South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia has made 28 consecutive starts for the Gamecocks dating back to the Outback Bowl on New Years Day in 2009.
There won't be a 29th straight start for the embattled fifth-year senior, according to head football coach Steve Spurrier.
In a surprising move, Spurrier announced on his weekly radio show that sophomore Connor Shaw will start at quarterback against East Carolina on Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Spurrier, who said earlier in the week that both quarterbacks would play on Saturday, insisted that Shaw's performance during the Gamecocks' preseason camp was enough to promote the Flowery Branch, Ga., native over Garcia.
In two preseason scrimmages, Shaw completed 15 of 22 passes for 339 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception. He missed one scrimmage with a dislocated thumb. Garcia, meanwhile, was 20 of 39 for 253 yards, with one interception and one touchdown.
"I said way back we're going to have a preseason competition to see who the starter is going to be
(the) first game," Spurrier said. "We've gone through preseason, so it's over. The guy who rated the best was Connor Shaw. He played better than Stephen Garcia. Simple as that. So he's going to start the game."
Garcia won't be a spectator all game. Spurrier said the Lutz, Fla., native will play during the first half.
"(Shaw) is going to play the first quarter and Stephen's going to play the second quarter," Spurrier said. "And we're going to see what happens after that. That's the fair way to do it."
Garcia, who has a legitimate shot at breaking just about every major career passing mark in the school's history this season, has played in 35 games and is 17-13 as a starter. Garcia ranks third in school history in career passing yards (6,753), passing touchdowns (43), completions (528) and passing attempts (903). In 2010, Shaw played in nine games during his freshman season, mostly in mop-up duty, throwing for 223 yards and one TD. He completed 69.7 percent of his passes.
Playing two quarterbacks is nothing new for Spurrier. The former Heisman Trophy winner is notoriously tough on his quarterbacks and has never hesitated to bench one when they are not performing to his expectations. Four times in the eight seasons that Spurrier led Florida to an SEC title, he platooned two quarterbacks. The last time was in 2000 when Jesse Palmer and Rex Grossman shared the quarterbacking duties for the Gators.
"Sometimes I'll hear coaches say (a player has) won the competition (in preseason camp) so he's our quarterback for the year," Spurrier said earlier in the week. "I don't know how you can do that. If you have two pretty close, if one is struggling, I don't know how you'll tell the other he doesn't have a chance."
Earlier in the week, Spurrier said that Garcia's off-the-field troubles, which led to five separate suspensions, would not be a factor in his decision on a starting quarterback.
"We have forgiven Stephen for his transgressions," Spurrier said Tuesday. "He's a new person, he really is. It's all history. We're starting fresh. It's based on performance from here on out."
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