It's all about how much pain Connor Shaw can tolerate from here on out.
A day after announcing that Shaw would start Saturday against Missouri, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said that team doctors and trainers informed him that the hairline fracture in his quarterback's shoulder can't be made worse by more contact.
Shaw injured his shoulder in the season opener against Vanderbilt, and re-injured it after taking a shot in last week's UAB game. Spurrier said on Wednesday that Shaw could have returned to the game if he was absolutely needed. He also said that there haven't been any limitations in Shaw's throwing ability, but he isn't sure if Shaw will hold back from running as much Saturday.
"Part of our offense is with him running the ball," Spurrier said. "If he's cleared 100 percent to play, then he should have a few carries running it and we're going to run our normal offense with him."
For Shaw to get through Saturday's game, Spurrier said the play of the offensive line has to improve. The Gamecocks have allowed nine sacks this season, while Shaw has taken a real beating whether he's had the ball or not this season.
"We have to do a better job as coaches of teaching our guys what to do and to not have some assignment errors where we open the gates, especially in pass protection," he said. We didn't coach it very well, put it that way.
"On the play that Connor got hit, we had the right protection, but we obviously didn't execute it very well. That's poor coaching on my part."
Fortunately for the Gamecocks, if Shaw can't make it through an entire game they have a reliable backup in Dylan Thompson, who has passed for 507 yards and five touchdowns in relief duty.
Though Thompson has been good, Spurrier made it clear that there is no quarterback controversy: Shaw is the starter and Thompson is the backup.
"There's no sportswriter, I don't think, in the country that had Dylan Thompson coming in and maybe beating him out or anything like that," Spurrier said. "Then, of course, he has a few good touchdown passes and played and then, of course, that starts the writers trying to scramble around and create some crap. We understand all that. That's part of the game as coaches to understand all that."