What if Shaw can't play?

Connor Shaw said he will be able to play. Steve Spurrier said that it is "up in the air" Sunday morning. If Shaw is able to play Saturday things should flow much more smoothly. If Shaw is unable to play Carolina might be in another fight for their lives.

The news on Thursday was good. Connor Shaw said he would be ready to go by Saturday's game with East Carolina.

As was expected, Steve Spurrier elected to hold Shaw from Saturday's practice. With mandatory off days Friday and Sunday, it only made since to give Shaw three days' rest and have him ready to go Monday when his South Carolina teams begin to prepare for East Carolina.

The news Sunday was not near as good. In his weekly conference call Spurrier said that Shaw's shoulder had tightened up to where the junior quarterback could not lift his arm. Kind of hard for a quarterback to play when he can't lift his throwing shoulder.

Wednesday appears to be decision day for Shaw, as Spurrier said he will likely sit out Monday and Tuesday. With his status uncertain, questions begin to float around. What if Shaw is unavailable Saturday afternoon?

On one hand, we are talking about the same Spurrier who announced that Shaw had an injured back a week before the season opener and missed practice that day. Though it sounded like something serious Shaw was at the next practice dressed out and not in a yellow jersey.

On the other hand, what if it really is as serious as Spurrier made it sound?

You've got an opponent coming up in East Carolina that isn't very good. Carolina should enter the game as heavy favorites and should easily win. However, did you see the offense when Shaw wasn't on the field? It was awful. Dylan Thompson couldn't hit the ocean if he was on a boat and Seth Strickland missed on his only throw. Unless Spurrier plans on running Lattimore 50 times against the Pirates, something has to improve.

Thompson isn't nearly as bad as his performance against Vanderbilt. He was put in a tough situation. With the scored tied 10-10 with the first half drawing to an end, Thompson had to believe that he wasn't going to get an opportunity to play. When Shaw went down, Thompson came in for the final two plays South Carolina ran in the first half. He ran for five yards and threw an incomplete pass to Bruce Ellington.

Everyone just knew Shaw would be fine to go in the second half, but he did not come out on the field with the rest of the team. Thompson would have to begin the second half. With Thompson in and Vanderbilt having all the momentum after scoring 10 straight points, surely it would be up to Lattimore to get something going. First down, incomplete pass. Second down, incomplete pass. Third down, sack. With a back-up quarterback in the game and the opponent with all the momentum, and there is three pass plays called.

The defense came up with a stop and the offense trotted back on the field for their second drive. Again, no Shaw. On first down Thompson ran for nine yards. Second down, another sack. Third down, a short run. Thompson ran eight plays at Vanderbilt, three incompletions, three runs for 16 yards, and two sacks for 20 yards lost.

I understand the idea. Spurrier wanted to try and help Thompson gain some confidence with short passes, but Thompson was so nervous that he never got close to a receiver. Both sacks occurred because he took too much time to release the ball. Thompson was almost set up to fail.

Following the game, Spurrier said Thompson is still the back-up quarterback. Playing at home will certainly help Thompson feel comfortable, and East Carolina's pass defense has not been very good under head coach Ruffin McNeill. Thompson will have a much better chance of being successful at home against the Pirates than in Nashville against the Commodores, and he will know by Wednesday whether or not Shaw will be able to go.

Regardless of who the quarterback is East Carolina is going to make Carolina throw the ball. Expect the Pirates to load the box and take the Carolina receivers one-on-one. Whoever the quarterback is on Saturday, they better make sure they can hit a receiver. At the same time, the receivers better make sure they can get open, something they failed to do Thursday night.


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