QBs aim to be elite company

25-second clock bedevils USC's offense within the 10 yard line

jperson@thestate.comNovember 8, 2009 

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Stephen Garcia has known Arkansas' Ryan Mallett since the two attended the Elite Eleven quarterback camp in 2006.

Having witnessed Mallett's arm strength for a week in California, Garcia is not surprised by his success.

"He's got a cannon. I saw that when I first met him. He throws the ball as hard and as well as I've ever seen anybody throw it," Garcia said. "It's very impressive to watch. He's a good player."

Mallett and Garcia entered Saturday's game ranked 1-2 in the SEC in passing yardage, and neither did anything to hurt his standing in the Razorbacks' 33-16 victory.

Mallett set a school record with a .852 completion percentage (23 of 27) and finished with 329 yards. Garcia completed 20 of 34 passes for a career-high 327 yards and one touchdown.

Both players had 1-yard touchdown runs and were sacked twice. Garcia was intercepted in the third quarter, while Mallett had no turnovers.

"He's a good player with a good team," USC coach Steve Spurrier said of Mallett. "They know what they're doing on offense. Bobby Petrino's got a track record for coaching offense. You've got to stop 'em. We weren't quite up to it."

Time keeps on ticking

USC had trouble keeping pace with the 25-second play clock after driving inside the Razorbacks' 10 yard line on its first drive. On fourth-and-1 from the 6, the Gamecocks called two timeouts before Garcia ran 2 yards for the first down.

Three plays later, the Gamecocks planned to go for a fourth-and-goal on the 1 until they were whistled for delay of game. After the 5-yard penalty, Spurrier sent Spencer Lanning in for a 23-yard field goal.

Asked about the timeouts, Spurrier said: "We couldn't get lined up right down on the goal line. Didn't do much good, though. Still had to kick a field goal from the 1-yard line."

Starters out

USC was missing two of its top five tacklers with defensive end Cliff Matthews (shoulder) and safety Chris Culliver (shoulder/disciplinary issue) sidelined for the game. Matthews made the trip, but is not expected back until the Clemson game.

"He's one of the star players on defense. When a star player leaves your defense, you're going to fall short sometimes," defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye said. "Some people didn't step up today and we made mistakes and we got an L."

Culliver, benched after walking out of a practice last week following an argument with a coach, is scheduled to play this week against Florida.

Sack king is back

Eric Norwood's fourth-quarter sack of Mallett was the first for USC's All-SEC linebacker since the Mississippi game on Sept. 24. Norwood, USC's career sacks leader and the SEC active leader with 29, hopes the hit on Mallett is the start of something.

"It was good," Norwood said of the 9-yard loss. "It gives me more confidence to finish the season out."

Extra points

USC failed to win a conference road game for the first time since 2003. ... The Gamecocks kicked off to start a game for the first time all season. The Gamecocks won the coin toss, but deferred to the second half. ... USC did not bring its pep band on the trip - the first game the band has missed since the LSU game two years ago. ...

Arkansas' third-quarter safety was the first against USC since its 2006 game against the Razorbacks.

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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