After five years of red-shirting, starting, benching and suspending South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia – not to mention his drinking binges, barroom brawls and whatever he did at last year’s Chick-Fil-A Bowl – it’s finally time for Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier to pull the plug on the Garcia experiment.
The senior signal-caller has shown flashes of brilliance and moments of stupidity during his tenure at USC, but Saturday’s meltdown against Auburn should be the straw that breaks the ol’ ball coach’s back.
Spurrier has endured five years of frustration with Garcia, forming a love/hate relationship that switches gears with every touchdown/interception. You can see Spurrier light up when he thinks his personal pet project is finally getting it, then die a little inside when he sees Garcia reverting to freshman mental status.
Spurrier thought he had finally made his point when he named Connor Shaw the starter for the season opener against East Carolina, then turned the reigns back over to Garcia when the Gamecocks fell in a 17-0 hole. Garcia brought the Gamecocks back and it looked like all was finally right between the coach and QB.
But then came a sloppy game against Georgia in which the defense bailed the Gamecocks’ offense out, then a solid but not spectacular showing against Navy, then a down-right perplexing performance against Vanderbilt. Yes, all the games were wins, but it seemed to be in spite of Garcia taking the snaps, not because of him.
Through it all Spurrier was preaching “patience” on his part, a word that seemed to hurt more and more each time he said it. Spurrier is as impatient as they come when it comes to QBs. As a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Florida and a backup in the NFL, he has been notoriously hard on college kids during his coaching career.
But Spurrier has given Garcia about as much leash as any QB Spurrier has encountered, and I’m not just talking about his off-the-field escapades. The only consistency about Garcia’s game is that every time he takes one step forward, he then takes two steps back.
And never was that more evident than last Saturday, when Garcia threw four interceptions against an Auburn defense that has been torched for more than 100 total points by the likes of Utah State, Mississippi State and Clemson this season. The Gamecocks racked up a total of 13.
USC’s lone touchdown came in the first quarter on a 50-yard pass from Garcia to Alshon Jeffrey, who basically stole the ball away from a short defender and took it to the house. Take it out of the equation and Garcia was 12-for-24 with four picks, giving him a total of nine picks to only four TDs for the season.
Sure, Garcia was leading the Gamecocks on a possible game-tying drive when the clock seemed to take the final second away from USC, but the Gamecocks never should have been in that position.
The defense repeatedly stopped Auburn while Garcia should have been backing them up with another touchdown or two. Instead he continued to play down to the level of competition as he seems to do every week.
Not to single out Garcia because there’s room for improvement at every position, but it’s obvious the offense, even with all its high-powered weaponry, is not clicking. And that responsibility falls squarely on the QB.
The good news is the Gamecocks are still very much alive for their goal of an SEC title, but it’s time to make a change before it’s too late and give Shaw or whoever he deems as his next option a warm-up game against Kentucky before getting into the meat-grinder part of the schedule.
The fact that Garcia has not shown improvement, or in fact has shown deprovement, after all the second-chances he has been given should be enough to tell Spurrier all he needs to know about the disappointing QB.
It’s time to say “See ya” to Garcia.