Spurrier says changes ahead for No. 18 Gamecocks
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Steve Spurrier is promising changes after another awful offensive performance from No. 18 South Carolina. He's just not ready to say what they'll be.
The Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) had four turnovers and barely crossed midfield in a 16-13 loss to Auburn on Saturday. South Carolina managed only 289 yards and 13 first downs - both season lows. Spurrier said Sunday his team has to improve, no matter what it takes to get there.
"We've got to shake the offense up somehow,'' Spurrier said. "We'll let you know later in the week.''
The biggest question - as it usually is when Spurrier is looking to change - centers on South Carolina's quarterback. Fifth-year starter Stephen Garcia has regressed this season from a year ago when he was one of the SEC's top passers and helped the Gamecocks to the SEC Eastern Division title.
Garcia has thrown six interceptions and just two touchdown passes the past two games. Against Auburn, he was continually off-target, throwing short or sailing balls out of reach of Gamecocks receivers.
In 2010, Garcia and receiver Alshon Jeffery were a gold-star combination, teaming for nine TD hookups. But Jeffery's 50-yard touchdown catch against Auburn was just his second of the season, one fewer than put up by defensive end Melvin Ingram this fall.
Garcia finished 9 of 23 for 160 yards against Auburn.
It hasn't all been Garcia's fault, Jeffery said. "We were open out there. He just didn't have enough time'' to get his passes off, Jeffery said. "Or he overthrew us on a couple of plays.''
Garcia has been one of Spurrier's most frustrating projects since he arrived on campus as the next of the head ball coach's great passers in January 2007. But Garcia quickly turned into a headache for Gamecocks coaches. He was arrested twice and suspended both times his first six weeks at school in what would become a continuing pattern.
Garcia was suspended three more times, including twice this spring, for behavioral issues. When he was reinstated, Garcia spoke of his improved attitude and dedication to the game, something Spurrier praised throughout the preseason.
But it was sophomore Connor Shaw who opened the season as starter, playing the first quarter against East Carolina before Garcia rallied the Gamecocks to a 56-37 victory after trailing 17-0.
Spurrier said South Carolina overcame offensive errors and a lack of a passing game with a stellar defense and the running of tailback Marcus Lattimore. That didn't happen against Auburn, which held Lattimore to a season-low 66 yards and scored a late touchdown against a worn-down Gamecocks defense to win its seventh in a row over South Carolina.
"We were living through a lot of errors Stephen would make,'' Spurrier said. "We were hoping and believing those errors would go away.''
They have not and now Spurrier is considering changes before its costs the Gamecocks a chance to return to the SEC title game.
"We've coached Stephen to play better, but he plays similarly about every game,'' Spurrier said.
If not Garcia at quarterback, then who?
Spurrier said Shaw and reserve Dylan Thompson have looked good in practice scrimmages. Spurrier's rarely hesitated at pulling a passer throughout his career. He proudly tells a story of how he sat Heisman Trophy winner Danny Weurffel during the 1996 national championship season because Spurrier thought his quarterback was paying too much attention to his press clippings.
Garcia has had a difficult time off the field. His grandfather died this week and Garcia continued with practice and the game. Garcia did not meet with reporters after the game to spend time with family. "It's tough losing, especially like that,'' he told a member of South Carolina media relations staff.
For Auburn, the victory was a chance to find its stride after getting knocked around by Clemson two weeks ago and falling to last in SEC defense. Barrett Trotter's 9-yard pass to Phillip Lutzenkirchen with 1:38 left rallied the Tigers (4-1, 2-0) at the end. The Tigers returned to the national rankings at No. 15.
"It was awesome,'' Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb said. "Nobody thought we could come down here and win in Columbia.''
Spurrier is wondering what it will take for his offense to succeed anywhere without some changes.
"We're not blocking real well, not throwing real well, not making third downs and when you do that, you don't have a good offense,'' he said.