No. 10 South Carolina winning ugly
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)
This might be the worst Steve Spurrier's ever felt at 4-0.
The South Carolina coach was frustrated with his team's offensive showing Saturday night that included six fumbles and four interceptions. Still, the Gamecocks left with a 21-3 victory over Vanderbilt and moved up two spots in the national rankings.
''I guess that's one thing that's encouraging,'' Spurrier said Sunday. ''We have not scored first in any game and have managed to win them all. But we've got to play better offensively if we're going to make a run this year.''
South Carolina (2-0 Southeastern Conference) has been a mixed bag on offense all season long. It trailed East Carolina 17-0 in the opener before rallying to win 56-37, then needed a couple of critical touchdowns from defensive end Melvin Ingram to escape Georgia, 45-42. The Gamecocks trailed Navy much of the game last week, yet won 24-21.
The offensive struggles continued against Vanderbilt (3-1, 1-1), except this time the Gamecocks' defense showed up to end the Commodores best start in three years. South Carolina held Vanderbilt to 77 yards and a field goal.
The offset the offensive horror show at Williams-Brice Stadium. Garcia, the fifth-year senior, led the disappointment with four interceptions. South Carolina didn't lose any of its six fumbles. All-American receiver Alshon Jeffery had two catches for 34 yards. There were nine penalties. Even Marcus Lattimore, the nation's leading rusher coming in, didn't have a typical showing, held to 77 yards on the ground.
Spurrier apologized to Gamecock fans Saturday night for the ''putrid offensive performance.''
''As coaches, we've got a lot of coaching to do this week,'' Spurrier said a day later.
Then again, these are the kind of tight games Spurrier and Gamecocks routinely lost most of his seven seasons here. It was Vanderbilt's 17-6 win over South Carolina in 2007 that started the Gamecocks five-game slide as they went from 6-1 and sixth in the country to 6-6 and out of the postseason.
South Carolina mistakes cost them a year ago against national champion Auburn during the regular season, the Tigers overcoming a 20-7 deficit to win 35-27. The Gamecocks threw two interceptions down the stretch as they tried to tie things.
Garcia said he'll take a little luck over talent any day, especially when it leads to South Carolina's best start since opening 5-0 in 2001. ''Those things usually haven't happened for us in the past, but they are happening this year, so I am not complaining,'' Garcia said.
Spurrier had his complaints with Garcia on Saturday night.
The coach threw a headset in the first quarter and his playcalling sheet in the second. By the time Garcia threw his fourth pick in the end zone in the fourth quarter, all Spurrier could do was slowly shake his head as Garcia tried to explain.
Spurrier put backup Connor Shaw into the game in the fourth quarter, his first action since getting the nod to start this year's opener, then being benched after an ineffective first quarter. Shaw appeared to have tight end Justice Cunningham wide open for a likely late score, but missed the play.
''When you can't hit that one, you just shake your head a little,'' Spurrier said. ''It's been frustrating watching us throw and catch. We have had very little success.''
Vanderbilt had hoped to continue its best start since 2008, but had no answers for South Carolina's defensive showing, which Spurrier said was the best in his seven seasons.
''It was really frustrating,'' Commodores offensive lineman Wesley Johnson said. ''We were trying to stay positive and to keep having faith, and that's what we're going to keep doing. We are going to keep believing.''
That's getting harder and harder for Spurrier the more he watches South Carolina's attack.
He said a quarterback change to Shaw over Garcia was unlikely. The Gamecocks may get an offensive boost against Auburn next week from the return of freshman receiver Damiere Byrd, who sat out the first four games because of an NCAA suspension.
''Anyway, we're 4-0. We're going to enjoy this victory. We're going to get ready for Auburn. We're not going to go in the jar. We aren't going to point fingers at anybody,'' Spurrier said.