Connor Shaw Proves He Is Most Critical Player for Gamecocks in Win over Arkansas

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistOctober 12, 2013

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - OCTOBER12:  Connor Shaw #14 of the South Carolina Gamecocks throws a pass against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on October 12, 2013 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw continues to fly under the radar as one of the nation's best quarterbacks.

If Shaw was not on the minds of fans across the country before Saturday, he certainly is now after Shaw absolutely picked apart the Arkansas Razorbacks en route to 52 unanswered points and a 52-7 victory.

Shaw exploded against the Razorbacks for 219 yards and three touchdowns through the air, but he also showcased his athleticism on the ground with 14 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown.

All in all, it was a terrific showing for Shaw, who is often overshadowed on offense by star running back Mike Davis, who had a heck of a game in his own right as he ran over the Razorbacks for 128 yards and a touchdown on just 19 carries.

By the end of the game, it was apparent Shaw was just on the field having fun as ESPN's Jeremy Crabtree illustrates:

While Shaw's production hinges in part on Davis' ability on the ground, the senior quarterback's ability to pick apart defenses transfixed on Davis is what sets apart the Gamecocks offense from the rest of the nation.

So far this season, Shaw has been nothing short of electric, and through six games, his statistics are outstanding as he has thrown for 1,146 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Not only does Shaw torch defenses through the air (and on the ground at times with 319 yards and two scores), the senior's savvy ability to take care of the football no matter the situation is just another factor that makes him South Carolina's most important player on either side of the football.

There are huge names on the Gamecocks roster such as All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, so it's understandable that Shaw's effectiveness to this point has been a bit of an unknown to the nation.

It's just hard to see that trend continue after Saturday.

As great as Davis is on the ground, he would find it difficult to be as effective without a quarterback of Shaw's caliber under center. Defenses would easily stack the box to stop the run were it not for Shaw and his dynamic skill set.

Oct 12, 2013; Fayetteville, AR, USA; South Carolina Gamecock quarterback Connor Shaw (14) looks to make a pass under pressure from Arkansas Razorback defensive end Chris Smith (42) during the first half of a game at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. M
Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

One thing's for sure—South Carolina is only a shell of its former self if Shaw is not in the game.

Look to the Gamecocks' narrow 28-25 victory over UCF as proof enough. Junior backup Dylan Thompson was forced into action after Shaw attempted just two passes and only mustered 261 yards and an interception.

South Carolina pulled out the win, but the game was much closer than it needed to be without Shaw directing the offense.

The schedule does not get any easier for the Gamecocks from here on out in the thick of the SEC schedule with contests against Missouri, Florida and Clemson still on the horizon.

As he showed against Arkansas, Shaw is the most critical element for the Gamecocks standing a chance in those contests and making a serious push in the SEC, and potentially a major bowl game.



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