Stephen Garcia was supposed to provide stability between the lines for the Southeastern Conference East division favorite Gamecocks this year. Instead, he's become a constant headache off the field for South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier.
Sure, the fifth-year senior has been suspended five times while in Columbia, and there was talk last summer that he might not be welcomed back this season.
But he also completed 224-of-349 passes (64.2 percent) for 3,059 yards (averaging 220 yards-a-game, second-best in the conference) and 20 touchdowns en route to leading South Carolina to the SEC East title in 2010.
In his third full season as a starter, Garcia is on pace to finish among the school's all-time leaders in passing yardage, touchdowns and wins. And Garcia's success dates all the way back to Tampa Jefferson High School, where he threw for more than 8,000 yards, ran for 1,345 yards and had a combined 100 passing and rushing touchdowns.
However, on Saturday against previously unbeaten Vanderbilt, Garcia, one of the SEC's most veteran quarterbacks, struggled mightily.
The 6'2", 232-pounder completed 16 of 30 passes for 228 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions. He was pulled in the fourth quarter in favor of sophomore Connor Shaw who went 1-for-2 for eight yards before giving way to redshirt freshman Dylan Thompson, who did not attempt a pass during his one series.
Still, despite Garcia's subpar outing, the Gamecocks were able to improve to 4-0 (2-0 in the SEC) with a 21-3 victory against the much-improved Commodores (3-1, 1-1). The win lifted South Carolina to ninth in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 10th in the Associated Press rankings.
Even though his starting quarterback had a rocky game, Spurrier - never afraid to switch up his signal-callers - told postandcourier.com that Garcia would be back in the lineup next week when defending BCS champion Auburn visits Williams-Brice Stadium.
"I'm not going to say anything bad about Stephen," Spurrier said. "Stephen is actually trying the best he can. He is trying the best he can, and that's all as a coach you can ever ask a person to do."
Obviously, Spurrier saw some positive things in Garcia that may not have been evident to fans watching the game live. The question now is if Garcia has another rough performance, how long will the famously impatient head ball coach remain patient?
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