Putting Connor Mitch’s First Start into Perspective


The performance of Connor Mitch has been a hot topic since the redshirt sophomore made his first collegiate start on Thursday night against the North Carolina Tarheels. I think most agree that the performance was ugly, especially in the first half. As a result, the internet has been filled with speculation and debate on whether or not other quarterbacks will or should be allowed to have reps to try and find out if someone else is better suited to take over the position.

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Don’t count me in with the group of people that are ready to move on from Mitch. I understand that Mitch had a rough start to his career at South Carolina. I know his stat line, 9 for 22 for 122 yards and 1 touchdown, is not exactly  pretty. I saw the bad throws, the hand off to the wrong side, the deer in the headlights look on his face. I saw the delay of game penalties. I saw all of the bad.

I also saw Mitch make good decisions. I saw when no one was available to throw the ball to Mitch made plays with his legs. I saw the beautiful pass to Pharoh Cooper for his first career touchdown pass. I watched as Mitch threw three balls that were dropped that should have been caught (two by David Williams and one by Jerell Adams) and one that was dropped by Deebo Samuel on a diving, acrobatic attempt that would have been difficult for even Alshon Jeffrey to hang on to. Most importantly, I watched Mitch not turn the ball over.

Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Connor Mitch could have just as easily had a statline that resembled 12-22 and more than 140 yards passing and a touchdown. We shouldn’t forget that Mitch ran the ball 10 times for 44 yards, also. That’s pretty impressive especially when you compare what he did to a couple of other quarterbacks under Spurrier — Connor Shaw and Stephen Garcia.

Connor Shaw’s first start went much worse when he got the nods over Stephen Garcia against East Carolina in 2011. Shaw lasted a quarter completing 3 of 9 passes for 21 yards and rushing 7 times for 26 yards, while South Carolina sputtered out to a 17-0 deficit. The Gamecocks may have used multiple quarterbacks, but Mitch didn’t get pulled from the game after a quarter.

Stephen Garcia got his first collegiate start against LSU in 2008. While his stats were a little flashier (14-26 for 218 yards, 1 touchdown), he also turned the ball over twice. He fumbled once, and threw an interception that sealed the game for LSU. Mitch may not have accounted for as many yards as Garcia, but at least he won the game.

I’m not saying that Connor Mitch performed great in his first start, but I do feel that too many people are being too hard on a guy that had not gotten any significant playing time in his entire collegiate career. I do think that Mitch has room to improve. So did Shaw and Garcia. Perhaps the expectations were just too high for a redshirt sophomore who only had two proven options to throw to at wide receiver and tight end.

Give Mitch some time to develop. Give him some time to get some game experience. Support the guy Spurrier has chosen to lead this offense based on everything he has done over the spring and through fall camp. If it doesn’t pan out, we all know Spurrier isn’t afraid to rotate through quarterbacks until he finds an answer. Until then, just hang on for what could be a crazy ride.

Next: The Impact of Cody Waldrop's Injury

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