South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw will make his 22nd career start at quarterback on Saturday and his first in his home state of Georgia. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier hopes the emotion of the moment wont distract Shaw from his task.
Spurrier has nothing to worry about, Shaws father says.
If this was his first rodeo, which it aint, it might give him big eyes, said Lee Shaw, a longtime high school coach in Georgia, but its pretty much all business for him.
Thats good news, according to Spurrier, who thinks emotion can be the enemy of a quarterback.
Quarterbacks have to think, they have to make quick decisions and so forth, so hopefully concentrating on what he needs to do will be what he takes his focus into the game, the decisions he has to make, Spurrier said. Obviously, anyone who goes back to their home state to play, theres an extra-specialness to that.
Connor Shaw, a senior who grew up in Flowery Branch, Ga., 45 minutes northeast of Atlanta, echoes his fathers sentiment.
I am not going to make the game bigger than it is, he said. Its going to be exciting for us, but were not going to make it any bigger than it is. Its a game on the road, and thats how were going to take it.
While the specific location of the game is not an issue for Shaw, the fact that its away from Williams-Brice Stadium is important to him, he said. Shaw is South Carolinas winningest all-time quarterback by percentage (85.7 percent). His 18-3 record leaves him six victories shy of tying Todd Ellis for most wins. (The Gamecocks records on quarterback victories date to 1971.)
Its the last number in that record that is meaningful this week. The three losses have come on the road against Top 10 teams (No. 8 Arkansas in 2011, No. 9 LSU in 2012, No. 3 Florida in 2012). The Bulldogs, who dropped from No. 5 to No. 11 after losing to Clemson, dont quite fit into that formula, but beating them would prove something, Shaw believes.
I have to play better on the road, I know that, he said.
In the three losses, Shaw has completed 56 percent of his passes and averaged 125.7 passing yards per game, while totaling four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) and five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumbles).
Its easy to play at home and have your crowd behind you, and its hard to go on the road, especially the places that we played last year, he said. Weve got to go with a different mentality and a confidence level playing on the road this year.
Lee Shaw and Connors mother, Dawn, will be at Saturdays game. They normally are treated better in Athens than at other road venues because of Connors connection to the state, Lee Shaw said.
What we get more than anything and its a nice thing, a lot of people will say, I have been a diehard Bulldog for x number of years, and I am pulling for the Gamecocks because of Connor. They always end with this, I am pulling for Connor all the time except for one Saturday, Lee Shaw said. We all know when the game kicks off and that ball is in the air, its on and it doesnt matter who you are.
When you go on the road its kind of a business trip, and you need to count on your leaders and your veteran guys to set the tone. Hes at that point in his career where he is ready to take that next step I would think, and he has a great opportunity. ESPN game analyst Todd Blackledge, who will work todays game, on Shaw
I havent lost to Georgia and it would be something special for our seniors to go out 4-0 against them. Its a great rivalry. Its really intense. Connor Shaw