South Carolina wrapped its SEC season with an easy win Saturday. Now it turns its attention to the state championship.
The No. 12 Gamecocks overwhelmed reeling Arkansas 38-20 in front of 78,772 fans in Williams-Brice Stadium. The win snapped a three-game losing streak against the Razorbacks and ended South Carolina’s conference season at 6-2.
“It was good to beat Arkansas finally,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “The last time we beat them I think (George) Bush was the president. They are not quite the team they have been in the past. They obviously have some issues, but it was still good to beat them.”
After not managing six conference wins in its first 19 seasons in the league, South Carolina has won six in back-to-back seasons. The Gamecocks (8-2, 6-2) will play their final home game of the season Saturday against Wofford and then comes a showdown against Clemson — a game that will go a long way toward determining the historical perception of this highly anticipated season.
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Senior running back Kenny Miles, who had 37 yards on 14 carries in his first start after Marcus Lattimore’s knee injury, doesn’t believe his teammates will look past the Terriers.
“With the team we’ve got and the guys we’ve got, the guys really know the importance of each game and focusing on getting better as a team versus getting better against an opponent,” Miles said.
Arkansas, which started the season as a national-title contender but fell apart quickly, battled for almost two quarters, but the Gamecocks landed a big blow with 1:58 to go in the first half, when Connor Shaw found Bruce Ellington for a 42-yard touchdown on fourth-and-five. The score gave South Carolina a 21-10 lead, and Arkansas never recovered.
The game was a near draw statistically (South Carolina had 383 yards to Arkansas’ 360. The Razorbacks’ 277 passing yards were two short of the Gamecocks’ 279, and Arkansas had 22 first downs to South Carolina’s 20), but the game turned on big plays by USC and big gaffes by Arkansas.
“They are an awful good football team, and they didn’t make any mistakes during the game,” said John L. Smith, who fell to 4-6 (2-4 SEC) in what likely will be his only season as the team’s coach. “We made a lot of mistakes.”
The knockout blow came when senior safety D.J. Swearinger returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown one play after being flagged for a personal foul. That score put the Gamecocks ahead 31-10 with 10:41 to go in the third quarter.
“They stopped playing after that pretty much,” defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said.
For South Carolina’s seniors, it was a school-record 35 career wins — but the first against the Razorbacks.
“It’s great to beat Arkansas,” said Swearinger, who had 13 tackles in his first start of the season at cornerback. “It was a great, great, great feeling to beat Arkansas. We were all having fun out there.”
Ellington had the most fun on offense, catching five passes for 105 yards. Freshman running back Mike Davis led the team in rushing with 53 yards on 13 carries, but Spurrier was hesitant to get too excited about a performance that came against the SEC’s No. 11 defense.
“We didn’t play super,” he said. “As a coach, you like for your guys to really play well. We played good enough to beat them, but we didn’t really play well, so hopefully we can keep trying to get better.”
Spurrier also believes his team can stay focused on the instate Terriers even with the Tigers looming.
“With everything that is on the line, winning seven home games, that would be a shame to let that get away from us,” Spurrier said. “We didn’t play all that super. There are still some opportunities out there for us, so we’ll see how it how plays out.”
USC: Adams 29 pass from C.Shaw (Yates kick), 5:47.
Ark: Hatcher 6 pass from T.Wilson (Hocker kick), 8:12.
USC: C. Shaw 10 run (Yates kick), 5:28.
Ark: FG Hocker 20, 3:28.
USC: Ellington 42 pass from C.Shaw (Yates kick), 1:30.
USC: FG Yates 41, 11:20.
USC: Swearinger 69 interception return (Yates kick), 10:41.
Ark: FG Hocker 21, 5:48.
USC: M. Davis 2 run (Yates kick), 2:19.
Ark: D. Wilson 9 pass from T.Wilson (Hocker kick), :39.
|Time of Possession||28:15||31:45|
Arkansas, J.Williams 7-61, D.Johnson 11-41, N.Holmes 3-10, T.Wilson 6-(minus 29).
South Carolina, M. Davis 13-53, Miles 14-37, C. Shaw 8-10, Blue 2-9, Baker 2-2, Lowery 1-(minus 2), Byrd 1-(minus 5).
Arkansas, T. Wilson 26-41-2-277. South Carolina, C. Shaw 14-22-1-272, Thompson 1-3-0-7.
Arkansas, D.Johnson 5-17, Hamilton 4-72, McKay 3-49, Tate 3-27, Hatcher 3-21, J.Williams 3-13, Herndon 2-24, Horton 1-23, Voelzke 1-22, D.Wilson 1-9.
South Carolina, Ellington 5-104, Miles 3-44, Cunningham 2-33, Roland 2-25, Adams 1-29, Anderson 1-29, Sanders 1-15.