Starting QBs ready to go for Gamecocks, Gators
South Carolina’s Connor Shaw is feeling better, as is Florida’s
John Brantley. It’s time to play football.
Fans on both sides have spent much of the week worrying about
their banged-up quarterbacks, but both are expected to start
Saturday when No. 15 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2) and Florida (5-4,
3-4) close out Southeastern Conference play at Williams-Brice
The status of Shaw and Brantley seemed very much in doubt after
Shaw, a sophomore, sustained a concussion in a 44-28 loss to
Arkansas, but was cleared by doctors to practice this week and
play. Brantley missed two games earlier this season with a badly
sprained right ankle and briefly lost feeling in his throwing hand
after a fourth-quarter hit between his shoulder and elbow in the
Gators’ 26-21 win over Vanderbilt.
Brantley, a senior, was back at practice Tuesday and has
continued to prepare for this weekend’s contest.
”Having John back makes us that sort of offense that we want to
be,” first-year Florida coach Will Muschamp said. ”That’s where
we’re headed and that’s what we’re looking forward to displaying
there in Columbia.”
If so, the Gators might be tough to slow down. South Carolina’s
defense looked as bad as it had all season at Arkansas, torched for
435 yards. It was just the second time this season the Gamecocks
have allowed an opponent more than 400 yards.
South Carolina had kept itself in charge of the SEC Eastern
Division chase with a combination of strong defense and just enough
offense to win tight games at Mississippi State and Tennessee. That
formula fell apart against the Razorbacks, though Shaw’s second
rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter drew the Gamecocks
Despite the loss, South Carolina still has a chance to return to
the Georgia Dome for the SEC championship game. It must defeat
Florida – something it’s done just twice in 19 meetings since
joining the SEC – and then hope Georgia loses to Auburn or Kentucky
down the stretch.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier recognizes the team he’d put
together at the start of the season bears little resemblance to the
one taking the field on Saturday.
”Actually, when you look at the way our team has played this
year, you’ve got to say, `Hey, those guys are 7-2 and they’re in
position to really achieve some stuff this year,”’ Spurrier said.
”We’ve got to play one of our best games, get some fire and
Losing Shaw would’ve taken some of that away even before
kickoff. The sophomore took over for fifth-year senior Stephen
Garcia last month, and then was Spurrier’s lone experienced option
once Garcia was dismissed from the program.
The Gamecocks’ offense took another big hit at Mississippi State
when tailback Marcus Lattimore, who led the SEC in rushing for much
of the year, was lost with a knee injury. Lattimore is awaiting
Freshman Brandon Wilds looked like the answer when he rushed for
137 yards against Tennessee two games ago. But Wilds struggled –
along with the rest of the offense – and had just 21 yards in the
”We could definitely get a little better,” receivers coach
Steve Spurrier Jr. said. ”But we’re 7-2 and trying to be 8-2 this
History is not on South Carolina’s side. The Gamecocks clinched
the SEC East a year ago down at The Swamp, a satisfying 36-14 romp
that seemed to signal South Carolina’s rise in the SEC. But the
Gamecocks’ only back-to-back wins in the series came in 1936 and
And now, it looks as though Florida’s rounding into offensive
The Gators broke a four-game losing streak with the Vanderbilt
win and hope to qualify for a bowl game by defeating the Gamecocks.
Up next is Furman, a Football Championship Subdivision opponent,
before the season finale with Florida State.
Along with Brantley, the Gators’ offense is also expecting Chris
Rainey to be back after missing last week’s game with an ankle
problem. Rainey and Jeff Demps make up one of the SEC’s top rushing
combinations, the two pairing up for more than 1,000 yards this
A strong finish could be just what the Gators need for Muschamp
to bring them back to the top of the SEC East.
”If we do win out I’ll feel like it’s a very successful
season,” receiver Andre Debose said.
AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to