Garcia impresses in first significant action

As reporters milled about the pressbox at halftime of Carolina's 26-13 win over UAB, they kept asking each other, "Where were you when the Stephen Garcia Era began?" The question was in jest, mocking the hype that surrounds Garcia, but there may have been a nugget of truth. The Garcia Era did begin Saturday night, but whether it is remembered as a success or a bust remains to be seen.


Seeing the first significant playing time of his young career, the redshirt freshman received a standing ovation when he took the field and led South Carolina in passing and rushing, showing the dual-threat ability fans have been pining for. However, the accomplishments come with one significant caveat: the opponent was UAB. The Blazers are one of the worst teams in FBS football, as they entered Saturday's game holding a 1-3 record and surrendering 43 points per game against FBS competition.

"We thought we were going to put up a lot of points, but it just didn't happen," Garcia said after the game. "It's definitely going to be a lot faster [against SEC defenses], but I guess we'll see what happens. I don't know yet."

Those last four words are the reason Gamecock fans are excited about the Garcia Era. He is the unknown. Nobody has seen Garcia against a BCS school's defense, but they have seen Chris Smelley, who has struggled at times. Before we say Garcia has never faced the type of speed he will see next week, he reminds us he faces an elite defense every day in practice.

"Going against our defense last year on the scout team, they're pretty fast, so I got used to it then," he said.

Physically, Garcia made a few mistakes, including one he called "embarrassing." He was scrambling to his left, and appeared to have a touchdown when he was met at the goal line by a UAB defender.

"I definitely should have dove or run the guy over, but I didn't think he was coming that fast and that hard," Garcia recalled.

Still his athletic ability seems to be the main thing that sets him apart from the other quarterbacks. He rushed 18 times against the Blazers, but most of those carries were called passes, not designed runs. Garcia was surprised he carried the ball so often.

"I didn't expect that, but that's the way it worked out so I'm not complaining," he said. "Whenever I scrambled it was pretty much open field so I just got as much as I could get. I got some bruises and bumps, so they told me I need to start learning to slide or get out of bounds."

The mental mistakes are what Garcia and the Gamecocks must work through. His most glaring mistake came on a 3rd and 1, when he rushed the team to the line and snapped the ball. The only problem was that he did not actually call a play. He wanted to run a quarterback sneak for the first down, but since nobody knew that was the play, the team was not set and drew a false start penalty.

"It was a run check and I was supposed to call a play, but I didn't because there was nobody lined up," explained Garcia. "I was just going to go ahead and snap it and try to run for it. It was my fault; I should have told the offensive line what was going on."

Carolina appears willing to live with those mistakes. Although Steve Spurrier has refused to name a starter for next week, all indications are that Garcia will see significant playing time again, and possibly the bulk of playing time.

"Obviously we've got to let Garcia play, and obviously we've got to live with his mistakes," Spurrier said after the game. "Garcia did some good things in there, running was the best thing. He gives us a chance to be able to run out of the pocket and make some yards."


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