Steve Spurrier wants to see improved passing game
Steve Spurrier was really pleased with his quarterback's look. That was about it for offensive positives from South Carolina's opener for the Gamecocks head ball coach.
Spurrier says South Carolina must improve offensively - and fast - if it hopes to succeed at Georgia to start the Southeastern Conference season on Saturday.
''We've got to play a lot better before we think we're hot stuff,'' Spurrier said Tuesday.
The Gamecocks remained No. 12 in the first top 25 of the regular season. He said South Carolina won't get any higher unless they clean up their offensive problems.
Much of that is on the offensive side despite a 56-37 victory over East Carolina to open the season. The Gamecocks fumbled four times in the opening half - twice on offense and twice on special teams - as they fell behind 17-0. It took the freshly shaven Garcia to come off the bench in place of sophomore starter Connor Shaw to rally South Carolina.
Garcia had two touchdown runs and a 3-yard TD pass to Ace Sanders as the Gamecocks took control. Still, the numbers were nothing to cheer about.
Garcia and Shaw combined to go 10 of 25 for 131 yards, a passing total lower than in any game last year. Star tailback Marcus Lattimore rushed for 112 yards and three touchdowns, getting the bulk of his carries and yards after halftime when Spurrier thought running the ball was the best way to keep East Carolina on the sidelines.
That was the case against Georgia last year. Lattimore carried 37 times for 182 yards and both South Carolina's scores in the 17-6 stunner over the Bulldogs. It was the start of a stellar freshman season for Lattimore, who became the Gamecocks first 1,000-yard rusher in 10 years with 1,230 yards on the ground.
That game plan might not work as well this year, Spurrier fears. He expects to see a Bulldogs defense that's sick of watching the tape of Lattimore's slashing runs all summer long and fired-up to stop it from happening at Sanford Stadium. That puts even more of a premium on a crisp, balanced attack, something Spurrier said was missing at Bank of America Stadium last week.
''You've got to figure they're going to try to get some more guys in the box and defend against Marcus,'' Spurrier said. ''So, maybe we've got to throw a lot better than we did last week, pass protect better and run better routes, a little bit better throws here and there. And that may be the key for us to beat them, who knows?''
Garcia, the fifth-year senior, sat out the first quarter last week after losing the summer long quarterback competition to Shaw, a highly regarded sophomore. Spurrier said each would play a quarter of the opening half with the one who gave the Gamecocks the best chance to win taking over after halftime.
That, as it's been much of the past two seasons, was Garcia.
He seemed to provide an instant lift, scoring five plays after entering the game on a 32-yard TD run to start South Carolina's rally. Garcia's second scoring run, from 10 yards out in the third quarter, gave the Gamecocks the lead for good.
Garcia didn't have any inspiring words or rallying gestures to turn things around. ''I guess they just respond to way I play,'' he said. ''It was a good feeling to be out there with the guys again.''
And it didn't hurt Garcia's standing in his coach's eyes when he came to the pregame meal, face shaved and hair neat.
Spurrier wore a slick-back, trimmed hair style in his days at Florida quarterback and he likes the leader of his offense to look ship shape, too. ''We've been asking him to shave for five years now. Sometimes he does. Sometimes he doesn't,'' Spurrier said. ''I just think a quarterback should be shaven, that's just my opinion.''
Garcia, sporting three days growth since Saturday night, said he talked to plenty of people before finally taking a razor to his face as Spurrier wanted. ''I'm not the boss,'' Garcia said. ''You've got to do what the boss says.''
Garcia will start the Georgia game looking at a final chance to win between the hedges. Two years ago, he was a raw sophomore who threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns in the Gamecocks 41-37 defeat.
Spurrier doesn't want to get in a shootout with Georgia with as inconsistent as the Gamecocks attack was last week.
''We're not very hot right now,'' he said. ''We're an average bunch of guys out there.''