Spurrier: "Connor is going to be our QB"

To say that the South Carolina offense has struggled is an understatement. To say that quarterback Stephen Garcia has struggled is the understatement of the century. After another poor performance in Saturday's 16-13 loss to the Auburn Tigers, change was coming.

Anyone who listened to South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier speak following the 16-13 upset at the hands of Auburn that there were going to be changes this week and it was going to be at quarterback. Following Monday night's practice it became official; Connor Shaw will start at quarterback Saturday when the Gamecocks host Kentucky.

"We thought we'd go ahead and announce tonight that Connor is going to be our quarterback," Spurrier said. "This is his game, his opportunity to go play. We think he's ready and we'll find out Saturday."

As bad as the Gamecock offense has struggled, Kentucky's has been worse. The Wildcats are last in the league in scoring and total offense, and eleventh in both rushing offense and passing offense. Coupled with the resurgence of the Carolina defense the last two weeks, this provides a perfect opportunity to give Shaw another chance, a chance he has waited for since the East Carolina game.

"It's an opportunity that I'm will to take advantage of. I think I'm ready to play, I'm excited, and we'll see how it goes this Saturday."

Shaw beat out Stephen Garcia in fall camp to win the starting job for the game against the Pirates in Charlotte, but struggled in his first career start. After narrowly missing on what would have like been a 56-yard touchdown pass to Jason Barnes and then watching one go right through the hands of Barnes, Shaw took matters into his own hands. He rushed for 11 yards on a draw play, and following a sack, completed passes to Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore to move the ball inside the ECU 20. Two plays later Shaw was hammered by ECU's Marke Powell and fumbled the ball. From that point on the Gamecocks would not get a first down until Garcia came into the game with the team down 17-0 before rallying for a 56-37 win.

"He didn't play as well as we had hoped, but there were some things that happened in that game that we already hashed out," Spurrier said.

Shaw would not see the field again until Garcia threw his fourth interception of the game against Vanderbilt in the fourth game of the season. Shaw had a decent outing, running the ball twice for 14 yards and completing 1-of-2 passes for eight yards. However, his one incompletion was a horribly-thrown ball that was behind a wide-open Justice Cunningham crossing across the middle of the field. It was similar to the play Auburn used to score the game-winning touchdown last week.

For the season Shaw has completed 4-of-11 passes for 29 yards and carried the ball nine times for 40 yards. Nothing eye-popping, but certainly not as bad as Garcia's numbers.

After yet another horrible performance in which Garcia firmly planted himself as the nation-leader in interceptions against the Tigers, it was finally time to make a change.

"It wasn't that hard of a call," Spurrier said. "At some point we have to do something to shake up this offense and this is the first step. We'll see how it goes."

The open competition for the starting job began Monday night, but it didn't take Spurrier long to know who the guy will be that lines up under center Saturday afternoon.

"Connor had a good practice tonight and, as most everyone knows, our quarterback play has not been as good as we hoped and we had to do something," Spurrier said. "Conner had an excellent practice tonight, but he's got to go do it in the game. We all know that. Practice is just preparation."

Unlike the season opener when Shaw made his first career start, this will not be a try-out performance. Shaw's second start will be his first legitimate start.

"Unless he gets hurt, this is his game. This is no first quarter see-how-you-do like we did the East Carolina game. He's now our quarterback. That's what we have to do to see if we can't get something going."

Since that opening game against the Pirates, Shaw has worked to get the opportunity to play again this season, something he thinks he will be more prepared to do.

"I feel confident," Shaw said. "I feel like I'm ready to play."

As for Garcia, for the first time since his freshman season at South Carolina, he will be a back-up this week. That is a hard pill for a fifth-year senior to swallow who had aspirations of breaking several school records to become the most prolific quarterback in South Carolina history.

"I think he sort of anticipated it, so he handled himself well," Spurrier said.


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