ATLANTA, GA (WIS) - South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia was a highly-touted recruit when he came to Columbia from Florida, but had a rocky start. He's greatly looking forward to the SEC Championship game against Auburn, hoping to show he's a changed quarterback after Spurrier benched Garcia during the first game against the Tigers.
Garcia looked great during the first half of the regular season match against Auburn, throwing two touchdown passes to Alshon Jeffery. In the fourth quarter, however, he fumbled the ball twice -- both led to touchdown passes by Cam Newton, and South Carolina ended up losing 35-27.
"I don't think anybody will get used to that -- it definitely hurt" Garcia said after the game, adding that he understood why Spurrier benched him at the end of the game. "I just gotta play better and play smarter."
And Garcia made good on that pledge. Two weeks later against top-ranked Alabama, he completed 17 of 20 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns as South Carolina took down the #1 Crimson Tide. "His thinking was very good, and hopefully he can continue doing that," Spurrier said after the win. "That was by far his best game, and the key is trying to do it again and again and again."
Garcia has developed into a consistent quarterback who takes care of the football. He ranks among the top five SEC quarterbacks in passing yards per game, pass efficiency and total offense. Spurrier says the biggest lesson Garcia learned from his benching was how to protect himself and the ball when he runs.
"He had that tendency to duck his head, and he hasn't done it since," said the head ball coach. "So maybe he said if I duck my head and fumble, I'm coming out of the game."