Redshirt junior quarterback Stephen Garcia had been in coach Steve Spurrier's doghouse since the end of the 2009 season. Although he finished near the top of the Southeastern Conference in many passing statistics, the Spurrier was not pleased with his dedication.
A lot of that changed in the Gamecocks' opener against Southern Mississippi when Garcia rushed for two touchdowns, passed consistently and showed leadership skills to cement his role as the team's starting quarterback.
He completed 16 of 23 passes for 193 yards, while rushing five times for 38 yards and two scores, including one on a 22-yard scamper in which he ran over several Southern Mississippi defenders.
Although Spurrier plans to again give freshman Connor Shaw an opportunity to play against Georgia, Garcia appears firmly entrenched as the starter. He believes that as long as the team can remain as diverse as it did in the opener when it rushed for 224 yards and passed for 225 it will be in good shape.
"We've been last in the SEC in rushing the past (three) seasons," said Garcia. "That's what we need to get going this year, the rushing game. We have the talent and the strength up front. If we can run the ball, we're going to be very hard to beat, especially with the defense playing as well as they're playing and the talent we have on offense. We need to continue to run the ball."
"Stephen threw some good (passes)," said Spurrier. "He ran the ball well, too. If you have a quarterback who can run, it can really make a difference."
--The Gamecocks entered both major polls following Thursday's win over Southern Mississippi. They are 24th in the Associated Press and 25th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Georgia ranks 22nd and 19th respectively.
--Georgia owns a 46-14-2 advantage in the series but five of the last six games have been decided by seven points or less. USC has won just one of those, however, a 16-12 victory in Athens in 2007.
--A win over Georgia would give Steve Spurrier 106 victories as an SEC coach against SEC completion to put him tied for second with former Auburn coach John Vaught and break a tie with legendary Bulldog coach Vince Dooley. He also had three wins against SEC teams while coaching Duke. Bear Bryant leads with 159.
SERIES HISTORY: Georgia leads South Carolina 46-14-2 (last meeting, 2009, 41-37 Georgia).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: After getting off to a slow start in its first possession, South Carolina was off and running offensively behind the direction of Stephen Garcia. With coach Steve Spurrier again calling the plays this season, the Gamecocks were extremely balanced, rushing for 224 yards and passing for 225. Garcia completed 16 of 23 passes for 193 yards, while rushing five times for 38 yards and two scores, including a sensational 22-yard run. USC also employed the Wild Cock formation with sophomore quarterback Stephon Gilmore at quarterback. Spurrier expects to employ the formation again on Saturday. Rookie running back Marcus Lattimore was impressive, rushing 14 times for 54 yards and two touchdowns, while catching two passes for 21 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was unguardable, catching seven passes for 105 yards. The team is hoping for the return of senior left tackle Jarriel King who was held out of the opener by the NCAA.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The defense bent but didn't break against Southern Mississippi as the only touchdown was scored in the fourth quarter against the reserves. Coordinator Ellis Johnson hopes to get senior cornerback Chris Culliver, who was held out of the opener by the NCAA, linebacker Shaq Wilson (hamstring) and safety D. J. Swearinger (mild concussion in the first half vs. USM). Sophomore cornerback Stephon Gilmore was sensational, shutting down USM star receiver Deandre Brown.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Georgia seems to be playing with a lot more fire, especially on defense, than last year's team." -- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Georgia at South Carolina, Sept. 11 -- USC (1-0 overall) has to find a way win a close game against the Bulldogs as it has won only one of the last eight encounters, a 16-12 decision in Athens, Ga., in 2007. If the Gamecocks are victorious, they will immediately become a threat to claim the SEC East Division title.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Gamecocks, who finished last in the SEC in rushing the last two seasons, must continued to the run the ball the way they did against Southern Mississippi. Rookie running back Marcus Lattimore and red-shirt sophomore Kenny Miles give the team a one-two threat running they haven't had during Steve Spurrier's tenure. The offensive line, under first year coach Shawn Elliott, must prove it can handle the pressure that Georgia's front four will put on it.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Stephen Garcia -- The junior did virtually everything Steve Spurrier wanted in the opener. Things will reach a new level against the Bulldogs, however, as their new 3-3-5 scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham can present problems. Garcia needs to continue to keep his head and find a way to get the ball to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
DE Cliff Matthews -- Although he did not get a sack against Southern Miss, the senior will have to turn up the jets this week. The team's most talented performer up front, he needs to put pressure on first-year Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murphy. That could cause mistakes from the inexperienced performer.
--Starting left tackle Jarriel King did not play in the opener after being held out by the NCAA. His status for Saturday is unknown. If he plays, Kyle Nunn will move from left to right tackle.
--Starting right guard Terrence Campbell missed the game with a sprained ankle. He should return but will not immediately re-gain his starting role.
--Starting cornerback Chris Culliver was held out of the opener by the NCAA. His status remains unknown. C. C. Whitlock did a solid job in his place, but the Gamecocks need Culliver's experience and ability against the Bulldogs.
--Starting linebacker Shaq Wilson missed the first game and most of fall practice with an injured hamstring. The quarterback of the defense will not return on Saturday. Steve Spurrier raised the specter of a red-shirt year if he doesn't heal soon.
--Safety D. J. Swearinger was knocked out of the opener in the first half with a mild concussion. He is expected to return on Saturday.