Steve Spurrier was frustrated.
Following Saturday's 44-11 loss to Florida, Spurrier was boiling. In his anger he left the door open that there was another quarterback controversy at South Carolina. For the second consecutive week the offense struggled to move the ball on the road and quarterback Connor Shaw struggled in both games, going a combined 28-of-54 for 249 yards and one touchdown. More than that, Shaw has turned the ball over three times in the past two games, throwing two interceptions against LSU and fumbling the ball against Florida. He also threw an interception late in the first half against the Gators, but a Florida penalty negated the interception. His first interception against LSU led to a field goal that put the Tigers up for good and his fumble against Florida on the first play of the game opened up the floodgates for the Gators.
Spurrier backed off of his comments Sunday afternoon, saying that Shaw would likely get the start Saturday afternoon when Tennessee visits Williams-Brice. If there was a time to make a change and give back-up Dylan Thompson an opportunity it would be against the Volunteers. Tennessee is last in the SEC in total defense, giving up 445 yards per game, and also 13th in pass defense, giving up 259 yards per game through the air.
It's just not time to make a change.
The Carolina offense has been broken in the last two weeks, but it's not all on Shaw. The staple of this offense is to run to set up the pass. In Carolina's six wins they have thrown the ball just 134 times while running it 250 times. Only against ECU, where the Pirates were selling out to stop the run and unwilling to change, did Carolina throw the ball more than they ran it. Running is the key to their success and they ran it for less in the losses, 51 times, than they threw the ball, 75. That's not a recipe for success.
Shaw's biggest issue is learning how to perform well in big games away from Williams-Brice Stadium. Shaw is an impressive 13-3 as a starting quarterback, including an undefeated 7-0 mark at Williams-Brice. However, on the road Shaw is just 4-3 and has lost all three games against ranked opponents. He has 2011 wins over Mississippi State and Tennessee, and 2012 wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky. He has a 2011 loss at Arkansas and 2012 losses to LSU and Florida.
Even in his wins on the road Shaw has not provided the types of numbers he has put up at home. In the seven home games he has 92 rushing attempts for 411 yards, an average of 4.5 yards per rush and 59 yards per game. In seven road games he has carried the ball 100 times for 281 yards, including -3 in the last two weeks. That is an average of just 2.8 yards per carry and 40 yards per game. He has thrown for 1,337 yards at home with a completion percentage of 72%. He has thrown 15 touchdowns with three interceptions. On the road he has thrown for 834 yards with a completion percentage of 62%. He has six touchdowns and seven interceptions in the seven road contests. If Spurrier can help Shaw find a way to feel comfortable on the road and play with the confidence that he has in Williams-Brice the Shaw will become an elite quarterback.
If you look at Thompson, he has similar issues that Shaw had. Though the sampling size is much smaller Thompson has looked great in his two outings at home, but has looked rattled in his two road outings at Vanderbilt and Florida. He threw for 330 yards and three scores against ECU in his debut, and followed that up with 177 yards and two scores against UAB the following week. On the road he is just 8-of-23 for 83 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
With a winning percentage of 81%, by far the highest among quarterbacks in program history with at least 10 starts, benching Shaw in favor of Thompson is not the call right now. The numbers show that Thompson does not provide anything that Shaw doesn't. Both have put up excellent numbers at home and struggled on the road. These next three games are all very winnable at home and could send Carolina up to Clemson looking for a win to give them another 10-win season and a shot to equal last year's school record 11 wins.
Shaw or Thompson?
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