There are times when you hear Steve Spurrier talk that you’d swear he’s had it up to the bill of his visor with Stephen Garcia.
The Head Ball Coach sounded that way last spring, and he sounded that way for much of the summer.
Then there are other times that you hear Spurrier talk, and it’s obvious that he’s had to remind himself that Garcia gives South Carolina the best chance to win right now.
“We’re going to give Stephen every opportunity to be our quarterback,” Spurrier said this week.
That’s after benching him for the final two possessions at Auburn two weeks ago in favor of true freshman Connor Shaw.
Garcia had played some of his best football of his career through the first three quarters on the Plains. He was 15-of-21 for 235 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions when he got the hook.
But he’d also fumbled the ball away on each of the Gamecocks’ previous two possessions.
Garcia found out he would be watching the rest of the Auburn game from the sidelines when he saw Shaw putting on his helmet and getting ready to enter the game.
“I can’t fumble twice. That can’t happen,” Garcia said last week, one of the rare occasions he’s been made available to reporters during the middle of the week.
“That’s the main reason (Spurrier) took me out. I’ve just got to play better, play smarter.”
He’s going to get that chance Saturday against No. 1-ranked Alabama and a Crimson Tide defense that has forced seven turnovers in its past two games.
Spurrier’s banking on the “Good” Garcia showing up and not the “Bad” Garcia.
The “Bad” Garcia is the one that’s just about driven the Head Ball Coach batty.
He starts running around with his head down the second he feels pressure. He doesn’t secure the football, and he also has a bad habit of hanging onto the football too long and taking sacks.
The Gamecocks have lost three fumbles this season, and they’ve all come courtesy of the “Bad” Garcia.
“We’ve emphasized as much as we possibly can to hold onto the ball when he’s about to get tackled, to get down and hold onto the ball,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully, he can start doing that. He obviously hasn’t done it in three years yet. But we’ve emphasized that and believe he’s got a chance to cure that fault of his.
“Other than that, he’s played pretty well.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement. But considering the way Spurrier was piling on this offseason, it’s an improvement.
And to Garcia’s credit, he’s been “Good” Garcia a lot more than he’s been “Bad” Garcia this season. He’s only thrown two interceptions and has done a better job of not free-lancing and getting himself into trouble.
Here’s the other thing: Spurrier knows Shaw isn’t quite ready. He’s shown some flashes and looks like he’s going to be a good one.
But if the Gamecocks are going to get to their first SEC championship game in school history this year, Garcia’s going to be the one to take them there.
He’s completing 69.1 percent of his passes and is fourth in the league in passing efficiency. Nobody has ever questioned his toughness, and he’s also tried to become a more vocal leader.
The next step is making a few plays in the fourth quarter that help the Gamecocks win rather than sealing their fate.
Doing that may require more help from the guys in front of him. As down as Spurrier has been on Garcia at times, it doesn’t compare with the Head Ball Coach’s angst concerning his offensive line.
The Gamecocks have played poorly up front in each of their past two outings, which is particularly troubling considering all the different blitz schemes the Crimson Tide like to throw at you.
Gaining some yardage on first down would be a big help to Garcia, too.
If you’re continually facing third-and-long against Alabama’s defense, it’s going to be a long day for the quarterback. And it matters little if it’s Tim Tebow back there, Ryan Mallett or Garcia.
“Our offensive line needs to not get pushed around,” Spurrier said. “We need to hold our own in there. That will certainly give us a better chance.”
That and the “Good” Garcia showing up for all four quarters Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.