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South Carolina Football: Is Spurrier Trying to Keep Connor Shaw in the Pocket?

South Carolina hopes to rest quarterback Connor Shaw for most of Saturday's game against Coastal Carolina.
South Carolina hopes to rest quarterback Connor Shaw for most of Saturday's game against Coastal Carolina.Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Charles BennettContributor IDecember 9, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C.—South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw isn't expected to play much on Saturday against Coastal Carolina, and that's probably a good thing.

Maybe after resting his sprained left knee, the Gamecocks will get the old Shaw back, the one who can run the football.

In three games since injuring his knee against Tennessee, Shaw has rushed 18 times for minus 19 yards, although Shaw and the Gamecocks (8-2) have found a way to win each game.

For the season, Shaw has rushed 111 times for 378 yards and three touchdowns, and it's his ability to tuck the ball and run when the situation calls for it that has been a huge part in making the Gamecocks' zone-read offense successful.

"He takes off running the ball, but he doesn't make the first downs," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. "Yeah, we've not been good on third downs the last couple games."

Shaw's lack of effectiveness running the ball has been most glaring in the last two games.

After injuring the knee in a 23-21 loss to Tennessee in which he rushed for 78 yards on 19 carries, Shaw wasn't even expected to play the next week against Missouri.

But with Dylan Thompson ineffective and the Gamecocks trailing 17-0, Shaw came off the bench to lead the Gamecocks to a 27-24 victory in two overtimes.

South Carolina backup quarterback Dylan Thompson should get most of the playing time against Coastal Carolina.
South Carolina backup quarterback Dylan Thompson should get most of the playing time against Coastal Carolina.Peter Aiken/Getty Images

There wasn't much time for running in that one, with Shaw completing 20 of 29 passes for three touchdowns in what was arguably the grittiest and greatest performance of his college career.

In the Gamecocks' subsequent 34-16 victory over Mississippi State and 19-14 victory over Florida, Shaw's ineffectiveness running the ball has been more noticeable.

Spurrier maintains he has not changed much in the play calling since Shaw's injury.

"No, I don't think it has affected what we've tried to call too much," Spurrier said. "Didn't make a lot of third downs. But it is what it is."

It could be a case of one thing feeding on another, but Shaw hasn't been as sharp in the passing game the last couple weeks either.

A 63 percent passer most of the season, Shaw has completed exactly 50 percent of his passes in the last two games.

"His footwork was off last week," Spurrier said. "His steps were off. He was off balance throwing. I don't know why. He can throw a lot better than he threw last week."

So ideally, Shaw will start against Coastal Carolina, and with a South Carolina victory, Shaw will take his place in the school record books with a career-best 25 victories as a starting quarterback.

However, it will be in the Gamecocks' best interest for Shaw to take most of Saturday off to rest up for next week's showdown with arch-rival Clemson, a game that carries BCS bowl implications for both teams.

Shaw at his best means South Carolina at its best, and the Gamecocks are hoping he has saved his best for last.

"He maybe deserves to be known as the best one here, just because of the won-loss record," Spurrier said. "Certainly Connor has played very well and we're still trying to get him to play a little better. That's what we coaches do. We try to get them to play a little better as the year goes on."

All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated.

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