USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina's second straight 11-win season was capped off by the kind of game that shows why they're no longer the laughingstocks of the SEC East
There are some things you just know, or think you know. One of those things is that a team has not achieved a first down unless some part of the ball touches the first-down marker after its been spotted -- despite the fact that Michigan achieved a first down against South Carolina on Tuesday without meeting that requirement, in one of the worst calls I've ever seen.
And it used to be that you knew what was coming next after that. Faced with the kind of adversity, the Gamecocks would simply collapse. Michigan would take the questionable first down, add to its then 22-21 lead and end up with an easy Outback Bowl win. When good teams found a way to win, South Carolina found a way to feel sorry for itself.
No more. On the next play after the first down, Jadeveon Clowney crashed into the Michigan backfield, leveled Vincent Smith and then reached over and grabbed the loose football with one hand. On the next play, Connor Shaw hit Ace Sanders for a 31-yard touchdown as far back in the end zone as you can catch a football. Sanders slid in the wall but somehow held on.
Then came another of those moments when the Old Carolina would have folded. Michigan responded with a touchdown of its own, leaving 3:29 on the clock after a 17-yard scoring pass from Devin Gardner to Jeremy Gallon. As the Gamecocks moved closer to field goal range -- or something resembling it, having seen one FG attempt missed and another blocked -- Connor Shaw was injured and Dylan Thompson took over. South Carolina spiked the ball on the 32-yard line with the clock winding down and a timeout left. And then, Thompson hit Bruce Ellington on a beautifully thrown 32-yard pass to win the game for good. The final 11 seconds weren't enough for Michigan to mount one last rally.
The fashion of the win says almost as much about the culture change that Steve Spurrier has brought about in Columbia as the result of the game or the back-to-back 11-win seasons he now claims. The Head Ball Coach might not yet have the SEC title he's set as the goal, but he has already altered the possibilities that South Carolina fans can contemplate. What we used to know about the Gamecocks no longer applies.