Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
After being frustrated with his offense, particularly his quarterbacks, for much of the spring, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier was all smiles for at least one day as plenty of offense was on display in South Carolina's Garnet and Black spring game Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Black team, led by incumbent starter Connor Shaw, Tanner McEvoy and walk-on Austin Hails defeated the Garnet team, led by Dylan Thompson, Andrew Clifford and walk-on Seth Strickland, 38-24 in front of the 34,513 fans in attendance for the game and festivities before and after.
South Carolina quarterbacks combined to complete 39 of 54 passes for 511 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions.
Playing limited snaps, Shaw completed six of seven passes for 128 yards and two scores.
"We obviously threw the ball and caught it better than any spring game," Spurrier said. "Probably more passing yards and completions. I thought coverage could've been better. We didn't have a pass rush. Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor didn't play much. The quarterbacks had time and the receivers caught about everything."
In a close race all spring, Thompson and Strickland had emerged as the two frontrunners to be Shaw's backup this season, but it was Thompson who outperformed the fifth-year senior Strickland on Saturday. Thompson completed 15 of 20 passes for 168 yards, a touchdown and a pick. Strickland completed two of three passes but also threw a pick-six.
"He probably is second I would say. Dylan has a lot of ability," Spurrier said. "He has a chance to be a good player. Tanner (McEvoy) came in and played his best. That's the best he's played all spring I think. Maybe he'll get in the fight for number two. We'll see how it plays out in the summer and preseason practice."
McEvoy was 8 for 12 for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
While defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward wasn't happy with the big plays his defense gave up, he was happy with the continued strong play of walk-on cornerback Jared Shaw. The senior from Fort Mill, S.C. has arguably been the biggest surprise of the entire spring. Shaw made big plays in each of South Carolina's earlier scrimmages including a pick-six and blocked punt.
Saturday Thompson was looking for wide receiver DeAngelo Smith but Shaw earned earned better position and went up for an interception in the end zone.
"I think Jared Shaw can help us," Ward said. "Jared Shaw has done it for 15 practices now. When the lights come on, it doesn’t affect him."
The Black team opened the game with a 70-yard pass strike deep down the middle of the field from Connor Shaw to Damiere Byrd. The sophomore speedster slowed up just enough to make the grab after getting behind two defenders, then accelerated away from them again and into the end zone. Byrd has been open deep often this spring, but he and the quarterbacks had struggled to connect until Saturday's game.
Garnet, led by Thompson, responded with a 51-yard drive to the 19-yard line. On the drive, the redshirt sophomore had an 11-yard completion to Ace Sanders in the flat and an 11-yard run on 3rd-and-10, both for first downs. But the drive stalled when Thompson threw high toward Sanders on third down.
An Adam Yates 36-yard field goal cut the Black lead to 7-3.
Black went up 14-3 when Spurrier called his patented "off-the-sideline" play that the Gamecocks run every spring game. After the ball was snapped to Shaw, walk-on receiver Riley Gallaher snuck off the sideline 40 yards past the line of scrimmage and into the end zone -- Shaw then rolled to his left and found Gallaher open for the touchdown. As per tradition, Spurrier forced the defense to decline the illegal procedure penalty.
Garnet answered with a Thompson one-yard run off the zone-read. The play was set up by a 20-yard pass over the middle to tight end Corey Simmons.
McEvoy's 11-yard pass to tight end Drew Owens put Black up 21-3, but Owens was injured on the play when his weight came down awkwardly on his knee.
"Nobody touched him; he stuck it in the ground wrong and felt a twinge," Spurrier said. "We're hoping it's just a sprain. He was able to walk off."
McEvoy hit D.L. Moore for a 63-yard touchdown pass when Moore got behind the defense on third down late in the half.
Just moments later, Sheldon Royster picked off Strickland and weaved his way to the end zone as time expired to put Black up 35-10 at the half.
After a brief halftime period to announce award winners, honor last year's team and present new basketball coach Frank Martin, the game featured a running clock in the second half as the Gamecocks cleared the benches and let everyone get in on the action.
Touchdowns passes from Thompson to Nick Jones and Clifford to Simmons, cut into the lead.
But it would never be closer than 35-24, and Yates' 51-yard field goal as time expired made for the final score of 38-24 Black.
It was an overall positive spring game as Spurrier and his team look to build on last year's 11-win season with even bigger goals for 2012.
"We go through the summer and right before the season starts we'll set some goals," Spurrier said. "They'll probably be similar to last year. Total wins will go up a bit because we already did this one, 11. DJ Swearinger thinks we can go for 12. We'll probably still go for eighth, nine, 10 or 11 anyway. Who knows if we're capable of that. Possibly."
Spring Award Winners
OL Will Sport / Brandon Shell
DL Chaz Sutton
CB Jared Shaw
WR Damiere Byrd
LB Damario Jeffery
TE Drew Owens
DB Ahmad Christian
RB Blair Lowery
QB Seth Strickland / Dylan Thompson
K Adam Yates
P Michael Williamson
Everyday Attitude & Hustle Award
Bruce Ellington / Victor Hampton
Outstanding Weight Room
Harold White GPA
K. J. Brent
Dr. Harris Pastides - Scholar Athlete
Joe Morrison - Players of the Spring
Kenny Miles- Offense
Jadeveon Clowney - Defense
Ace Sanders - Special Teams
Ernest Brooks - MVP - Clemson Game
Connor Shaw - Offense
Melvin Ingram - Defense
D. J. Swearinger - Special Teams
MVP - Bowl Game