Notebook: Spurrier says benching motivated Shaw

Coach says QB worked hard on his game

nwhite@thestate.comOctober 31, 2012 

Steve Spurrier knows why Connor Shaw had a career-high 356 passing yards in last weekend’s 38-35 win against Tennessee. The USC coach attributed his junior quarterback’s big day, which included three touchdowns passes, to a second-half benching the week before in the blowout loss to Florida.

“Coach John Wooden (said) the coach’s greatest ally is the bench. Connor got benched,” Spurrier said. “He didn’t sit around and mope or pout or cry. He figured out what he needed to do better and worked on it last week and had his best game.”

Shaw, who also struggled in the LSU loss, found his previous form by completing 22-of-32 passes against the Volunteers. Spurrier liked what he saw much better in a motivated Shaw.

“Just because a guy goes to the bench doesn’t mean he’s finished by any means,” Spurrier said. “It means he needs to start playing a little better and play the way the coaches ask him to play.”

Receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. also noted that it helped to get Shaw out of the pocket a little more.

“He sees a little better out there,” Spurrier Jr. said. “He made a lot of good throws on the run.”

Shaw finished the game with a sprained foot, which has meant that he has taken things a little more slowly this week. But Spurrier isn’t concerned.

“They’re putting him on crutches and in a boot,” he said. “They do that every time somebody sprains an ankle. He should be full-speed next Monday.”

Finishing strong

While Spurrier would have liked to see his team beat LSU and Florida, he isn’t disappointed by where the Gamecocks stand in the college football landscape at this stage of the season. They’re 7-2 heading into the stretch run against Arkansas, Wofford, Clemson and a bowl game.

“I think we started the season (ranked) No. 8 in the preseason (coaches poll) and we’re actually No. 8 in the BCS right now,” he said. “So we’ve had a good year. Not a great year, but not a bad year, just sort of a good year right now. We certainly hope to finish strong the last four games.”

Saluting a teammate

Senior tight end Justice Cunningham wore Marcus Lattimore’s No. 21 jersey the past two days in practice. He grabbed it to honor the junior tailback, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Tennessee. Earlier in the season, Cunningham wore the jerseys of injured players Shon Carson and DeAngelo Smith in practice.

“I usually wear it for anybody who’s hurt. Just to show love for my boys,” Cunningham said.

Coming up big

Spurrier Jr. shuffled the spots of the receivers against Tennessee, moving Ace Sanders to the inside and Bruce Ellington to the outside. They responded well, with Ellington catching six passes for 101 yards and a 33-yard touchdown and Sanders catching five passes for 79 yards and a 24-yard touchdown.

“It was something different for both of them, but it ended up being good for both of them. It really did,” Spurrier Jr. said.

And even though Damiere Byrd had another key drop, Spurrier Jr. still likes what the speedster can do downfield.

“It’s not a habit. A lot of the balls he’s dropping are deep streaks or up in the air,” Spurrier Jr. said. “Those aren’t easy catches to make. He’s caught some deep ones, too, and made some great plays.”

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