Stephen Garcia said he understood why he was replaced by Connor Shaw during Saturday’s 35-27 loss to Auburn.
“I don’t think anybody will get used to that but it definitely hurt,” Garcia said. “I didn’t really like that happening but that’s what happened. I can’t fumble twice, that’s the main reason (Spurrier) took me out. I just have to play better and play smarter.”
Spurrier said after practice Tuesday he was concerned with the way Garcia ducked his head when taking on tacklers. He wants Garcia to get on the ground or throw the ball away instead of taking the types of hits he did against the Tigers.
“We ask him to get on the ground,” Spurrier said. “I have never seen any player in college football duck his head the way Stephen does. You can’t do that and avoid injury forever.”
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Garcia said he always has run with the ball that way but he is willing to change if that allows him to continue to be the starting quarterback for the No. 20 Gamecocks.
“It’s a hard habit to get out of,” Garcia said. “You see a bunch of 260-pound guys coming at you, it’s hard to run with your face straight up. I’m going to try and work on it. I’m just going to start getting on the ground. That’s just what I have to start doing, avoid the hits.”
Garcia added that not taking on tacklers is going to be different.
“(Spurrier) doesn’t want me to put my head down,” Garcia said. “He said my head is too far down when I’m running in traffic. It’s going to be pretty hard for me to slide, that’s just not the kind of person I am, but I guess we’ll find out (if I can).”
Garcia said he didn’t realize he was being taken out of the game until he saw Connor Shaw heading to the field with 6:23 remaining in the game after Auburn’s final score.
“It kind of caught me off guard but that’s in the past,” Garcia said. “I’m not really worried about it anymore. It’s hard to accept, but it’s my fault. I can’t fumble twice on those two drives and give them the short field to work with. I’m taking responsibility for it. I just have to play smarter.”
Spurrier said Garcia will start against Alabama on October 9. The redshirt junior said he has the support of his teammates, and he expects them to learn from the struggles against Auburn.
“All of the guys on the team have talked to me and they all have my back,” he said. “We’re going to be just fine. We’ve got a nice bye week this week to get ready for Alabama, and we’ll be prepared for them.”
Limited snaps, maybe
Steve Spurrier Jr. said Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley have the bulk of the catches because the Gamecocks are not getting enough offensive snaps each game. But USC is averaging 64 snaps a game, which is fifth in the SEC.
Jeffery and Gurley have combined for 39 catches while the remainder of the wide receivers have 12. Ace Sanders leads the way with five grabs among that group.
“Not everybody is going to get an opportunity to play some,” Spurrier Jr. said. “When you get your opportunity to play some, you better be ready. If we start playing 80, 90, 100 plays a game, you will see all the guys on the field. We’ve got guys that can play and we’ve got a few frustrated because they aren’t playing much. I’d love to give those guys an opportunity to play.”
Marcus Lattimore said he understood why the Gamecocks abandoned the running game in the second half against Auburn. The freshman running back had three carries for seven yards in the second half and 14 for the game. He finished with a season-low 33 yards.
“It wasn’t disappointing because obviously it wasn’t working,” Lattimore said. “We did what was working and we kept doing it and we were successful with it. We just couldn’t finish it.”
Offensive tackle Hutch Eckerson has not been available the past two games after suffering a sprained right ankle in the victory against Georgia. He has returned to practice full-time and is expecting to play against Alabama.
“I’ve been practicing all this week,” he said. “My ankle feels good. I am confident I will be playing next week.”