During the midst of what was possibly the most dismal performance of Stephen Garcia's career last night against Vanderbilt, even many of Garcia's staunchest supporters in Gamecocks Nation were eager to see Steve Spurrier bench the beleaguered RS senior QB in favor of sophomore Connor Shaw. They finally got their wish after Garcia's fourth interception. Personally, when Shaw got in, I was really hoping to see us open up the playbook a bit. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. Shaw handed off to Lattimore on most of his snaps, had a couple of designed QB runs for decent gains, completed a screen to Bruce Ellington, had a nice, scrambling first-down completion to Ace Sanders called back because Sanders had stepped out of bounds, and threw a bad pass to an open receiver on an underneath TE crossing route.
If you're thinking that the playcalling during Shaw's two drives suggests that Spurrier lacks confidence in Shaw, I'd say you're probably right. During his Sunday teleconference, Spurrier did not exactly express glowing praise for Shaw:
He’s doing OK. He hasn’t had a chance to play much since East Carolina. We had that tight end drag route that he over threw there at the end. We had the right coverage, everyone ran their route right, and he just overthrew him a little bit. That’s one we thought he could hit. When you can’t hit that one, you just sort of shake your head and say maybe we should just run the ball up the middle for no yards and punt it.
Spurrier conceded that despite Garcia's absurdly bad play last night, he's likely going to start Garcia this week against Auburn. These sound like the words of a coach who completely lacks confidence in his backup QB, the words of a coach who is willing to stick with an inconsistent starter who's in the midst of a terrible slump because he feels like he doesn't have choices.
I'll have to admit that I'm a bit miffed at Spurrier here. Shaw came into the 2010 season being hailed as a legitimate threat to Garcia's starting spot, and although he didn't play many meaningful snaps, he generally played well when given the opportunity to get into a game. Heading into 2011, we heard all about how Shaw was practicing well and would again push Garcia for playing time. Then, Shaw got the nod against East Carolina. A lot of us were miffed by the decision, and Shaw didn't impress. We were left wondering if the decision was simply a ploy on Spurrier's part to motivate Garcia. With the way Garcia is playing right now, though, you have to wonder if there might have been more to it.
I, for one, would like to see Shaw get another chance. I'm not saying I've been impressed with what he's done on the field this year. However, Shaw, truth be told, has been no worse than Garcia. If Spurrier thought the missed pass to the TE was ugly, what does he think about the several screens to Lattimore that Garcia has botched? If he thought Shaw's fumble against ECU was bad, what does he think about the turnover parade Garcia led last night? Moreover, we could be looking at an entirely different situation for Shaw if not for a few plays that didn't go his way through no fault of his own. What happens if Barnes reels in one of those passes on Shaw's first drive against ECU? What happens if Sanders doesn't step out of bounds before his reception last night? What happens if Spurrier opens the playbook a bit last night and gives Shaw the chance to throw the ball downfield? At this point, I have a pretty good idea of what we're going to get with Garcia. He'll probably have a couple of epically good games this year, but he'll probably also cost us a couple more with performances like the one last night. I don't know what we have in Shaw, and I'd like to find out.