COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Stephen Garcia threw two touchdowns, rushed for another score and South Carolina matched its best start of Steve Spurrier's five seasons with a 38-14 victory over South Carolina State on Saturday night.
The Gamecocks improved to 4-1, tying their opening mark of 2007. But it took more time than Spurrier would've liked to finally put away the Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
South Carolina's head ball coach has groused about his team's stuck-in-the-mud offense for much of the season. And after a slow start against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Bulldogs, Garcia and the Gamcocks finally got things going.
Garcia's 1-yard TD right before halftime put South Carolina ahead 10-0. In the second half, Garcia connected with Moe Brown on touchdowns of 40 and 9 yards to put things out of reach at 31-7.
Garcia finished 13 of 19 for 132 yards.
Spurrier improved to 38-0 against opponents not in the six conferences with Bowl Championship Series bids.
South Carolina State (3-1) fell to 0-5 against Football Bowl Subdivision.
South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood put on a show against his younger brother's Bulldogs with a blocked field goal and an interception. Erin Norwood is a sophomore defensive back at South Carolina State.
Spurrier hopes the Gamecocks can carry this start further than they did two years ago. Back then, they reached No. 6 in the country as they opened 6-1. But they lost their final five games and didn't even make the postseason.
Right before kickoff, Williams-Brice Stadium experienced a power outage that hampered ESPN Classic's planned broadcast and knocked out the video board midway through the second period.
There wasn't much power displayed by either team in the opening half, either.
South Carolina was outgained by its FCS opponent 159 yards to 149. The Gamecocks couldn't crack the end zone until Garcia's 1-yard run with 2:23 to go before halftime that made it 10-0.
South Carolina State responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that concluded with a milestone touchdown. Malcolm Long's 5-yard scoring run was the first time the FCS team had put up a touchdown in its five games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.
The Bulldogs swarmed Long as if they had just earned another league title instead of simply cutting things to 10-7 at halftime.
That was about all the celebrating South Carolina State would get to do. South Carolina struck for Kenny Miles' 22-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter and the Bulldogs could not recover.
The only drama at the end came when South Carolina State broke through for a second touchdown, Long converting a 4th-and-goal from South Carolina's 1 with 4 seconds left.
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|North Carolina A&T||7-1||10-2|
|North Carolina Central||7-1||8-3|
|South Carolina State||6-2||7-4|