LET ME SEE if I have this sequence of events correct:
• Quarterback Connor Shaw injures his right throwing shoulder during South Carolina’s opening game against Vanderbilt.
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• Shaw is sidelined for the East Carolina game with what is described as a deep bruise to his shoulder.
• Shaw starts against UAB, but is injured in the first half and does not return with what he describes afterward as a “fracture” to the same shoulder that took two weeks to “heal.”
• Three days later, Steve Spurrier announces that Shaw is ready to go and will start Saturday against Missouri.
Forgive me for being skeptical.
Me thinks Spurrier is playing possum. Me thinks Spurrier wants to avoid another week of speculation about whether Shaw or backup Dylan Thompson will get the starting nod Saturday. Me thinks Spurrier has adeptly shifted the attention from one of the most ill-advised decisions of his illustrious coaching career.
Before looking forward, let’s look back.
Shaw should not have started, or maybe even played, against UAB. It was an opponent USC could easily have beaten with Thompson at quarterback. The risk of Shaw re-injuring his shoulder was much greater than that of USC losing to UAB.
Before you claim this to be second-guessing or Wednesday-morning quarterbacking, understand that I believed it was a poor decision when Shaw first ran on the field Saturday. I also am quite confident I was not alone in thinking Shaw was better served with another week of rest.
It became apparent right away that the USC coaching staff had doubts about Shaw as well. Shaw’s first two passes were stand-up, safe throws to receivers who made almost all of the 31 total yards after the catch. His next throw, a pass down the field, was intercepted.
At one point late in the first half, USC coaches had asked Shaw to make two deep or difficult throws. The one was intercepted, and the other badly missed and drew a headset tossing from Spurrier.
Even more evident than Shaw’s inability to make strong throws was his timidity when running with the football. When healthy, Shaw is among the top running quarterbacks in the country. When nursing a shoulder injury, Shaw is not much of a threat with his arm or his legs.
“There’s no question that running the ball is what Connor does, which makes him a good quarterback,” Spurrier said. “So if he plays, he’ll run it some. If he can’t run, I don’t think he’s quite as effective. We believe he’ll be able to run some.”
Finally, near the end of the first half against UAB, Shaw made a strong and accurate throw that went for 20 yards to Bruce Ellington. Unfortunately for Shaw, he was hit on the play and reaggravated his shoulder injury.
“Connor stood in there, made the throw, got hit hard and he was out of the game,” Spurrier said. “But that’s what quarterbacks have got to do. They’ve got to stand in there and throw the ball.”
Despite the injury, according to Spurrier, Shaw could have returned to the game in the second half. And, according to Spurrier, Shaw is “fine” to play Saturday against Missouri.
Maybe I missed where USC physicians invented a new cure over the weekend for deep bruises and/or fractures to the shoulder. Or, maybe Shaw is an incredibly quick healer the second time around. Or, maybe Shaw goes into Saturday’s game with the same questions surrounding his running and throwing abilities as he did against UAB.
My guess is the latter. My guess also is that, because of Spurrier’s poor decision to play Shaw against UAB, USC will be dealing with the quarterback’s sore shoulder for most of the remainder of the season.