Last night, playing at Auburn, the Gamecocks did what they do so often, they tore out their fans' hearts and stomped that sucker flat. To say that it was a disappointing loss would be an understatement. The 'Cocks had every opportunity to put the game away, but literally bobbled and fumbled those chances away.
Whether it was the lost chance of simply falling on a fumble instead of trying, and failing, to pick it up or whether it was Stephen Garcia putting the ball on the carpet twice, Carolina had its chances and just couldn't capitalize on them.
But fumbles aren't what's the real story to this game. The real story concerns two things. First, SC's inability to stop that QB-option, inside-zone read. Two weeks after taking shots at Georgia for not being able to stop the same play over and over again, Karma came up and took a big old bite out of the Ole Ballcoach's ass. It was disheartening to watch Ellis Johnson's inability to stop Newton. But in all candor, Newton is pretty special player. There were plenty of times when the Carolina players actually got to the right spot, they just couldn't bring Newton's ass down. Plus, another major factor was that the Defense was plum wore out. They were on the field a LONG time. If we want to make sure this doesn't happen, the key is being able to have an offense that can go on long methodical drives.
That brings us to the second thing we learned last night: as long as Stephen Garcia is the QB, Carolina is limited in how good they can be. Last night was a microcosm of the good and bad of Stephen Garcia. Garcia had what could be considered his best game of the season last night. But the telling part of that equation is that part of his best game was the fact that he put the ball on the ground twice and both fumbles cost the Gamecocks dearly.
Listen, we all know Garcia is tough. He will lower his head and fight for yards as good as any QB in the country. And he has some ability to move around, stay up and make things happen. But Garcia's failing, and what he costs SC when he is in as QB, is that outside of those two things, Garcia CAN NOT operate this offense.
We honestly believe Spurrier didn't yank Garcia because of the fumbles. That first fumble was just a perfect, hard hit. Garcia escaped a jailbreak rush to pick up some positive yards, only to have an Auburn player hit him just right to cause the ball to pop out.
The second fumble, it wasn't the fumble that pissed Spurrier off. It was that on a tough 3rd and 8, Spurrier called the right play and Garcia didn't pull the trigger in time. If Garcia trusts the offense, he throws that out route BEFORE the WR breaks and the ball is right there for the 1st down. Instead, Garcia holds the ball, waiting to see the guy come open. The problem with that, is by the time the guy looks open, it's too late.
That...ladies and gentlemen is what pisses off the ballcoach and rightfully so. Spurrier has not always been "ON" with his playcalling during his stint at SC. But last night he was on. And what he can't stand, more than turnovers, is his QB not executing his plays. Dammit...he knows what to call, just execute the shit.
It has been no secret that Spurrier loves Connor Shaw. Insiders have documented how much Spurrier has been raving about Shaw's grasp of the offense, quick decision making and quick release since the Spring. Those are all the things a QB has to have to operate Spurrier's passing game. On top of all that, Shaw is a better runner than Garcia.
You saw all that last night. Yes, Shaw's first int was all on him. He thought that small pump fake and brief look to the right was gonna pull that safety over enough so that he could drop in over the middle to DeMarco. And he was wrong. But that's the type of mistake a young QB is gonna make. We honestly believe Spurrier is ok with those types of mistakes. That's Shaw failing to execute (by failing to look off the safety), but trusting the offense. What Spurrier can't abide is a QB who can't execute and doesn't have faith in the plays.
But the most telling thing Shaw has over Garcia right now, is that Spurrier trusts Shaw. Spurrier does not trust Garcia. It's evident in the body language on the sidelines. After that second fumble, Spurrier was over there talking to Garcia and all Garcia is doing is looking off into the distance. It's no secret that the USC coaches were all disappointed in Garcia's preparation and commitment this offseason. You combine that with the way he doesn't seem to take any coaching on the sidelines and it's obvious there's a problem.
Shaw is coach's son. He's been getting coached his whole life. That last pass he threw sums him up. He knew the play, knew how it was designed (put the ball up for Alshon) and he didn't hesitate. He made a great throw. Alshon got both mitts on it, but the Auburn defenders made a great hit right at the time of the catch and knocked it loose. But Spurrier all the execution was there except the result. And Spurrier trusts his offense. He figures if he can simply find a QB who will simply do what he tells him to do, he (meaning Spurrier) can QB this team to Atlanta. Like it or not, we agree with Spurrier on this.
For all the people on Facebook and everywhere else who were blasting Spurrier for putting Shaw in, take a second. (Yes...we're talking to all of the "how can you put a freshman in that situation? Easy, your starter put the ball on the ground twice and isn't executing the offense. The "situation" wasn't too much for Shaw. He did fine). Look at how poorly our rushing game was last night. Georgia is not who we thought they were. When we play good teams, they are simply going to scheme to stop Lattimore. If we want to be able to rush the ball, we have to set up the rush with the pass. Garcia is incapable of doing that. His best pass plays are always gonna be on play-action or roll-outs. Shaw has the ability to operate Spurrier's quick, short pocket-passing game. That would allow USC to spread out the defenses some, which would in turn opening up the box some for Lattimore. Spurrier sees this.
In short, this team is limited as long as Garcia is QB because our offense is limited with him. Spurrier knows this. So if we want to reach what potential this team has, and we do have more than we ever have, then we should all hope this is the end of Spurcia.