Thompson ready for start, Shaw progressing

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) - South Carolina backup quarterback Dylan Thompson is ready to step into the starting role for what he is calling the "biggest game we've played yet."

There is a lot on the line when the Gamecocks step on the field Saturday against unbeaten and No. 5 Missouri. A win could potentially put South Carolina back in the SEC East race.

Thompson is up to the challenge.

"I think it's a great opportunity," said Thompson after Wednesday's practice. "Missouri has a great defense. They're really talented. We're looking forward to the opportunity to go in there and looking forward to that challenge. We've done it before. I'm really excited about the game and about our team this week. We've really prepared well."

Starting quarterback Connor Shaw, who is 22-5 as a starting quarterback, just two wins away from a USC record, suffered a sprained knee in last week's loss at Tennessee.

But, South Carolina has rarely missed a beat with Thompson calling the signals. He has road and big-game experience as a starter, getting the call in place of a banged-up Shaw in last season's 27-17 win over Clemson, and sharing time with Shaw at the Outback Bowl, triggering several big plays and delivering the game-winning touchdown pass. He also played most of the game at Central Florida last month when Shaw went down with a shoulder injury.

"Dylan's a good player," said quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus. "He'll get his chance to go this week. He's practiced good the last

couple of days, but he always does. Dylan gets himself ready like he's a starter, that's why I don't worry about Dylan. He'll be ready to roll."

When Shaw will be ready to go at full strength again is still a mystery. However, Mangus indicated that Shaw has made solid progress since Saturday and "nothing surprises" him when it comes to Shaw's toughness.

Shaw was at practice Wednesday but was not in pads and didn't run.

Head coach Steve Spurrier expects Shaw to be on the sideline at Missouri, but questions whether he will ever take the field.

"Connor Shaw is going to be able to, maybe, back up Dylan Thompson this week," said Spurrier Wednesday on the weekly SEC teleconference. "He's going to say he can play, but I feel like, let's give Dylan a shot and see what happens."

Shaw has passed for 1,307 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception this seaon. He's also South Carolina's second-leading rusher with 397 yards and three rushing scores.

In limited duty this season, Thompson has 421 passing yards, two touchdown, two interceptions and two rushing touchdowns.

Regardless of what's happened so far this season, Saturday is his game.

"We're looking forward to the challenge. This is the biggest game we've played yet," said Thompson. "Coach does a good job of making it about the next game and right now Missouri is the next game. That's what were going to focus on. That's what we've been working for all this week."

Kickoff at Faurot Field is set for 7 p.m. ET on Saturday.