This post begins a summer series counting down the top 10 football plays of 2011. We're starting things off with Connor Shaw's TD pass to Nick Jones in the Kentucky game. Here's the play:
Nick Jones for Touchdown South Carolina vs. Kentucky 2011 (via kristensoltish14)
Why It's Not Higher: The Kentucky game was fun, as we served up a cold dish of revenge for the 2010 loss in Lexington by dominating the 'Cats to the tune of our most lopsided SEC win of Spurrier's tenure. That said, the 'Cats were one of the league's worst teams, and it's hard to get too excited about a game that was such a huge mismatch. The play itself didn't have an effect on the outcome of the contest, which had already been decided by the time Shaw made the throw. Most of the other plays we'll discuss came in tighter games against better teams.
Why It's Here: More so than because it was a revenge game, this game was important because it was Shaw's first as the full-time starter. It was an auspicious beginning for Shaw, who threw for over 300 yards and received conference accolades for his performance. Needless to say, Shaw made a number of impressive throws in the game. However, none impressed me quite as much as this one. The post over the middle is typically considered to be one of the more challenging throws, requiring pinpoint accuracy while throwing across one's body somewhat. Stephen Garcia struggled with this throw, so it was refreshing to see Shaw hit it after replacing Garcia as the starter. I was also impressed with Shaw's ability to work through his progressions (on the video, watch him look sideline, pump fake, and then throw to Jones) and trust his unproven freshman receiver to make the open catch. On the whole, this game, and this play in particular, showed us what Shaw is capable of doing. It took a few more games for us to see Shaw do some of these things more consistently, but by season's end, he was doing them in rivalry games and in bowl matchups with tough Big 10 teams. Kentucky was where it all started.