South Carolina defeats East Carolina 56-37

Surge in second half makes up for early struggles

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Connor Shaw (center) started at QB for South Carolina and struggled in the first quarter. He fumbled twice and failed to lead a scoring drive before giving way to Stephen Garcia.   BOB LEVERONE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
BOB LEVERONE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Connor Shaw (center) started at QB for South Carolina and struggled in the first quarter. He fumbled twice and failed to lead a scoring drive before giving way to Stephen Garcia.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — No. 12 South Caro­lina entered the season with sky-high expectations, and those lofty dreams almost crashed Saturday night before the season barely got under way.

Almost.

Senior quarterback Stephen Garcia came off the bench to account for three touchdowns, and the Gamecocks survived a shaky first half to defeat East Carolina 56-31 before 58,272 fans at Bank of America Stadium.

South Carolina lost four fumbles in the first half to allow the Pirates to take a 24-14 lead, but the Gamecocks quickly responded with three touchdowns in the first five minutes of the second half to regain control.

Garcia didn’t start Saturday because coach Steve Spurrier said sophomore Connor Shaw had performed better during preseason workouts. Garcia, who was suspended in the off-season, rejoined the team in August. He had started 28 consecutive games and led the Gamecocks to the SEC championship game last year.

“Stephen will start next week (against Georgia),” Spurrier said after the game. “Connor had some tough luck.”

Shaw presided over a lackluster first quarter that featured four drives, two fumbles and zero points. He rushed six times for 19 yards, and he completed two of eight passes for 18 yards and took one sack.

East Carolina led 17-0 before Garcia entered the game at 9:43 of the second quarter. He came in to an ovation from the Gamecock faithful and promptly led South Carolina 59 yards to a touchdown. The final 32 yards came on a Garcia run up the middle, the longest run of his career.

After the Pirates fumbled the kickoff, South Carolina converted the short field into another touchdown. Marcus Lattimore did the honors to pull South Carolina to 17-14.

Another South Carolina fumble before the half led to another East Carolina touchdown.

“We yelled at them for a minute,” Spurrier said of the atmosphere in the locker room at halftime. “Then we calmed down and realized coming from behind might not be a bad thing.”

South Carolina pounced on the Pirates in the second half. After Antonio Allen forced a fumble, Garcia found Ace Sanders on a 3-yard touchdown pass. Then, after another turnover, Garcia rushed 10 yards for the go-ahead score.

South Carolina’s defense got into the scoring when Allen stripped an East Carolina ball carrier and raced 25 yards into the end zone.

The Gamecocks also scored on special teams. Sanders returned a punt 68 yards in the fourth quarter.

MORE ONLINE

FIND MORE on South Carolina’s season-opening victory over East Carolina at augustachronicle.com.

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TruthJusticeFaithHope
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TruthJusticeFaithHope 09/04/11 - 07:31 am
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I was traveling and

I was traveling and attempting to follow the game ... or scores on my phone... all with spotty internet connections... this story by John Boyette, sure paints a different picture than what I was experiencing. A great second half put the QB controversy to bed... for now, but we all know how much Spurier likes to tinker with the QB's and get in their heads. Shaw has skills, but if you cannot protect the ball, you cannot play, unless there are no other options. EC's Team... and QB must be pretty good, but that was not even mentioned in this article. As I traveled, I kept asking my wife: "Where is the Defense?" Anyway... it is so great to have college football back. Oh, where I traveled was to the Coastal / Fuman Game... daughter attends coastal, nephew plays for Furman... Furman got robbed by the refs... I have never seen so many no call and three game changing calls which were so bad, even the refs were arguing. The refs never warned or penalized Coastal for BLASTING THE STADIUM SPEAKERS WITH DANCE MUSIC ON EVERY FURMAN 3RD DOWN. It was bad bush league refereeing. Can't wait for next week... for all the games... and for being able to watch on TV.

etlinks
20251
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etlinks 09/04/11 - 08:00 am
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Truth- ECU did perform at a

Truth- ECU did perform at a higher level than I expected and I give them alot of repect for a good game plan but Carolinas depth on the defensive line was one of the reasons for the win. Way too many turnovers for both sides. One of the best games for Garcia and some bad luck for Shaw. Happy to get out alive on this one.

j-campbell
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j-campbell 09/04/11 - 02:32 pm
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I think Spurrier made a

I think Spurrier made a serious psychological error on his choice for starting QB. Of the two, who should be more comfortable in the starting role given the exaggerated hype surrounding the start of this season. It was obvious from the first series that Shaw was not sharp last night. I suspect his nerves got the better of him. He is a very talented QB and will play well this year, but Garcia had the experience advantage, and it showed once he entered the game. I expect that had the roles been reversed, Shaw would have played much better had he entered the game from the bench.

If the 'Cocks can hold onto the ball next week, I hope for good things in Athens.

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