It could be just like old times for South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia, whose next start looks as if it will be in his hometown of Tampa, Fla.
A day after watching Chris Smelley throw a career-high four interceptions in a 31-14 loss at Clemson, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier pulled the trigger on another move at quarterback.
Spurrier announced Sunday that Garcia, who did not play against Clemson, would start USC’s bowl game, which by all indications will be the Outback.
The Gamecocks could face Iowa on New Year’s Day at Raymond James Stadium, located less than three miles from Garcia’s high school, Jefferson.
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Garcia, a redshirt freshman who has appeared in seven games, has two previous starts: a loss to LSU and a win against Tennessee. But Spurrier rotated Smelley and Garcia nearly every play against Arkansas and Florida before letting Smelley go the distance at Clemson.
Now it is Garcia’s turn again.
“We’re going to give the bowl game to Stephen, just like we gave the last game to Chris,” Spurrier said in a release. “We are going to coach him as hard as we can and get him as ready as we can to play at a high level in the bowl game. We’ll give him a chance to take it and see what he can do.”
The 6-foot-2, 221-pound Garcia has completed 53.8 percent of his passes for 753 yards and six touchdowns, with five interceptions. He has run for 173 yards and two scores.
Smelley, who is 9-6 as a starter, has a 56.5 completion percentage for 1,743 yards and 13 touchdowns. Smelley has thrown 15 interceptions, second most among SEC quarterbacks behind LSU Jarrett Lee, who has 16.
Tommy Beecher, who threw four interceptions as the opening-game starter against N.C. State, might not make the bowl trip. Multiple sources said Spurrier has encouraged Beecher to move on.
Twice in the past week Spur-rier said Beecher did not want to play after taking several hard hits against the Wolfpack. The senior has appeared in one game since the opener, completing 2 of 4 passes against Alabama-Birmingham.
USC quarterbacks have combined for 24 interceptions, more than any team in the country other than SMU (25).
Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.