Stephen Garcia left himself open Saturday for another harsh critique from his coach.
Instead, Steve Spurrier defended his senior quarterback. That wasn’t easy following a career-worst four interceptions by Garcia in South Carolina’s 21-3 win against Vanderbilt at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“This is not all on Stephen,” Spurrier said.
The Gamecocks (4-0) replaced Garcia with backup Connor Shaw early in the fourth quarter, but Garcia probably will start against Auburn next week.
“He probably will (start) the way we are looking at things now, but if some of those other guys look great in practice, yeah, we’ll put them in there,” Spurrier said. “They haven’t really impressed us that much in practice. We’ll see how it goes. He’s doing the best he can.”
Garcia finished 16-of-30 for 228 yards, one touchdown and those four interceptions. His statistics wouldn’t have been that good if not for a screen pass to Marcus Lattimore that went 52 yards for a touchdown and a tipped ball that resulted in a 51-yard gain by Ace Sanders.
“I’ll take luck over talent every day,” Garcia said. “Those plays, they usually haven’t happened for us in the past, but they are happening for us this year. I am not complaining about it.”
Garcia won his 20th game as South Carolina’s starter, tying Steve Taneyhill for second place in school history. Todd Ellis has the school record at 24.
Shaw finished 1-of-2 for 8 yards. The Gamecocks tried wide receiver Bruce Ellington for one play as a wildcat quarterback and even that blew up in their face.
“Did you see that play?” Spurrier asked. “It went right through his hands. He picks it up and loses about 15 yards, so that was a smart play wasn’t it.”
Two of Garcia’s interceptions were partially the fault of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. On the second interception, Jeffery ran the wrong route. On the final interception, Jeffery, who was beginning to turn his back because he thought Garcia was running with the ball, had the ball hit his hands before being picked off.
The Commodores came into the game leading the NCAA with 10 interceptions.
“Hopefully, this is the last week we play like this offensively,” Garcia said. “I don’t think we can survive playing like that. We just have to keep getting better every day and get our head together.”
Garcia has seven interceptions and three touchdown passes this season. In his past six games, he has 12 interceptions and five touchdowns. He was not upset that he was pulled from the game, he said.
“A win is a win,” he said. “If we would have lost, (heck) yeah, it would have been very frustrating.”
Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery
Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney