Commentary

Kenny Shaw's absence hurts Seminoles

Originally Published: September 17, 2011
By Mitch Sherman | ESPN Recruiting

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Kenny Shaw was on track to enjoy the best game of his career in his biggest game at Florida State.

The sophomore receiver may not recall much of it, though.

Shaw was knocked unconscious at the goal line with 13:50 to play in the first half of top-ranked Oklahoma's 23-13 win over the No. 5 Seminoles on Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium, separated from the football by a sandwich hit to the head from Oklahoma linebacker Tom Wort and safety Javon Harris.

The play, ruled an incomplete pass, earned Florida State a first down at the 11-yard line after an OU unsportsmanlike conduct penalty but disrupted the Seminoles' offensive momentum and eliminated a top playmaker from an already hobbled FSU receiving corps.

[+] EnlargeKenny Shaw
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesFlorida State receiver Kenny Shaw was taken off the field on a cart after being hit by a pair of Oklahoma defenders.

Not to mention, it scared the whole stadium silent.

"Everybody was fighting for Kenny," Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner said. "We wanted to get the win for Kenny Shaw."

Shaw, strapped to a stretcher and removed by cart to an ambulance, returned to walk on the FSU sideline late in the game after undergoing evaluation at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

"Kenny's fine now," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We were really concerned, but he's OK. That's the big thing there."

Still, his absence loomed large after a hot start.

The 5-foot-10 Shaw, with nine catches in his FSU career before Saturday, snagged EJ Manuel's first pass of the night for the Seminoles' initial first down after Oklahoma drove 80 yards to start the game with a touchdown.

Shaw then went to the ground in the end zone to catch a 23-yard strike from Manuel on the same drive, though it was called back for holding and Oklahoma held Florida State to a field goal.

After a defensive stop, Shaw caught a 14-yarder from Manuel on third-and-4 to get the Seminoles in position to score on their second drive.

Two plays later, he connected with Manuel on a post route, a second-and-8 play from the Oklahoma 23. Wort and Harris converged just as Shaw appeared to cross the goal with the football.

Shaw lay motionless for several minutes. Teammates grew upset on the sideline.

"Of course, we got fired up about it," punter Shawn Powell said.

Running back James Wilder Jr. called out to the Sooners, upset about the hit. Receiver Jarred Haggins, Shaw's close friend, got emotional. It was his turn to step up, Haggins yelled, and he responded with four catches to help ignite a second-half comeback that left the game tied at 13 with nine minutes to play.

Florida State backup QB Clint Trickett said he didn't want to complain about the hit on Shaw, but it did hurt the Seminoles.

"Kenny's a huge playmaker," Trickett said. "That play could have turned the tide."

Top receiver Bert Reed did not start and played a limited role against Oklahoma. He failed to make a catch after suffering an injury a week earlier in the Seminoles' win over Charleston Southern.

On this night, FSU needed Shaw more than ever.

"I think you could kind of tell what it did," defensive tackle Everett Dawkins said of Shaw's absence.

After a delay to remove Shaw from the field, Chris Thompson lost 1 yard on a rush. Florida State was penalized for an illegal shift on the next play, then Wort deflected and intercepted a Manuel pass to end the drive -- and snuff Florida State's best chance of the night to go ahead.

"It's hard to say it didn't slow our momentum, because it did," Trickett said. "We just had a huge play. We were on a high. We got a touchdown."

Or so they thought. Fisher said he didn't get a close enough view of the play to challenge the ruling of an incomplete pass.

Asked if he thought the hit was dirty, Fisher said no.

"It was an illegal hit, but I don't think they did it on purpose or intentionally tried to hurt anybody," Fisher said. "It was a shot above the shoulders, which everybody's calling now.

"They have a classy team and a classy group of people."

Mitch Sherman is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at mshermanespn@gmail.com.

Follow Mitch Sherman on Twitter: @mitchsherman

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