The Garcia/Shaw Conundrum and Other Tusings

Since Saturday night I’ve had roughly a million thoughts about the South Carolina football season, and all but about seven of them involve the quarterback position.  I’ve read opinions on Spurrier/Garcia/Shaw from good professional writers, bad professional writers, bloggers, blog commenters, message board hounds, emailers and texters.

So, for this edition of Tusings, I’ll flush my brain of a few of these thoughts, and even tack on a couple of non-QB thoughts at the end.

The change from Garcia to Shaw had to be made. What your eyes tell you are confirmed by the statistics – Stephen Garcia is having a rotten senior season. A completion percentage hovering around 50 percent and a staggering nine interceptions against four touchdowns stick out the most. Sure, you can blame a suddenly porous offensive line, you can nitpick our route running, or you can question our (lack of) game planning or play calling, but too many bad throws and too many bad decisions have ultimately been his downfall.

Nobody knows what Connor Shaw is as a college quarterback, but the majority of Gamecock fans are ready to find out. It begins on Saturday against Kentucky, and there will be 80,000 sets of crossed fingers in Williams-Brice.

The timing is right. A couple of writers floated the idea that Spurrier didn’t want to make the change with a critical three-game road stretch coming up after Kentucky. My thinking was the timing couldn’t be more perfect – give Shaw a chance to get comfortable in the home environment against an inferior (I hope) team. If Garcia starts this week, lays another egg, then where does that leave you going into Starkville, Knoxville and Fayettevile? At least this lets you know if you have a viable option in Shaw. Plus, I know Shaw threw two picks in the fourth quarter against Auburn last year, but his play in an extremely hostile environment, in an extremely difficult situation, was actually not bad.  

“Garcia is trying to do too much.” Probably true. He knows what this season means to the Gamecock faithful, and he knows no matter what it is his last in Columbia, and he wants to win. Bad. This makes him willing to take chances we sometimes can’t afford. His last interception against Vandy (the flip to Alshon at the goal line) proves that. But with two of the top offensive weapons in the country, we need more solid, and less spectacular.

“If Shaw was ready (or any good), he would’ve been in there by now.” Disagree with the premise, because I don’t think we know the answer yet. Maybe I’m naïve, but I just don’t think Spurrier would start a season opener with a quarterback whom he either has very little confidence in, or a quarterback who sucks. As we’ve said in this blog many times, Spurrier believed Garcia gave us the best chance to win based on something he saw early in the East Carolina game, and he stuck with it through Auburn. It’s obvious he no longer believes that.

With that said, the decision to start Shaw over Garcia against ECU was a bad one. Or at the very least, it was handled badly. I don’t know if Garcia’s feelings were hurt or confidence was shot when the decision was made to start Shaw. I don’t know if Shaw’s feelings were hurt or confidence was shot when he was pulled in favor of Garcia. But it sure is easy to come to that conclusion based on how Garcia has played and the fact that Shaw has not played a meaningful snap since.  

“Shaw is going to go the distance.” Sounds like the right thing to say, but I couldn’t help but think that Spurrier said the same thing about Garcia going into the Outback Bowl after Chris Smelley stunk it up against CTU. (You are welcome to virtually boo me for that.)

We haven’t seen the last of Stephen Garcia. I have mixed feelings about this. The two reasons Garcia would get to play again are a) Shaw is truly dreadful or b) Shaw gets hurt. I want neither for that young man. But at the same time, I desperately want Garcia to come in late against CTU, lead three touchdown drives, including one that ends in a brahma bull like run through CTU defenders to win the game with less than a minute to go. Then I want him to be the MVP of both the SEC Championship Game and our BCS game, after which he climbs on a white horse in the Superdome, and rides out a conquering hero. That’s the only way this CAN end, right?

And a couple of other notes…

Auburn is ruining Michael Dyer’s future NFL career by giving him too many carries. So many carries for that poor young man – 41! That’s four more than Marcus had against Navy!  When will the madness stop?!?

South Carolina is ruining Marcus Lattimore’s NFL career by giving him too many…NO WAIT…not enough carries. I think we can all agree 17 carries is not enough to showcase Marcus’ considerable talent, but 37 is WAY too many for his poor little body to handle. I’m going to start a petition that Marcus gets exactly 24 carries per game, portioned out accordingly over four quarters (six per quarter for you non-math majors.)  That should make EVERYBODY happy, right?

Go Cocks.