When Stephen Garcia lowered his head and ran over an ECU defender in the second quarter of the season opener, the sideline erupted and the entire offense had a swagger that it did not have up until that point. Under Connor Shaw, the starting quarterback for the game, the team struggled and appeared not to have any confidence. It was then that people started to say that the team rallied behind Garcia because he was their man.
According to Terrence Campbell, that is not the case.
"We definitely don't believe that," Campbell said following Wednesday's practice. "We believe in Connor just as much as we believe in Stephen – we believe in anybody Coach Spurrier puts out there. Apparently Coach Spurrier put him back there because he had faith in him, so the whole team is going to rally behind him."
In case you've been hiding under a rock the last three days, Shaw was named the starting quarterback for this week's game against Kentucky Monday night and will be the man the entire game barring injury.
Campbell believes it was just the fact that it was the fifth-year quarterback that had started every game since the Outback Bowl his redshirt freshman year that calmed the team down against the Pirates.
"Of course you're going to feel a little bit more comfortable with who has been back there – you feel good about that the person that's been back there," Campbell said. "When Coach Spurrier makes a decision and makes a change we have to ride with Coach Spurrier and go with what he says. We're all going to rally around Connor and be there for him."
With Shaw getting ready to make his first legitimate collegiate start, the sophomore has to have a million thoughts racing through his head. Campbell says that the offense has let Shaw know that they are riding with him.
"You definitely go to Shaw and tell him ‘we believe in you and everybody is here for you.' We want to score points and put some points on the board," Campbell said. "We tell him ‘hey, let's go out and play our game.'"
The kind of start Shaw gets off to is key. He was a fingertip away from connecting on a long bomb to Jason Barnes during the first drive that would have put the Gamecocks up 7-0, and still had Carolina knocking on the door on that drive before coughing the ball up at the Pirate 11-yard line. From then on, Shaw just didn't look like the same person he did on the first drive. He looked like a sophomore making his first collegiate start. Whether it's the first drive, the second drive, or even the eighth or ninth drive, it doesn't matter to Campbell as long as Shaw eventually gets it going.
"It doesn't matter when he gets it going," Campbell said. "I don't care if he gets it going in the second quarter or the third quarter. As long as he gets it going and puts some points on the board."
Spurrier wasted little time making the decision to name Shaw the starter. After all, he had little choice. The fans made it obvious throughout the Vanderbilt game that they were displeased with Garcia's play, but Carolina did win the game. This past week, that didn't happen. With a struggling fifth-year senior that leads the nation in interceptions and a struggling Kentucky team coming to town, this was the only option. Give Shaw the start against a team that any student at USC can start against and should be able to win, and see how he looks before the trip to Starkville next week. According to Campbell, Shaw appears ready to go.
"He's been doing well out there," Campbell said. "He's been hitting the passes – he's been putting the ball on the money. He just has to take it to the game field."
As for Garcia, who entered the season with hopes of breaking several school records and possibly making the NFL, what little confidence he had remaining could have been dealt a devastating blow even though he knew it was coming.
"I know he'll be ready to go," Campbell said of Garcia. "I hope he's embracing it and trying to tell Connor some things and keeping Connor positive. I hope that's what he's doing. I know if he's called on he will be ready to go."
- Kyle Nunn will be out again this week with an injured back. Cody Gibson said he's been given the start at right tackle and Rok Watkins will move over to the left side.
Campbell: "We believe in Connor"
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