How Much Magic Does South Carolina Have?

South Carolina has had a weird couple of games so far. It fell behind 17-0 with the backup quarterback before steamrolling ECU 56-20 the rest of the way. Even Steve Spurrier thought the Gamecocks got outplayed in Athens, yet they pulled out a three-point win.

What's been remarkable about the team is its ability to score non-offensive touchdowns. They've scored two each in their first pair of games (two fumble returns, an interception return, and a punt return), which leads the nation in this very early season. Melvin Ingram's 68-yard run on a fake punt technically is an offensive score, as it goes down as a rushing touchdown, but it's not really in spirit.

South Carolina has scored 101 points so far, tied for fourth in the nation, but five of those scores were not generated by normal offense. Take out those five TDs, and this team has been outscored 79-66. If you want to pick things apart even more, they have four touchdown drives of 35 yards or less. That means they were set up by either special teams or defense. Credit goes to the defense and special teams for all of these extra scores, but the offense hasn't been quite as good as the first two games' scores would lead you to believe.

Particularly troubling is the play of Stephen Garcia. Everyone agreed after ECU that he's the better option at quarterback than Connor Shaw is, but he's averaging just 126 yards a game so far. That's below 100th in the nation. His 104.42 passing efficiency is barely above Larry Smith for 99th in the nation. Granted a lot of quarterbacks above him have played cupcakes while he's faced a pair of decent (or better) opponents, but those are nowhere close to his 218.5 yards per game and 148.7 passing efficiency of a year ago. Besides, it's not like the defenses at ECU or UGA are looking like the Steel Curtain. His best work so far has been with his legs, as he's averaging over seven yards a carry (when you take out his one sack) and has three touchdowns. By comparison, he's only thrown two touchdowns.

This weekend's game against Navy is one everyone's pointing to as a possible trap game of months, but it's an important one to get the Gamecocks on track. Navy's never been a defensive powerhouse, and stopping the run is the strength of the D. The passing defense numbers are awful right now, but a lot of that is due to facing ECU's pass-heavy Air Raid system and a very good Aaron Murray. Those figures will perk up after facing the flexbone. By no means should South Carolina decline the opportunity to score in creative ways, but now would be a good time to start sustaining some drives.

If Garcia can't get back to how he was last year, it'll only be a matter of time before Spurrier goes back to Shaw at quarterback. To date, rotating quarterbacks hasn't paid off for Spurrier in Columbia, and Shaw did nothing two weeks ago. If that stuff starts up again, then this team's ability to score non-offensive touchdowns might be what carries it through the meat of the SEC schedule.

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