on a high note. A win like that will resonate with recruits especially during the final month of recruiting season for the class of 2013. USC is in on several highly talented recruits and will land some big names down the stretch. The fan base will remain excited about football and will appreciate the type of season the Gamecocks had even though they fell short of the SEC East title and SEC Championship. This is the kind of thing that will keep everyone happy through the offseason and keep the Gamecocks on the minds of many around the nation.
The Outback Bowl was a great finish to another great season. South Carolina is 22-4 in the past two years. Read that again...22-4. Two seasons. There were probably times when it could take five years to get that many wins. This program is on the rise and sits at an all-time high. These are the best times in South Carolina football history. A lot of people, myself included, have longed for seasons like this and we've seen two of them back-to-back.
Who knows what the 2013 season holds for South Carolina. They lose some great players like Marcus Lattimore, DJ Swearinger, Devin Taylor, Shaq Wilson and more. But here's the kicker...they bring back Jadeveon Clowney, Bruce Ellington, Connor Shaw, Dylan Thompson, Kelcy Quarles and so on. See what I'm getting at? Great teams lose great players. But those same great teams have starter-ready talent waiting in the wings to fill in the next season. South Carolina is in this position now. The cupboard is stocked with loads of talent and this coaching staff seems to be hitting their stride. The Gamecock Nation is in full effect and ready to go. Expectations will be there again for the Gamecocks in 2013 thanks to all of this and the Gamecocks should expect to bring home a similar season, or better, next season.
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