Garnet Defeats Black in Spring Game, 21-17

The Garnet team defeated the Black team, 21-17, in the annual Garnet and Black Spring Game Saturday in Williams Brice Stadium. With the quarterback race seemingly wide open entering the game, the four quarterbacks struggled with accuracy throughout the game.

As has been the case for the past couple of years the South Carolina football team entered the Garnet and Black Spring Game with most of the attention turned towards the quarterback position. That was the case again in 2011 as starting quarterback Stephen Garcia was suspended and missed his third spring game in five seasons. With Garcia's future still in jeopardy, four quarterbacks took turns in hopes of catching the attention of head coach Steve Spurrier and quarterback coach G.A. Mangus. The results were a 36-for-56 performance for 489 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions in a 21-17 Garnet win in front of an announced 30,103 crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium.

"It was a good spring game, in the fact that no one got hurt," Spurrier said. "We have had some cracked ankles and legs it seems like in this game for some reason, but everybody go through unscathed. Our guys gave an excellent effort without hurting each other, which is something we always try to do during a scrimmage."

As was expected, Shaw and Dylan Thompson got a majority of the looks at quarterback. Shaw led the Black team most of the first half, completing 17-of-27 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown just before the half. Shaw was the only quarterback who didn't throw an interception. Shaw had very little problems leading his team down the field, but struggled in the red zone. On the second drive for the Black team, Shaw led the team down the field and into the red zone. Shaw missed an open Alshon Jeffery for what looked to be an easy touchdown, forcing a field goal opportunity. Adam Yates came on to attempt the 22-yard field goal, but he missed it right as the Black team missed on scoring opportunities on each of its first two drives.

"Connor had some errant plays," Spurrier said. "The first drive we got down there and we had some mistakes right around the 10-yard line. He left a play on where Ace was supposed to shift and he went ahead and snapped the ball, so Connor wasn't thinking right there. That's good for him - he needs to just play, play, play, and learn and try and execute it. He's had a good spring and, as you can see, when he takes his steps and throws it on time he can zip it in there and make all the throws."

On the final drive of the half, Shaw finally got his first touchdown of the game, finding DeAngelo Smith in the corner of the end zone. C.C. Whitlock should have had an interception, but mistimed his jump and the ball found Smith for the touchdown on the last play of the half.

"He just mistimed the jump and I just tried to make the play the best way I can," Smith said.

Thompson didn't waste near as much time making his presence known. On his first play from scrimmage, Thompson threw it deep over the middle to Smith - who jumped over Victor Hampton - to come down with the ball and raced it the rest of the 62 yards for a touchdown. Thompson's explanation was a simple one.

"Answered prayer is the best explanation," Thompson said. "I was going to come down to Marcus, but he was held up so I ran to my left and looked at DeeDee - he can jump higher than any of us - so I just threw it down there and he made a great play as he always does."

Thompson finished the day 6-for-13 for 168 yards and one touchdown, but threw two interceptions.

"Today didn't go as well as I wanted it to," Thompson said. "I had a couple of bad reads, but overall I think the spring went well."

Kenny Miles - who finished the day with six carries for 43 yards - scored from two yards out on the second possession for the Garnet team as they built a 14-0 lead early before Josh Newton kicked a 22-yard field goal and Shaw's touchdwon pass to Smith trimmed the lead to 14-10 at the break.

With a running clock in the second half, each team traded three and outs before Seth Strickland was picked off by DeVonte Holloman and returned 34 yards for a Garnet touchdown and a 21-10 lead. Strickland - who finished 6-of-8 for 80 yards with one touchdown and one interception - responded by driving the Black team down the field, throwing a jumpball up to Smith in the corner that Smith came down with over Hampton once again for the final score of the game.

Smith had the best day of any of the players, finishing with four catches for 118 yards and scored three of the four touchdowns on the day. He hauled in both of the Black team's touchdowns and had the first touchdown for the Garnet.

"He got player of the spring on offense," Spurrier said. "Every scrimmage he has made at least one big play. He has really developed into an outstanding receiver as you can see out there today. All three of (his touchdowns) seemed like he had to jump over a guy."

Though the quarterbacks had some good moments, Spurrier says all four have a long way to go if they want to compete in the SEC.

"Our QBs have got a lot to learn; they aren't there yet, but we think they can get there," Spurrier said. "Connor needs to have a wonderful summer, if he is our QB."

Ace Sanders had four catches for 54 yards, Josh Hinch had six catches to lead the team for 43 yards, Jason Barnes had three catches for 49 yards, Miles had three catches for 35 yards, and A. Jeffery had one acrobatic catch for 30 yards.

Along with Miles' 43 yards and touchdown, Marcus Lattimore had three carries for 19 yards in limited action, and Eric Baker had five carries for 15 yards.

Unlike most seasons, the Garnet and Black Game will not conclude spring practice. The Gamecocks will practice Tuesday and Thurday at the Proving Grounds before breaking until summer workouts. Both practices are open to the public.

"We'll have two more practices this next week and then we'll break for May and make sure our players are doing well on their final exams and go from there," Spurrier said.

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