The news, announced late Saturday night, wasn’t great, but it certainly wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
An ESPN alert just before 11 p.m. announced that South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw already had an MRI performed. The scan showed no damaged ligaments and was listed as a “significant sprain,” seemingly clearing the way for Shaw to return at some point this season.
The news was confirmed by Shaw’s father, Lee Shaw, in a text message soon after.
What’s not known at this point is how much time Shaw will miss. Coach Steve Spurrier could offer an update on his weekly teleconference, which is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday. Lee Shaw said he did not know a potential return date.
A prognosis may not be accurate anyway. Shaw was thought to be out for the Kentucky game after an injury at UCF, and Spurrier even said on Sunday that backup Dylan Thompson would start against the Wildcats. But Shaw was throwing on Monday, practicing on Tuesday and starting on Saturday.
Shaw injured his left knee in the fourth quarter of a 23-21 loss to Tennessee, crumpling under the weight of 351-pound defensive tackle Daniel McCullers and 272-pound defensive end Marlon Walls. He was helped off the field putting no weight on the injury, which was later announced as a “knee strain.”
“It collapsed under him a little bit he said. How serious, they will have to wait and evaluate,” Spurrier said. “They’re calling it a sprained knee right now.”
Shaw left the field after the game on crutches with a brace covering his left leg from thigh to ankle. As the final dramatic seconds of the game were played out on the field, several of Shaw’s teammates walked to where he sat on the Gamecocks’ bench to console him.
Tailback Mike Davis called the loss “very” disheartening.
“Our starting quarterback, that’s something you don’t look forward to happening,” he said.
Wide receiver Damiere Byrd predicted Shaw will return to the field this season but acknowledged he hadn’t heard any news on the injury.
“He’s a strong guy,” Byrd said. “He’s been hurt plenty of times, and he has come back. My heart goes out to him.”
If Shaw is finished for the season, the Gamecocks will turn to junior Dylan Thompson, who was 1-for-1 for 5 yards after replacing Shaw.
“I believe in Dylan,” defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. “I feel that he can fill in and be a first-string quarterback on some other teams in the country.”
Shaw, who is 22-5 as the Gamecocks' starting quarterback and was on pace to finish among the career leaders in most major passing categories, was not available for comment after the game. He was 7-of-21 for 161 yards and one touchdown before leaving the game. He also threw his first interception of the season, snapping a streak of 177 straight pass attempts without an interception.
Shaw was not the only player helped off the field. Starting defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles injured his right knee and walked into the locker room on crutches with a large brace.
“It doesn’t look good, but I don’t know,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said.
The Gamecocks are not the first SEC East team to leave a game against Tennessee much worse for wear. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, Georgia running back Keith Marshall and Georgia wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley all suffered season-ending injuries in games against the Volunteers this year.