South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw continues to excel under the radar

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw continues to excel under the radar

October 16th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier talks to quarterback Connor Shaw during the 2012 game against Tennessee.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

South Carolina's 52-7 win at Arkansas last Saturday was the Gamecocks' largest road victory over a Southeastern Conference opponent in their 22-year history in the league.

"We wanted to come out here and make a statement," South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw told reporters afterward, "and I think we did."

It was yet another statement for Shaw, who will tote a 22-4 career mark as the starter into this week's game at Tennessee. The 6-foot-1, 209-pound senior from Flowery Branch, Ga., completed 19 of 28 passes (67.9 percent) for 219 yards and three touchdowns against the Razorbacks.

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier called Shaw's showing "exceptional" immediately after the game and gushed more on Sunday.

"When you look at his statistics on the year, they're pretty much fantastic -- no interceptions, a whole bunch of touchdown passes, and yards per attempt and all that kind of stuff," Spurrier said. "He's got to be among the best in the country in pass efficiency. We are where we are because he's played well."

The Gamecocks are 5-1 and ranked No. 9 in the USA Today coaches' poll and No. 11 in the Harris and Associated Press polls.

Shaw has indeed done his part, completing 85 of 124 passes (68.5 percent) for 1,146 yards with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also has rushed 74 times for 319 yards (4.3 per carry) and two touchdowns, providing a nice complement to sophomore tailback Mike Davis, who ranks 10th nationally with 111 rushes for 742 yards (123.7 yards per game) and nine touchdowns.

Among the starting quarterbacks in the Bowl Subdivision, only Shaw and Oregon's Marcus Mariota have yet to throw interceptions.

"I think he's a little bit better passer than he was maybe his first year or second year," Spurrier said. "He's very healthy now and feels good, and he's really doing a good job of getting down better. I'm a big believer that quarterbacks can run and protect themselves.

"You see Russell Wilson protect himself in the NFL. Connor is probably a little taller than Russell Wilson, and he's doing an excellent job of getting all he can and getting down and avoiding those big hits. I would say his passing has improved, and he's healthy, so he can run a little bit better also."

Shaw's showing last week in Fayetteville followed a 17-for-20, 262-yard performance in an Oct. 5 win over visiting Kentucky. He ranks seventh nationally in efficiency (172.8) and is guiding an offense that averages 486.5 yards a game and converts 52.9-percent (45 of 85) of its third downs into firsts.

Not since Florida's Danny Wuerffel has Spurrier so consistently praised one of his quarterbacks, with the mutual admiration as strong as ever.

"It has grown ever since I've been here," Shaw said a few weeks ago. "I feel like every year I've been able to come and talk to him freely, and it has been an incredible experience playing for him."

The Gamecocks gobbled up 43 minutes and 15 seconds of possession time last week, but Shaw is convinced they haven't played their best game.

Spurrier hasn't given up on lobbying for postseason honors for Shaw, who was not voted among the league's top three quarterbacks before the season and has remained under the radar with Alabama's AJ McCarron, Georgia's Aaron Murray and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel again having productive seasons.

"He certainly should, and I think it's up to you guys to maybe push his name out there a little bit," Spurrier said. "I mean, we can only do so much here. The biggest thing he's done is that he's 22-4 as starter.

"He came the year before Jadeveon Clowney came, and prior to the 2010 season I think our overall record here at South Carolina was still hovering around .500 or maybe under a game or two."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.