Charlotte, NC – Stephen Garcia rescued South Carolina's ranked Gamecocks rallied for a 56-37 win over East Carolina.
Sophomore Connor Shaw started in place of Garcia, but was replaced in the second quarter with the Gamecocks (1-0) trailing 17-0. Garcia completed 7- of-15 passes for 110 yards and score and also ran for a pair of touchdowns.
South Carolina was behind 24-14 at the half, but had three touchdowns in a span of less than two minutes.
"The whole second half we played well," Lattimore said. "The offensive line did a great job."
Dominique Davis connected on 37-of-56 throws for 260 yards with four TDs and an interception for the Pirates (0-1), who finished 6-7 last season under first-year head coach Ruffin McNeill.
It was a rough offseason for Garcia, who was suspended on April 6 for violating team rules. He was finally reinstated in early August for the Gamecocks, who went 9-5 last season and claimed the SEC East title, but lost to Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Garcia entered his senior year having started 28 straight games, but head coach Steve Spurrier went to Shaw instead
Davis' eight-yard TD pass to Joe Womack with three seconds left in the half gave the Pirates a 10-point cushion, but the tide turned quickly in the third.
"I thought it was a tale of two halves for us," McNeill said. "We have been talking all spring and fall to be a team that played tough, hard, and fast. I thought we did that in the first half."
Unfortunately, that didn't happen in half No. 2 for the Pirates.
Lance Lewis fumbled after making a reception on the second play of the half. Garcia capped the short drive with a three-yard TD pass to the left side for Ace Sanders on 3rd-and-goal with 12:28 left in the period.
ECU turned the ball over, just three plays into its next possession on a fumble, which was recovered by Reginald Bowens at the 10.
On second down, Garcia stepped back and ran a quarterback draw up the middle to the end zone. The 10-yard run put the Gamecocks ahead for good.
"Somebody on the sideline told me that you can't win it with one drive," Garcia said. "Just take it one drive at a time, one drive at a time, and that was my mentality in the second half. After seeing us down 17-0, I just tried to lead the team down and score as many points as we possibly could."
Michael Dobson fumbled the ball away on the ensuing play from scrimmage and Anthony Allen rumbled 25 yards for a score, giving the Gamecocks a 35-24 lead with 10:29 left in the third.
Davis scored on a seven yard run less than two minutes later, but Lattimore had a pair of one-yard runs, one with 3:13 left in the third and with 10:42 remaining in the game. The latter score came after Davis was picked off by Melvin Ingram.
Sanders scored on a 68-yard punt return, widening the gap to 56-31 before Lewis scored on a four-yard pass in the closing three minutes.
Shaw fumbled at the ECU 11 to snuff out South Carolina's opening drive, and Lattimore coughed up the ball later in the quarter. That led to Davis' crossing 25-yard TD pass to Justin Hardy.
Davis found Lewis for a 19-yard score early in the second and Mike Barbour made a 24-yard field goal with 9:45 left.
Garcia then entered for Shaw, who was out after going 3-of-9 for 21 yards. Garcia immediately led South Carolina on a TD drive, capping it with a 32-yard run.
"I just felt like we needed a little spark," Garcia said. "I felt like I needed to do that."
ECU fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, and Lattimore scored on a four-yard run.
The Gamecocks won their 12th straight season opener...ECU has dropped seven straight regular season non-conference road games...ECU committed five turnovers, the most since five at UAB Nov. 15, 2008, a game the Pirates won 17-13...Lewis had 13 catches for 108 yards and Hardy 11 for 91 yards.