STEVE SPURRIER SAYS he was watching Monday Night Football when he gained a greater appreciation for his quarterback, Connor Shaw.
Watching that pro game last night with all the interceptions and the quarterback being hit and fumbling, I was thinking Our guy doesnt do that, Spurrier said Tuesday. Hopefully, our guy doesnt do those kinds of things. Thats why we want someone like Connor, not for the brilliant plays, but for the lack of those real bad plays that really hurt you.
With essentially a full season of starts under his belt, Shaw has morphed into the consummate game manager. It is the highest of compliments because it is those quarterbacks who usually minimize mistakes while maximizing performance. And win. Shaw is 12-1 as a starter.
Not fancy, mind you, just the basics.
USC fans came to appreciate the steady play of quarterback Phil Petty during the 2000 and 2001 seasons. He threw a mere 17 touchdown passes those two seasons, and was intercepted 15 times in 24 games.
Yet Petty always seemed to have his offense lined up properly. Seldom were there delay-of-game penalties. He managed the unit as if he was an air traffic controller, with complete calm and command.
Petty also won. Those teams went 17-7, including 10-6 in the SEC. They also won back-to-back Outback Bowl games against Ohio State, the height of USC football until the past couple of seasons.
If any program has cornered the market on these types of quarterbacks, it probably is Alabama. Since the 90s, Alabama has featured the likes of Jay Barker, John Parker Wilson, Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron at quarterback. None was a household name, even to Alabama fans. Each was much more efficient than effervescent.
Shaw is from the same mold.
Connor knows this offense as well as anybody, Spurrier said. Whatever were working on that week, he studies all the ball plays and knows where everybody is going. It is very helpful for a quarterback to know where everybody is going.
USC also appears to have shaped its offense to suit that style. Because Shaw is such an outstanding runner, the read-option is an integral part of the offense. Shaw and Marcus Lattimore might be the most dangerous one-two running attack in the country.
Additionally, the safe and short passing game screens to Lattimore, bubble screens, stand-up passes, slants and over-the-middle throws to the tight end has become, essentially, an extension of the running game.
The downfield pass has become a surprise element, with USC using it once or twice a game to go for the home run after moving the first-down chains with a bunch of singles.
In Shaws 20-of-21 performance against Missouri two weeks ago, he tossed three passes down the field. Everything else was of the dink-and-dunk variety. On Saturday at Kentucky, it was more of the same. The only long throws included two to the end zone (one dropped and one that connected for a 30-yard touchdown) and another that went for 37 yards when Shaw improvised after scrambling out of the pocket.
It has come to this: USC is strategic in what it asks Shaw to do. The result is a quarterback who makes few mistakes. After throwing an interception against both Vanderbilt and UAB, Shaw has attempted 50 consecutive passes without an interception.
The ability to just take care of the ball is pretty good, Spurrier said. Every now and then Ill say Could you have fired that one in there? It looks a little sticky so he took off and ran for 10 yards.
Shaw has been at his best the past two games, rushing for 117 yards while completing 35-of-39 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns. Those performances have moved Shaw into third place in the SEC in quarterback ratings behind Georgias Aaron Murray and Alabamas McCarron.
While Shaws 571 yards passing rank 13th in the league, his completion percentage of 78 is far and away the best in the league, and not far behind the 83 percent of West Virginias Geno Smith.
Shaw is 10th nationally in passing efficiency. Of course, there is no statistic to quantify how a quarterback effectively manages a game. But there cannot be many nationally who are doing it better these days than Connor Shaw.