Every player’s legacy starts with one chance, one moment, one game. In “The Breakout Game,” we examine the first game you remember watching a particular Gamecock and simply say “woah.”
The player: Dylan Thompson, redshirt senior quarterback
The date: September 8, 2012
The score: South Carolina 48, East Carolina 10
The stats: 21/37, 330 yards, three touchdowns
Steve Spurrier was quick to shut down the talk of controversy after this game, but it was apparent that Dylan Thompson’s talent and potential could no longer be ignored. It was so remarkably different from what had been seen previously from Connor Shaw. Instead of short passes mixed with scrambles and heavy reliance on Marcus Lattimore, there was an aura of confidence in the passing game, or at least a return to the feeling of having fun tossing it around. Connor was accurate and could run incredibly well, but he wasn’t ever a real gunslinger. A dossier on Thompson would likely begin with his passing power, something ECU should have read up on.
At the 14:18 mark in the first quarter, Thompson throws his first completed pass, a stunning 53-yard bomb to Damiere Byrd, and the Gamecocks were off to the races from there. The pass was a spiral, flawlessly on the money, nailing Byrd as he was ran upfield.
Thompson completed his next four passes for 22 yards, 17 yards, 18 yards, and 7 yards for a touchdown, respectively. He wouldn’t keep up this level of accuracy, but he did get into a level of comfort that paid huge dividends, buoyed by a strong offensive line. With any semblance of time in the pocket, Thompson illustrated that he could throw the kinds of passes that were simply a pleasure to watch. Take this 30-yard TD pass to DeAngelo Smith for example.
Thompson takes the five steps back, then three into the pocket and unleashes the pass with a release that’s full, yet surprisingly quick. It’s clearly not a struggle for him to throw that pass.
Most importantly, and this is something Gamecock fans will be watching for in the upcoming season, he showed flashes where he replicated one of Connor Shaw’s most valuable attributes: quick thinking. One particular play showed this: early in the third quarter, on a third-and-10, the pocket collapsed on Thompson, but instead of getting sacked, he quickly pulled back further and rolled out. Now 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, Thompson got a foot set, pump faked, then threw a perfect spiral 25 yards to D.L. Moore. Moore would cap off the play with some gymnastics of his own, and ran it into the end zone for the touchdown.
It was a dream introduction to Dylan Thompson, and while he may have other games that could go higher on his resume (vs. Clemson later that year), this game stands as his original breakout game, and a taste of what USC fans hope to see this upcoming season.