College Football: South Carolina 56, East Carolina 37
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó Stephen Garcia came off the bench to run for two touchdowns and throw for another as he rallied the 12th-ranked Gamecocks past East Carolina 56-37 on Saturday night.
Marcus Lattimore added 112 yards and three TDs.
Garcia sat the first quarter as South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier started sophomore Connor Shaw. But the Gamecocks fumbled three times, including one by Shaw, and trailed 17-0 before Garcia entered the game. Thatís when the offense started to click and South Carolina took control of the season opener.
Garcia had a 32-yard touchdown run his first series and when Lattimore finished the Gamecocks next drive with a 4-yard scoring run, South Carolina fans at Bank of America Stadium began chanting Garciaís name in celebration.
Spurrier said Garcia would start the Gamecocksí Southeastern Conference opener at Georgia next week. ěYeah, heís back in the box,î the coach said.
But Spurrier said he didnít second guess starting Shaw and that Garcia can and should play better than he did against the Pirates.
Spurrier quashed the notion that Garcia deserved a game ball for the performance.îI said, ëWait a minute. When he throws for about 300 yards and brings us down the field scoring at the end of the game,íî Spurrier said. ěHe played well. But hopefully, heíll have a big, big game.î
Dominique Davis threw for 260 yards and four touchdowns for the Pirates, but when South Carolina wasnít stopping itself, the Pirates had no answers. The Gamecocks outscored ECU 42-13 in second half.
Garcia, the fifth-year senior who has had a tumultuous career filled with suspensions and occasionally great play, opened the second half with a with a 3-yard TD pass to Sanders and put the Gamecocks ahead for good moments later, 28-24, with a 1-yard touchdown run.
he Gamecocks coach put the ball in Shawís hands, saying the sophomore whoíd thrown just 33 college passes had outperformed Garcia throughout the summer.
Garcia left no doubt who the better passer was in this one as the Gamecocks won their 12th straight season opener. Spurrier improved to 42-0 against schools outside the BCS automatic qualifying conferences.
ěStephenís a fine quarterback,î East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill said. ěHe led them to the division championship.î
Garcia was 7 of 15 for 110 yards in three quarters of work.
East Carolina was back at it a series later, Dominique Davis arcing a 19-yard scoring throw to Lance Lewis for a 14-0 lead. When the Pirates tacked on a field goal following a fumbled kickoff by Kenny Miles, South Carolina was down 17-0 and in serious need of a steady, familiar hand at the controls.
Enter Garcia, who despite his troubles had the most passing yards of any returning SEC quarterback. He quickly showed that he has learned a thing or two under Spurrier.
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