Sophomore Connor Shaw has replaced senior Stephen Garcia as South Carolina’s starting quarterback, coach Steve Spurrier announced Monday night.
“It’s his game. It’s his opportunity,” Spurrier said. “We think he’s ready, and we’re going to find out Saturday.”
The No. 18 Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1 SEC) play Kentucky (2-3, 0-2) on Saturday, and Shaw will play the entire game “unless he gets hurt,” Spurrier said.
“As most everyone knows our quarterback play has not been as good as we’d hoped, and we’ve got to do something,” Spurrier said.
Spurrier has earned a reputation for a quick hook with his quarterbacks throughout his career, but he seemed hesitant the past two weeks despite Garcia’s struggles.
Garcia has six interceptions in the past two games. For the season, he has thrown more interceptions (nine) than any player in major college football. He has 844 passing yards and four touchdowns, and his 52 percent completion rate is the third-lowest among starters in the SEC.
“It wasn’t that hard a call,” Spurrier said. “At some point, we have to do something to shake up this offense. This is the first step. We’ll see how it goes.”
Garcia, who will attend his grandfather’s funeral in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, handled the news well, Spurrier said. Garcia has started 34 games and is tied with Steve Taneyhill for second in school history with 20 wins. He will serve as the backup Saturday.
“I think he sort of anticipated it,” Spurrier said.
Spurrier made Shaw available to the media briefly Monday night.
“It’s an opportunity that I’m willing to take advantage of,” Shaw said. “I think I’m ready to play. I’m excited. We’ll see how it goes this Saturday. I feel confident. I feel like I’m ready to play. We’ll see how it goes this Saturday.”
The last time Shaw started, it went poorly, and Spurrier acknowledged he lost some confidence in the sophomore after the season-opener against East Carolina.
“He didn’t play as well as we had hoped, but some things happened in that game,” Spurrier said.
Shaw won the starting job in the preseason and played the first quarter against East Carolina, completing 3-of-9 passes for 21 yards and fumbling the ball inside the red zone. He didn’t return to the game after being replaced by Garcia and hasn’t played a significant snap since.
Unlike that game, Shaw will start and finish Saturday’s game barring injury, Spurrier said.
“He’s our quarterback,” Spurrier said. “That’s what we’ve got to do to see if we can get something going. Connor had an excellent practice tonight, but he’s got to go do it on the game field, we all know that. Practice is just preparation. I just ask all the Gamecock fans, give Connor your support the same way you have all the other players here.”
Shaw is 4-of-11 for 29 yards this year. He played in nine games in 2010, completing 23-of-33 passes for 223 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Wildcats coach Joker Phillips doesn’t expect the USC offense to look much different.
“They’re going to do what they do,” Phillips said. “I think these two guys (Garcia and Shaw) are similar. (Spurrier) always goes from a drop-back passer to a drop-back passer. His system or play calling doesn’t change.”
Spurrier indicated that the change at quarterback won’t be the only one for South Carolina’s offense. Phillips offered an unsolicited suggestion Monday afternoon.
“I hope they shake it up and don’t turn it over to 21 (Marcus Lattimore),” he said. “That’s the shaking up I’d like to see done. You could go in there and hand it off to 21 and still have success.”