Gamecocks have their quarterback(s)

A quarterback controversy brewing under Steve Spurrier?

That’s like saying he’s been known to sport a visor on the sideline. It’s just the way the Spurrier rolls when it comes to his quarterbacks.

To be fair, though, Spurrier looks at it differently than most people do. He’s going to play the best guy. He’s going to play the hot guy, and he doesn’t really care how many times he has to shuffle different guys in and out during the course of a season or even the course of a game.

This much is clear coming out of South Carolina's 33-28 win over Michigan on Tuesday in the Outback Bowl: The Gamecocks have two guys at quarterback who can win, and you can bet they’re both going to play next season.

Backup Dylan Thompson (if you really want to call him a backup) was again the hero for the Gamecocks, as he filled in for an ailing Connor Shaw and threw the game-winning 32-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds remaining.

Thompson, who passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the 27-17 win over Clemson to close the regular season, was 7-of-10 for 117 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan. Shaw, who started the game, also played extremely well. He was 18-of-26 for 224 yards and two touchdowns and added 96 rushing yards on 10 carries.

Shaw was directing the Gamecocks on their final drive until he was banged up (foot/ankle) after completing a pass to Ace Sanders with just under 50 seconds to play.

Spurrier ran Thompson into the game and he lifted the Gamecocks to their second straight 11-win season with a touchdown strike they’ll be talking about in the Palmetto State for a long time to come.

What they’ll be talking about this offseason is who will be South Carolina’s starting quarterback next season.

Shaw and Thompson are both as tough as they come. Shaw played through painful injuries all season, and Thompson stood in on that last touchdown pass and took a huge lick.

While they pull for each other and are team-first guys, they're both still fiercely competitive.

"We both looked at each other and said, 'We can’t wait until next year,' " Thompson said. "Whatever that entails, we’ll see. But we’re just excited. We love winning. We love competing, and there’s no better guy to do it with than Connor. He’s a great leader."

Spurrier is perfectly content to let it all play out until Aug. 31 when the Gamecocks open the 2013 season against North Carolina.

"I’ve coached two quarterbacks in a season before," Spurrier said. "Usually, you get one in a game, and if it goes bad, you give another one the opportunity and maybe he stays in there for the next game. That’s what we tried to do [Tuesday]. We tried to tell Connor, 'It’s your game,' and it was his game, 'but [Thompson] is going to play.' He understood that. It worked out beautifully as it turned out.

"But, again, we will go through the spring, and we will go through everything next year, and we always have a competition for every position. Even Ace Sanders ... somebody will be competing with him, because we always encourage our guys to get better. Don’t go bad on us."