Garcia rallies Gamecocks to 56-37 win over ECU

Teammates congratulate Garcia on his lead-changing touchdown
Teammates congratulate Garcia on his lead-changing touchdown

CHARLOTTE, NC (WIS) - Fifth-year senior 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. That's 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 Garcia's name in celebration.

Garcia opened the second half with a with a 3-yard TD pass to Ace Sanders and put the Gamecocks ahead for good moments later, 28-24, with a 1-yard touchdown run.

After the game, Spurrier said Garcia would be the go-to starter for the foreseeable future. Still, the head ball coach stuck by his decision to start Shaw after the younger quarterback performed better in scrimmages.

"[Shaw's] stats and his taking care of the ball in scrimmage has been a little bit better than Stephen, and Stephen brings a lot of experience," Spurrier said before the game. "He's got some pluses here and there, but again - our quarterback play - if we're going to win big, it has to really be good. I think those two competing with each other has made them both better players."

South Carolina freshman wide receiver Damiere Byrd didn't suit up for the Gamecocks because of a compliance issue, according to athletics spokesman Steve Fink.

Byrd is a highly regarded speedster who quickly caught coach Steve Spurrier's attention and was expected to see action against the Pirates as a third-string receiver and possibly on special teams. Spurrier is supposed to discuss Byrd's situation following the game. Byrd is from Sicklerville, N.J., and picked the Gamecocks over Florida, Ole Miss and Iowa.

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Copyright 2011 WIS. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.