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South Carolina finishes season with an 11-2 record

TAMPA, Fla. — Dylan Thompson’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds remaining lifted South Carolina to a 33-28 victory over Michigan to win the 2013 Outback Bowl. South Carolina finishes the season with an 11-2 record and matches last year’s win total and school record. Head coach Steve Spurrier won his third bowl at South Carolina as well to set a school record by a Gamecock coach.

Trailing 28-27 with 3:29 remaining in the fourth quarter, South Carolina made one final drive down the field. Junior quarterback Connor Shaw converted a 4th & 3 on the South Carolina 37 with a 6-yard slant pass to Ace Sanders and followed that up with completions of 6, 8 and 6, all to Sanders to earn two more first downs. Shaw would have to leave the game after the fourth completion to Sanders as he was nicked up on the play, resulting in Thompson entering the contest. Thompson moved the Gamecocks down to the Michigan 32-yardline with 20 seconds remaining. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Thompson took the next snap and unleashed a perfect strike to Ellington near the goalline. The Gamecock wide receiver caught the pass on the Michigan 2 and made his way into the end zone to give the Gamecocks a 5-point lead. After a failed 2-point conversion, the Gamecocks defense held off Michigan’s final play from scrimmage to lift South Carolina to the victory.

The back and forth affair saw the duo of Shaw and Thompson deliver for Carolina as both quarterbacks had success in the air against the Wolverine defense. Shaw finished 18-for-26 for 224 yards in the air and a pair of touchdowns. Thompson was 7-for-10 for 117 yards as well as two touchdowns. In addition, Shaw was successful running the ball in a majority of the game as he carried 10 times for 96 yards rushing.

Junior wide receiver Ace Sanders caught 9 passes for 92 yards with two touchdown receptions as well as a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown. Senior tailback Kenny Miles had 4 catches for 22 yards, sophomore receiver Nick Jones 2 receptions for 70 yards and sophomore receiver Damiere Byrd 2 receptions for 63 yards.

The Gamecocks came out strong offensively as they took the opening kickoff and needed just three plays to find the end zone. On first and 10 from the Carolina 44, Damiere Byrd got behind the Wolverine secondary and Shaw connected with him for a 56-yard scoring strike to give the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

Michigan trimmed South Carolina’s lead to 7-3 with a 39-yard field goal by Brendan Gibbons with 7:28 left in the first quarter.

After the Carolina defense pushed the Wolverines back to their own 9-yard line with a sack by Aldrick Fordham, Michigan punted to All-SEC return man Ace Sanders. Sanders fielded the punt at the Gamecock 37 and weaved his way 63 yards to the end zone, giving the Gamecocks a 14-3 advantage at the 3:29 mark of the first stanza. It was Sanders’ second return for a touchdown of the season and third of his career and was also the longest return in school history in a bowl game.

The Wolverines answered with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass from Devin Gardner to Drew Dileo, cutting South Carolina’s lead to 14-10.

However, the Gamecocks regained their 11-point lead quickly with a four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Dylan Thompsonfound Nick Jones across the middle for a 70-yard pass to set Carolina up at the Michigan 4. From there Thompson rolled right and found Sanders open in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown pass to give the Gamecocks a 21-10 lead with 10:54 left in the half.

South Carolina turned the ball over at its own 31 on its next possession, but the defense held the Wolverines to a 40-yard field goal by Gibbons, as the Gamecocks took a 21-13 lead into the locker room.

Michigan battled back to take the lead in the second half. Matt Wile made a 52-yard field goal for the Wolverines on their second possession of the third quarter to pull to within 21-16. On its next possession, Michigan went on a 10-play, 65-yard scoring drive capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Devin Gardner to Jeremy Gallon to take a 22-21 lead.

Jadeveon Clowney would make a big defensive play in Michigan territory in the fourth quarter with 8:22 remaining to cause a Michigan fumble. Clowney forced and recovered a fumble by tailback Vincent Smith giving the Gamecocks the ball on the Michigan 31-yardline. South Carolina quickly struck then as Shaw completed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Sanders as the Gamecocks reclaimed a 27-22 lead.

Michigan answered on its ensuing drive to take a 28-27 lead. A 11-play 64-yard drive took up over four minutes on the clock and was capped by a 17-yard pass from Gardner to Gallon, his second touchdown reception of the game.

South Carolina senior linebacker Shaq Wilson and senior safety D.J. Swearinger were big on the defensive side as they each tallied nine tackles in their final game of their careers at South Carolina. The Gamecocks also had an interception by Jimmy Legree in the contest.