COLUMBIA — Another week and another wait-and-see situation for No. 8 South Carolina’s quarterback.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier is uncertain if starter Connor Shaw is healthy enough to return against UAB (0-1) on Saturday night or if he’ll again go with backup Dylan Thompson.
Shaw injured his throwing shoulder against Vanderbilt two weeks ago and did not play in a 48-10 victory over East Carolina. Thompson, though, led a resurgent South Carolina passing attack, throwing for 330 yards. That was the highest total in Spurrier’s eight seasons with the Gamecocks (2-0).
Still, Spurrier has downplayed any thought of a quarterback battle, saying Shaw will return to the position when he gets better.
Shaw looked better at practice Thursday, but Spurrier said he’s still not 100 percent and will wait on the game to decide who’ll start.
Whoever opens must be crisper at the position than what Spurrier saw last week.
“We didn’t play all that great at all,” Spurrier said. “We could have thrown for 600 yards against ECU if we had been real sharp and guys had run real good routes, a little bit better ball here, there and the other.”
“It was better than we usually do,” Spurrier said. “But it wasn’t anything to be bragging about.”
Spurrier won’t do much bragging should the Gamecocks bring him his 200th win as a college coach this week. Spurrier counts his pro victories in the USFL and NFL among his total – he’s got 247 wins combined – and doesn’t see reaching 200 as anything all that special.
“That means you’ve coached quite a few years and fortunate enough to stay healthy and not get fired.” Spurrier said.
There are only three active Division I football coaches with more wins than Spurrier – Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer (253), Texas’ Mack Brown (229), and Nevada’s Chris Ault (227).
Thompson put a temporary halt to public grousing over South Carolina’s offense, which threw for just 67 yards in the opening week victory at Vanderbilt. Looking confident and in control, Thompson connected downfield again and again. The effort even gave start running back Marcus Lattimore much of the game off, rushing just 13 times for 40 yards.
Receiver Damiere Byrd has two catches for 81 yards, including a 53-yard reception that set up the Gamecocks’ first touchdown and was the longest completion of the season.
For Byrd, all the quarterbacks on the roster know how to run South Carolina’s offense. “They know what they’re doing and can make all the throws,” he said.
No one would fault Spurrier for protecting Shaw’s shoulder for a second straight week with new Southeastern Conference member Missouri – the first of seven straight SEC games – on Sept. 22.
“Nah, we don’t operate like that,” Spurrier said. “We try to win each game, and this one is the most important game of the season because it is this week.”
While Spurrier’s seeking his 200th college win, UAB coach Garrick McGee is after his first. He had spent the past four seasons at Arkansas, the last two as offensive coordinator when the Razorbacks put up 85 points combined in easy wins over South Carolina. Blazers quarterback Jonathan Perry threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Troy that was McGee’s head coaching debut.
With an immediate off week, McGee said his staff broke down film of the 39-29 loss to Troy and had hard meetings with players about the things that went wrong.
McGee discovered he had a team that cared about improving, which will pay off later. “I was really impressed with the way that they took tough criticism about how to focus, how to concentrate, how to play the game at a high level,” McGee said.
The Gamecocks defense spent the early part of the week without end Jadeveon Clowney, nursing some sore ribs from last week’s game. Clowney was back at work Wednesday and is expected to be full-go on Saturday.
Spurrier’s worried McGee’s pedigree and coaching chops will kick in this week and give the Gamecocks defense fits.
“This coach they’ve got knows the formula to kick our butts because they have done it the last two years at Arkansas, no question about it,” Spurrier said. “We expect a difficult game.”