Spurrier benches Garcia, wants offense to improve

Photo Credit: Photo courtesy:USC Sports Information

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - After watching his offense struggle to generate points through the first five games of the season Steve Spurrier is changing his quarterback.

Following Monday night's practice, Spurrier named Connor Shaw the starter for Saturday's game against Kentucky. Shaw takes over the starting spot from fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia who has thrown 9 interceptions, 4 touchdowns and has completed just 51 percent of his passes through five games this season.

"This is his game, it's his opportunity to go play and we think he's ready,"said Coach Spurrier of Shaw. "We're going to find out Saturday. As most everyone knows, our quarterback play has not been as good as we hoped. We've got to do something. Maybe some other positions were looking at also."

Criticism has been mounting against the USC offense and Garcia even before the team's 16-13 loss to Auburn this past Saturday, USC's first loss of the season.

Spurrier pointed out Tuesday that at this point in the season last year the team had two losses, adding "we didn't think we were going to go undefeated" this season.

However, Spurrier did not elaborate on Garcia's struggles.

"I can't get in to all that," said Spurrier. "Stephen is trying as hard as he can. It just hasn't worked out for him."

While Spurrier isn't saying much about Garcia, he is demanding that his offense find ways to get the ball to playmakers Damiere Byrd, Alshon Jeffery, and Ace Sanders. He's hoping Shaw, a second-year player with just 252 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in his college career, can help spark a Gamecock passing attack that ranks 101st in the nation, accounting for just 4 touchdown passes and 873 yards this season.

"It's an opportunity I'm willing to take advantage of," said Shaw. "I think I'm ready to play. I'm excited and we'll see how it goes this Saturday. I feel confident and I feel like I'm ready to play."

Shaw played the first quarter of South Carolina's season opener against East Carolina, but was benched in favor of Garcia with the Gamecocks trailing 17-0. Garcia rallied the team to a 56-37 victory, and Shaw has seen limited action since.

"I just ask all the Gamecock fans to give Connor your support the same way you have all the others players here. I think hes ready to play well," said Spurrier. "It wasn't that hard a call. At some point we have to do something to shake up this offense and this is the first step. We'll see how it goes. It's Connor's game. Unless he gets hurt, this is his game."

In other news, SEC Defensive Player of the Week Melvin Ingram did not practice due to a left foot strain.

The Gamecocks will return to the practice field Tuesday afternoon.