Garcia shines as Garnet wins G&B Game 30-14
South Carolina spent parts of spring practice working with certain players to try and get them ready for the possibility of playing both sides of the ball. But during Saturday's annual Garnet and Black Spring Game, it was a guy who played a little bit for both teams that had fans in awe. Gamecock quarterback Stephen Garcia spent the first half of the game with the Garnet squad, amassing 135 yards and a touchdown on a 12-of-19 passing day before switching to the Black team and throwing another score to cement his place as the unquestioned starter for next season as the Garnet team rolled to a 30-14 win.
"I think I did pretty well. I had a few overthrows to Jason Barnes, but overall I think the offense as a whole did pretty well," Garcia said.
Though he's been in Columbia for two previous springs, Garcia was taking part in his first spring practice session as a Gamecock. And from the get-go it appeared that extra work had paid off. The Tampa native started the game off 7-of-8 on the Garnet team's first two drives, but two missed field goals failed to yield any points. Garcia continued move the ball down the field in spurts, but over the next two drives the offense stalled out. That's when he used an eight-play drive that featured four tosses of over 10 yards to get things moving. He capped the drive with a 28-yard connection to Joe Hills for the only score of the first half for either team.
At the half, Garcia changed into a white jersey, and on the fifth possession came on to connect with Moe Brown for a 9-yard score that was his only pass of the second half.
Though his scoring and numbers were impressive, the most important number to USC coach Steve Spurrier was simple – zero turnovers. After committing four in the bowl game against Iowa, Garcia protected the football for no picks while rushing for another 16 net yards. Also, in four previous spring games the Gamecocks have an 11-to-13 touchdown-to-interceptions ratio, so the limited giveaways to the defense was a pleasant and welcome change.
"He's obviously better than he once was. He's still got a ways to go," Spurrier said. "But anyway it was maybe a little bit more efficient than some of our spring games around here, but still it was nothing to get too overly excited about."
While Garcia was flourishing, second stringer Reid McCollum was struggling to find a rhythm. With the Black team in the first half, McCollum went 1-for-6 with his only pass going to running back Eric Baker for a one-yard gain. In the second half, McCollum made the switch to the Garnet squad and started to put things together. During a fourth quarter that featured four touchdowns, McCollum connected with tight end Weslye Saunders for a 16-yard score that trimmed the Garnet's lead to 17-14.
"Reid got off to a very slow start and then threw some good ones there at the end," Spurrier said.
In all, six different players spent time under center, and the six combined to be sacked eight times by a defense that wasn't allowed to blitz. The six finished a combined 28-of-50 with three touchdowns and just one interception. The improved performance was encouraging for Spurrier as his focus now turns to seeing who is committed to getting better over the summer.
"We've got a long way to go, long way to go and hopefully our guys will have a very productive summer. We've got (four) months at least between now and the next game," Spurrier said. "A good four and half months, so we've got a lot of time if our players can improve and work on their own, work with out strength coaches and so fourth."
While they aren't allowed to work with players and can't mandate any practices, Spurrier is hopeful that Garcia and the receivers will spend the summer months working on routes and getting even more acclimated to each other.
Along with that, Garcia said that Spurrier has asked him to throw a lot during the summer and work on his technique and the fundamentals.
"He says he wants me throwing 100-120 balls a day so it's going to be stressful on the shoulder, but that's the only way I'm going to get better," Garcia said.
The direct correlation between Garcia and the team's success is what Spurrier is hopeful the young quarterback will see and use as motivation during the summertime.
"We're in better shape at quarterback if Stephen has a good summer. Stephen should be ready to play well if he will dedicate himself this summer," Spurrier said. "We're still trying to get them to play at a higher effort level. They can play at a higher level, certainly we believe."
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