On Wednesday, Steve Spurrier gave Connor Shaw the highest praise he can bestow on a quarterback.
“He doesn’t do those stupid things a lot of quarterbacks do,” the coach of the No. 11 Gamecocks said.
In Spurrier’s system, that is what separates the good quarterbacks from the great and what keeps the Head Ball Coach’s visor separated from the turf. And that alone is plenty of reason Shaw should be getting more national attention, his coach believes.
“He is the most underrated” quarterback in the conference, Spurrier said. “Every time they mention these guys, they don’t even talk about him, and I don’t know why. He runs; he throws; he makes first downs for us with his legs at times.”
Shaw has completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 1,146 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions this season, while adding 319 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. One other quarterback in the country has at least 10 passing touchdowns and no interceptions.
Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, a Heisman Trophy frontrunner, has 17 touchdowns and no interceptions and also is the only quarterback in the nation with a longer active streak of consecutive pass attempts without an interception (233 to Shaw’s 166).
“That’s one thing my quarterback coach, coach (G.A.) Mangus, harps on, protecting the ball,” Shaw said. “I just try to play smart, and I have a lot of guys around me who help me out. My job is to not turn the ball over.”
Shaw is seventh in the country in passer rating, 12th in yards per attempt (9.2) and 14th in completion percentage. He is third in the SEC in passer rating ahead of more heralded players Aaron Murray of Georgia and A.J. McCarron of Alabama, and he’s the only starting quarterback in the conference without an interception this season.
“Connor is playing at a high level,” Spurrier said. “All you’ve got to do is look at the statistics of how he plays. We were talking (this week), the Houston Texans have thrown (an interception for a touchdown) in five straight weeks. And I said, ‘Has Connor Shaw ever thrown one?’ I don’t think he has.”
The publicity tide is beginning to turn for Shaw. He was named Wednesday as one of 15 national finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and the national college football media is beginning to tout his performance in South Carolina’s first six games.
“Thinking Connor Shaw is very underrated. Has 10-0 TD-INT ratio, 319 rushing yds. He’s Steve Spurrier’s best QB since... ?” Tweeted CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman this week.
Another quality performance against Tennessee on Saturday (the Volunteers are 81st in the nation in defense) and Shaw’s name recognition will go up another notch. Then the Gamecocks might have another problem. A victory would give Shaw 23 for his career, one short of Todd Ellis’ career record for wins at the school.
“He’s played very well, but there’s plenty of time for him to reflect back on how well he’s done,” Spurrier said. “Connor is going to need to keep playing. I think having a wonderful season is a lot more important to them than how much attention they get. Ten years from now, people aren’t going to ask Connor Shaw, ‘How much attention did you get?’ they’re going to ask him ‘What was your darn record?’ And he’s going to tell them what his record is, how many games did you win and how many did you lose.”