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His offense on the brink, can Steve Spurrier finally quit Stephen Garcia?

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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Steve Spurrier's mercurial relationship with his quarterbacks has always been the stuff of a long-running, serial melodrama that spans decades. He loves them. He despises them. He shuffles them. He's enshrined alongside them in bronze. He is visibly tormented by them.

But by none of them has the Ball Coach been tormented quite so visibly as he is by Stephen Garcia. So much so that, for a long time, I was convinced the Spurrier secretly hated Garcia. At the very least, he never trusted him. Even after Garcia took every meaningful snap of the 2009 season as a redshirt sophomore, Spurrier ended that season by apologizing for the wretchedness of the offense and spent the next nine months openly threatening to put Garcia on the bench in 2010. It took another month-and-a-half and a stunning upset over Alabama for Spurrier to stop occasionally yanking Garcia for freshman Connor Shaw, sometimes in critical situations. Again, the season ended with two dismal efforts by the offense in back-to-back losses to Auburn and Florida State, the latter accompanied by rumors of a pre-game "incident" that eventually earned Garcia another suspension — his fourth in as many years — at the start of spring practice.

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Still, presented with yet another opportunity to set his McConaughey-ian problem child permanently adrift — and to come in for a round of applause from the "discipline"-minded corners of the media — Spurrier left the door open for Garcia's return and waited exactly one quarter into the season opener against East Carolina to reinstall him as the No. 1 QB, again.

So when it comes to the latest attempt to relegate Garcia to the bench, on the heels of Saturday's deflating, 16-13 loss to Auburn...

In hopes of revitalizing a lethargic offense, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier named sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw as the Gamecocks' starter this Saturday against Kentucky.
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"It wasn't that hard a call," Spurrier said after practice on Monday. "At some point, we had to do something to shake up this offense, and this is the first step."

… I say: good luck with that.{YSP:MORE}

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In part, that's because Shaw has given no indication in multiple opportunities that he's up to seizing the day. Quite the opposite, in fact: In his two major appearances to date in games that were still in doubt, Shaw has a) Thrown two late interceptions in the fourth quarter of Carolina's 2010 loss at Auburn, a game the Gamecocks led at the start of the fourth quarter; and b) Led the offense to two turnovers, two punts and a 17-0 deficit after the first four possessions of his only career start, before Garcia returned to rally the 'Cocks for a 56-37 win over ECU.

But as bad as he's been over the first five games — and honestly, that's very bad: Four-interceptions-against-Vanderbilt, 13-points-against-the-worst-defense-in-the-league kind of bad — Garcia remains by far the most battle-tested quarterback in the SEC, and this is the point where he's consistently turned it around in his career. Pulled after two crucial turnovers in a loss at Auburn? Come back to snap Alabama's 29-game regular season winning streak the following week. Throw two interceptions in a lopsided home loss to Arkansas? Come back to upset Florida on the road and lock up the division title the following week. Facing permanent exile after your fifth suspension? Keep your nose clean long enough to return to the coaches' good graces. Benched to start the season opener? Come off the bench to lead the team out of a three-score hole.

Garcia hasn't had a decent day as a passer this season, and if Spurrier gets his way, Shaw won't give him the chance. That may hold through Saturday's visit from Kentucky, maybe through next week's trip to Mississippi State and the subsequent bye week ahead of a trip to Tennessee on Oct. 29. But at some point, most likely when the window on the Gamecocks' best chance at returning to the SEC Championship Game looks like it's about to slam shut, book it: We haven't seen the last of Stephen Garcia.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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