The big void for Gamecocks QB Connor Shaw: A big road win
COLUMBIA — Connor Shaw is South Carolina’s winningest quarterback, 18-3 as a starter.
The No. 6 Gamecocks, coming off a season-opening win, take an unprecedented three-game winning streak against No. 11 Georgia into Saturday’s game in Athens.
With all that winning, the dutiful senior quarterback from Flowery Branch, Ga., should be in full bloom between Georgia’s famous hedges.
Except that something is missing on Shaw’s resume. He has started two bowl games won by the Gamecocks, gone the distance in a victory over Clemson, worn a “Beast Mode” T-shirt in public.
But Shaw hasn’t won a big game on the road.
Taking on seething, favored Georgia in Athens a week after the Bulldogs lost a close one at Clemson counts.
Shaw is 1-0 vs. Georgia, but he hasn’t played in Athens.
“Hopefully, he will not be too fired up,” Spurrier said Tuesday. “Quarterbacks have to think; they have to make quick decisions and so forth. Hopefully, concentrating on what he needs to do will be the focus he takes into the game with the decisions he has to make.
“Obviously, anyone that goes back to their state to play, there’s an extra-specialness to that.”
The Shaw-led Gamecocks lost at No. 8 Arkansas in 2011. They lost at No. 9 LSU and No. 3 Florida in 2012.
Few quarterbacks win in Fayetteville, Baton Rouge or Gainesville.
What do you expect from the guy?
Well, before eligibility expires for the leader of a highly-ranked program, probably something more than a 14-12 squeaker at Mississippi State. That 2011 win probably stands as Shaw’s most impressive road start.
Watch the fake!
That can change this week if the quarterback and the program follow The Formula, tested true over the Gamecocks’ last three games against Georgia:
Power running, the way Marcus Lattimore did it in South Carolina’s 17-6 breakthrough game in 2010. Mike Davis is capable of holding his own pitted against Todd Gurley in a battle of sophomore running backs. Think George Rogers vs. Herschel Walker Lite.
Trickeration. You know, something like the 68-yard touchdown run by defensive end Melvin Ingram on a fake punt in the Gamecocks’ 45-42 win in Athens in 2011.
Suffocating defense, the ticket last October in a 35-7 rout of the Bulldogs in Columbia.
It’s up to Shaw to handle the noise. The coaching staff has tried to help, blasting Willie Nelson’s “Georgia on My Mind” at practice.
“They thought it was Ray Charles,” Spurrier said.
Nothing quite captures the roar and spite of reality. The 2011 game in Athens was the first college road game for USC left guard A.J. Cann.
“We just have to come out and focus and try to get ahead and quiet the crowd,” the junior said Tuesday, “and maybe things will go our way and we’ll be alright.”
A little Dylan?
Shaw was scheduled to speak to the media Tuesday but canceled for academic reasons. His statistics did some typically balanced talking last week against UNC: 11-for-20 passing for 149 yards, 12 carries for 43 yards, no turnovers.
Backup quarterback Dylan Thompson made the most of his one snap, throwing a 29-yard touchdown pass to Kane Whitehurst. Spurrier said the Gamecocks might use Thompson more at Georgia, and he probably didn’t just mean doubling the workload to two plays. Thompson, after all, owns a win at Clemson.
South Carolina is a relatively remarkable 25-4 over the last two-plus seasons, but among the things we haven’t seen during the stretch:
Gamecock fans zip-lining in celebration over the field at Sanford Stadium.
The Athens chapter of the Steve Spurrier Fan Club.
Connor Shaw running off the field with a smile as the visiting South Carolina band plays sour notes for 90,000 ticked off people.
At least one of those things can happen Saturday if the Gamecocks execute The Formula.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.