TAMPA, Fla. — Steve Spurrier's plan to use two quarterbacks in the Outback Bowl worked so well that Dylan Thompson and Connor Shaw both earned game balls.
That's a first for the Head Ball Coach, who has a well-known penchant for benching struggling QBs. Except in this case, the Gamecocks' winningest coach used his talented pair of passers by design.
Shaw began Tuesday's 33-28 victory over Michigan with a 56-yard touchdown pass to Damiere Byrd. Thompson closed it out by throwing a 32-yard TD strike to Bruce Ellington in the final minute to help South Carolina match the school record for victories in a season.
"I don't know if I've ever given two quarterbacks a game ball, but today I said: 'Hey, we've got to give them to both you guys,'" Spurrier said.
"Both those young men are just so super team-oriented. There's no jealousy, nothing. ... Those guys are just really, really good teammates. Wonderful team players," the coach added. "We tried to tell Connor: 'It's your game.' And it was his game, but Dylan was going to play. He understood that. It worked beautifully as it turned out."
Thompson replaced Shaw during the winning drive, covering the final 43 yards after Shaw began the march from his own 30 and kept it alive with a 6-yard completion to Ace Sanders on a fourth-and-3 play. Devin Gardner's third TD pass of the game had given Michigan a 28-27 lead.
"I wasn't nervous. I knew I had great guys around me, and I trusted them and just was confident," Thompson said.
Shaw threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns after missing the Gamecocks' regular-season finale with a left foot sprain. Thompson led the Gamecocks (11-2) to a victory at archrival Clemson, and threw for 117 yards and two TDs in the bowl.
Gardner threw for 214 yards in his fifth start for Michigan (8-5) since Denard Robinson injured his right elbow late in the season. Robinson took some snaps at quarterback and even attempted his first passes in a game since Oct. 27, but lined up mostly at running back and rushed for 100 yards on 23 carries.
Sanders caught TD passes of 4 yards from Thompson and 31 yards from Shaw, who completed 18 of 26 passes before aggravating his foot injury and limping off during the final drive. The speedy receiver had nine catches for 92 yards and also scored on a 63-yard punt return — one of four plays over 50 yards yielded by Michigan.
Gardner was 18 of 36, including TD passes of 5 yards to Drew Dileo and 10 and 17 yards to Jeremy Gallon, who gave Michigan its late lead and finished with career bests of nine receptions and 145 yards. Robinson set the NCAA record for career yards rushing by a quarterback, hiking his four-year total to 4,495 — 15 more than West Virginia's Pat White ran for from 2005-08.
"I'd rather win the game," said Robinson, who attempted two passes in the third quarter, both incompletions, and also ran twice on plays in which he took the snap as the quarterback — a role he's embraced since being injured during a loss to Nebraska.
"It was just what I thought it was going to be," Robinson said. "I tried to make the most of it."
Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 10
At Miami, anxious to avoid an Orange Bowl shocker, the Florida State Seminoles kept getting tricked.
An onside kick fooled them, as did a fake punt, and a pooch punt by Northern Illinois' star quarterback.
But the final score was no surprise. Florida State had too much speed and depth for the Huskies and pulled away for a win.
Senior fullback Lonnie Pryor, voted the game's outstanding player, ran for a career-high 134 yards and two scores in only five carries. Senior EJ Manuel threw for 291 yards, while the Seminoles stuffed Huskies' QB and all-purpose threat Jordan Lynch for most of the night.
The victory was a consolation prize for the No. 13 Seminoles (12-2), who began the season with national championship hopes. They've won five consecutive bowl games, but the victory was their first in a BCS bowl since 2000, when they beat Virginia Tech for the national championship.
For 16th-ranked Northern Illinois (12-2), playing in a BCS bowl for the first time, the defeat snapped a 12-game winning streak. The Huskies came in as two-touchdown underdogs and fell to 5-28 against top 25 teams.
Pryor scored the first touchdown on a career-long 60-yard run, then ran 37 yards for a clinching touchdown with 10 minutes left. They were the two longest rushes allowed by Northern Illinois all season.
Manuel went 26 for 38, threw for one score and ran for another.
The Huskies were widely derided as unworthy of a BCS bowl berth, and didn't do enough to silence the doubters. They were outgained 534 yards to 259.
Georgia 45, Nebraska 31
At Orlando, Fla., Aaron Murray threw five touchdown passes to set a Georgia bowl record, including two in the fourth quarter, and the Bulldogs beat Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
Murray shook off a pair of first-half interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and passed for 427 yards — also a Bulldogs bowl record — against the nation's top-ranked passing defense. He was named the game's most valuable player.
Georgia (12-2) reached 12 wins for the third time in school history.
Nebraska (10-4) lost its third consecutive bowl game, and finished the season with two straight woeful defensive performances. The Cornhuskers lost the Big Ten championship game 70-31.
The Cornhuskers led 24-23 at the half, but committed two of their three turnovers in the final 30 minutes. Taylor Martinez had two interceptions and two touchdown passes for Nebraska and Rex Burkhead rushed for 140 yards in his final college game.
Nebraska's offense finished with 443 total yards, but the Bulldogs defense was stingy when it needed to be. They sacked Martinez five times, with All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones notching two. Damian Swann had both Georgia interceptions.
Nebraska's offense finished with 443 yards, but the Bulldogs were stingy when they needed to be.
Northwestern 34, Mississippi State 20
At Jacksonville, Fla., behind huge interceptions early and late, Northwestern beat Mississippi State and snapped college football's longest postseason losing streak.
The Wildcats (10-3) earned their first bowl win since 1949, ending a nine-game losing skid that was tied for the longest in NCAA history. They also celebrated double-digit victories for the first time since the 1995 Rose Bowl season.
Quentin Williams returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game and Nick Vanhoose set up a late touchdown with a 39-yard interception return. Those plays were the difference in a back-and-forth game that featured more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six).
Northwestern's two-quarterback system kept the Bulldogs (8-5) off balance most of the day.
Scrambler Kain Colter ran for 71 yards, making up for his two interceptions. Backup Trevor Siemian threw for 120 yards and an interception, and also ran for a score.
Even with the turnovers, they were more efficient than Mississippi State's Tyler Russell.
Russell completed 12 of 28 passes for 106 yards, with two touchdowns and four interceptions. He had thrown only six picks in the first 11 games this season. LaDarius Perkins ran 19 times for 84 yards for the Bulldogs, and freshman Josh Robinson added 91 yards on seven carries.
Oklahoma State 58, Purdue 14
At Dallas, Clint Chelf threw three of Oklahoma State's five touchdown passes and the Cowboys shook off a disappointing Big 12 finish by dominating Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
The Cowboys, a year removed from a Fiesta Bowl win that capped the best season in school history, forced five turnovers and had another short TD drive after a 64-yard punt return from Josh Stewart.
It was the biggest bowl win for Oklahoma State since coach Mike Gundy was the quarterback in a 62-14 rout of Wyoming in the 1988 Holiday Bowl. The Cowboys (8-5) missed out on upper-tier bowls after narrow losses in their last two Big 12 games.
With former Purdue quarterbacks Drew Brees and Kyle Orton watching, Robert Marve didn't get to 100 yards passing until Oklahoma State led 45-0 as Purdue (6-7) fell to 0-4 on New Year's Day.
Leading 28-0 at halftime, Oklahoma State erased any lingering doubt three plays into the second half when Justin Gilbert stripped Purdue receiver O.J. Ross on a short completion. The loose ball shot straight to Daytawion Lowe, who ran 37 yards down the sideline in front of the Purdue bench for a 35-0 lead. Oklahoma State's 58 points were the most in a bowl game at historic Cotton Bowl Stadium, topping the 55 scored by Keyshawn Johnson and Southern California against Texas Tech in 1995.