Notebook: Garcia struggles mightily

South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia had a rough night Saturday night in Carolina's 21-3 win over Vanderbilt. The Commodore defense led the nation with 10 interceptions entering the contest and will leave with an even bigger advantage. Garcia through four interceptions and Vandy will leave Columbia with 14 interceptions on the year.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier summed the night of quarterback Stephen Garcia nicely in just four words.

"Stephen had a tough night," Spurrier said following Saturday night's game between the Gamecocks and Vanderbilt.

The fifth-year quarterback threw four interceptions, but thanks in large part to a stingy defense, tenth-ranked South Carolina left Williams-Brice Stadium with a 21-3 win over Vanderbilt. Carolina improved to 4-0 (2-0 SEC) with the win while the Commodores dropped to 3-1 (1-1 SEC).

Garcia's night got off to a good start. On the opening drive of the game, a seven yard run by Garcia converted a third down. After throwing an incompletion deep for Alshon Jeffery, Garcia hit his next three passes to Rory Anderson, Jeffery, and a 16-yard completion to Ace Sanders moved Carolina inside the Vanderbilt 30. After two incompletions and a Terrence Campbell false start, Garcia was forced out of the pocket by defensive end Tim Fugger, rolled right, and tried to hit Marcus Lattimore on a wheel route. Lattimore had beaten his man, but Garcia did not see Casey Howard leaving his man to pick up Lattimore. The result was a Howard interception at the Vanderbilt seven.

"I actually talked to the guy that picked it off, #19, afterward and he said he just recognized the play and came off his man," Garcia said.

After failing to convert a fourth and one on the second possession, South Carolina took over on their four. After two penalties on the first play moved the ball to the Gamecock 17, Garcia again converted a first down with his legs, a three yard run on a third and two. On the next play, Garcia tried to hit Jeffery on a comeback route, but the pass was picked by Howard again. Howard returned it 24 yards to the Gamecock 22 before being hit hard by Sanders. That resulted in a 33-yard field goal by Carey Spear for Vandy's only points of the game.

"It was a comeback route," Spurrier said. "Stephen thought it was going to be a comeback route and somehow or another he drifted on down the field. It was mainly on Alshon."

For the first quarter, Garcia was 5-of-10 for 51 yards and two interceptions.

Garcia would throw his third pick in four possessions early in the second quarter. After scrambling to his right on a 3-and-11 play, Garcia tried to force a ball to the first down marker. It was intercepted by Andre Hal at the Vandy 36.

"The third that I threw on the Vandy sideline to Alshon I should have just ran it," Garcia said. "I talked with Coach Mangus and I should have just ran with it or thrown it out of bounds."

At the point of his third interception, Garcia was just 7-for-15 for 60 yards and three interceptions.

From there Garcia seemingly calmed down. He hit Lattimore on a screen pass that turned into a 52-yard touchdown and a 14-3 Gamecock lead at the half.

For much of the second half Garcia looked like the quarterback Spurrier thought he would be. In the third quarter Garcia connected on 7-of-11 passes for 111 yards and led the team on a touchdown drive that ended with a Lattimore 22-yard scoring run and had them on the brink of icing the game entering the fourth quarter.

However, after a completion to Justice Cunningham to open the fourth, Garcia appeared to try and scramble before seeing Jeffery flashing across the middle. Garcia tried to toss the ball to Jeffery, but it bounced off his shoulder pads and into the hands of Vanderbilt's Chris Marve in the end zone. Marve would lateral the ball to Trey Wilson before Kyle Nunn took Wilson down at the 25.

"His last interception bounced right off Alshon," Spurrier said. "We try and say if it looks bad just go down with it, but he thought he could go in there and he bounced it off Alshon. If Alshon catches it we're probably sitting here saying Stephen had a pretty good second half. Sometimes I guess it happens that way."

"I talked to Alshon right afterwards and he thought I was going to run it so he turned around," Garcia said. "The next thing he knows he saw the ball in the air and tries to catch it. That's how it happens, but thankfully our defense played unreal tonight so it didn't hurt us too bad."

That was the end of the night for Garcia as back-up Conner Shaw came in on the following drive – much to the delight of Gamecock fans in attendance - and played most of the fourth quarter before Dylan Thompson played the final few snaps.

Garcia finished the game 16-of-30 for 228 yards and a touchdown with four interceptions. He also rushed the ball seven times for 32 yards.

In the eyes of some Gamecock fans, that could be the beginning of the fourth quarterback controversy in the last two seasons. Spurrier says it's not.

"We've never had a controversy," Spurrier said after the game. I'm not going to say anything about Stephen. Stephen is trying the best he can. That's all as a coach that you can ask a person to do. We came out throwing a bit early and hit a few here and there. He just missed a guy going down the middle, just didn't look for the guy. He's doing the best he can, and that's all we can ever say for any of our players."

Spurrier, as he's proven to do time and time again throughout his coaching career, is not scared to give another guy a chance if he deserves it. That won't change this week.

"We'll put whoever out there we can to help us win the game," Spurrier said. "He (Garcia) probably will (start) the way we're looking at things now, but if some of those other guys look great in practice then I will put them in there. They haven't really impressed us in practice."

Costly penalties

South Carolina was penalized nine times for 67 yards and most of them were costly. Four of the nine penalties negated big gains and two of Garcia's three first-half interceptions was the result of being in third-and-long situations.

"It's not all Stephen either," Spurrier said. "We had a lot of, lot of penalties. Marcus even had two penalties. He got called for holding and pushing a guy in the back. There were a lot of penalties after pretty good gains."

Improving on the penalties will need to be a focus in practice this week and could help Garcia turn things around.

Allen, Clowney, and Ingram make big plays

It's already becoming a norm this season.

Antonio Allen, Jadeveon Clowney, and Melvin Ingram make big plays. Clowney had two sacks – both resulting in fumbles that Carolina recovered – and was a presence in the backfield all night. Allen recovered the first Clowney forced fumble and he has now caused a fumble, recovered a fumble, or intercepted a pass in each of the four games. Allen eventually fumbled the ball himself and Ingram was there to fall on it in the end zone. Ingram also finished with two sacks and deflected a pass.

"Melvin was on the spot there, no question about it, on the fumble recovery," Spurrier said. "He seems to be around the ball. And Antonio was around the ball. Gee, those two guys combined for that play. It's sort of neat, because they're the ones making the plays all year."

Allen and Ingram have combined to score five touchdowns through four games.

Third-down difference

One of the biggest disparities in the game – other than total yardage – was third-down conversion success rates. Carolina converted 10-of-19 third down conversions while Vanderbilt converted just 1-of 14.

"I was amazed we made 10," Spurrier said. "It didn't feel like we made that many, but we did somehow or another. And one out of 14, that really helps our third-down conversion percentage. We were giving up 52% coming into this game."

Other notes

South Carolina

Offensive Notes
• Rory Anderson recorded the first catch of his college career in the first quarter for a gain of two yards. He also snagged a 19-yard pass from Garcia late in the third quarter.
• Eric Baker rushed three times for three yards. It was the first time he carried the ball for the Gamecocks since the game vs. Florida Atlantic, 9/19/09 (third game).
• Marcus Lattimore scored at the conclusion of the first half on a 52-yard pass play from Stephen Garcia. It was the longest pass play of the year for the Gamecocks. The longest scoring play from scrimmage this year was Melvin Ingram's 68-yard touchdown run in the second quarter vs. Georgia.
• Brandon Wilds and DeAngelo Smith picked up their first career receptions on consecutive plays early in the third quarter on the Gamecocks' opening drive of the second half.
• Ace Sanders tied his career high with a 51-yard reception from Stephen Garcia on the Gamecocks' opening drive of the second half. The long pass play set up a 22-yard run by Lattimore (eighth of the season, 25th career) that put the Gamecocks up 21-3 mid-way through the third quarter. The scoring drive went 83 yards, which is the longest of the season for the Gamecock offense.
• Alshon Jeffery passed Sterling Sharpe for second place on the all-time receiving yards list at South Carolina with a 12-yard reception from Stephen Garcia in the first quarter on the Gamecocks' sixth play from scrimmage. Jeffery now has 2,526 yards in his career. He needs 255 yards to passKenny McKinley as the all-time leader.
• Connor Shaw came into the game in the fourth quarter and rushed twice for 14 yards. He was also 1-2 passing for eight yards.
• Brandon Wilds picked up his first rush as a Gamecock with a 16-yard scamper in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with three rushes for 22 yards.
• Dylan Thompson saw his first action as a Gamecock in the fourth quarter, picking up his first rush for a gain of a yard.
• Stephen Garcia recorded his 20th win as a starting quarterback for South Carolina, which ties him with Steve Taneyhill for second on the all-time list. Only Todd Ellis owns more wins in his career (24).

Defensive Notes

• Devin Taylor recorded his first sack of the season in the first quarter for a loss of nine yards.
• Antonio Allen recovered his third fumble of the season in a defensive touchdown-scoring play. Jadeveon Clowney forced the fumble by Larry Smith. Allen picked the ball up at the Vanderbilt 31-yard line, ran 20 yards, and fumbled the ball at the 11-yard line, into the end zone, where Melvin Ingram fell on the ball for the score. The touchdown was Ingram's third of the season.
• The defensive score was the second time this year that Clowney forced a fumble that resulted in Ingram scoring.
• Victor Hampton saw his first action for the Garnet and Black at the cornerback position. He also recorded his first tackle in the game.
• Stephon Gilmore intercepted his first pass of the year at the South Carolina 23-yard line with 4:09 left in the second quarter. Gilmore now has five career interceptions.
• Jadeveon Clowney forced his second fumble of the game (3rd career) with 2:08 left to go in the third quarter. The fumble was recovered by junior linebacker Quin Smith, which was the first of his career.
• The Garnet and Black defense gave up only three points in the first half, the lowest number of points scored on the Gamecocks in the first half this season.
• The Gamecock defense held the Commodores to 77 yards of total offense on the night, including only four yards rushing. Vanderbilt was 1-14 on third downs in the contest.

Special Teams

• Placekicker Jay Wooten continued his perfect streak of PATs, bringing him to 20-20 on the season.

Other Notes

• Attendance for the game was 77,015.
• The Gamecocks are now 4-0 to start the season for the first time since 2001.

Vanderbilt Notes

Team Notes


• Vanderbilt trailed at the half for the first time this season.
• The Commodores fell to 0-1 on the road after three straight home games to open the year.
• For the first time this season Vanderbilt lost when scoring first and is now 2-1.

Individual Notes

• Walker May earned his first start of the year, starting at defensive end.
• Casey Hayward's 11th career interception and third of the season ended South Carolina's opening drive. Hayward is now tied for sixth in Vanderbilt history with Reshard Langford, Manuel Young and Christie Hauck.
• Richard Kent extended his streak to 16 games with a punt downed inside the 20-yard line when his second punt of the night was downed at the four-yard line.
• Hayward's second pick of the first quarter moved him into a tie with Corey Chavous for fifth all-time at VU with 12 interceptions.
• Hayward's two-interception performance makes him the second Commodore this season to have two picks in a game, joining Trey Wilson.
• Carey Spear's 33-yard field kept him perfect on the year and put the Dores on the scoreboard first for the third time in four games this season. The 33-yard boot also tied his career-long.
• Andre Hal collected his first interception of his career with a second quarter pick.
• Jonathan Krause set a career-high with nine receptions.
• Chris Marve's nine tackles moved him to 328 for his career. He needs 24 more to join the all-time top 10 at Vanderbilt.
• Archibald Barnes recorded a career-best seven tackles after entering the game with five total for the season.
• With 12 completions Larry Smith moved into eighth place (292) in career completions and seventh (295) in career attempts before leaving with an injury at the end of the third quarter.
• Chase Garnham set a career-best with at team-high 10 tackles.
• Chris Marve recorded his first career interception in the fourth quarter, picking off a pass in the end zone.
• Kenny Ladler set a season-high with seven tackles.
• Javon Marshall set a career-best with five tackles.
• Jordan Rodgers completed a career-best four passes on a career-high seven attempts in relief duty.

Defense
• Chris Hayward's first quarter interception was the Commodores' 11th interception of the year and 13th forced turnover. Vanderbilt has forced a turnover in all four games.
• With 7:20 left in the first quarter the defense held the Gamecocks on 4th and 1 with Chase Garnham getting credit for the tackle.
• The Commodores continued to be stiff on defense in the first quarter, holding South Carolina scoreless in the opening quarter. The Dores have allowed three points in the first quarter all year.
• Vanderbilt recorded multiple interceptions for the fourth game in a row.
• The Dores picked off four South Carolina passes after having five against Ole Miss and have nine in the last two games and 14 for the season.

Offense

• Vanderbilt improved to 4-for-6 on the year with a conversion on 4th down with a second quarter conversion.
• The Commodores were held to season-lows in total yards (77), first downs (5) and points (3) struggling on third down going 1-for-14.

Special Teams

• Richard Kent averaged 41.3 yards per punt with three punts over 50 yards and two inside the 20-yard line.


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