If South Carolina beats Florida next week, no one will remember the Gamecocks’ showing Saturday.
That would be a good thing for No. 18 South Carolina, which was rolled 41-20 by No. 17 Arkansas in front of 75,136 shivering and muttering fans in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“We had a bad night; we had a terrible night,” USC coach Steve Spurrier said. “I apologize to the fans that we weren’t even competitive tonight. The way we played, you wonder how we won six games this year.”
The Gamecocks (6-3, 4-3 SEC) could not run, pass or defend in their worst beating of the year. Asked what he thought was the turning point, South Carolina assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson replied, “Kickoff.”
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It’s not the momentum the Gamecocks had hoped for heading into Saturday’s game at Florida. The winner gets the SEC East title and a spot in the conference title game Dec. 4 in Atlanta.
“This is the most important game in South Carolina history as far as the team is concerned,” junior quarterback Stephen Garcia said.
South Carolina did not look like championship material against Arkansas. Freshman running back Marcus Lattimore had a career-low 30 yards on 11 carries, and Garcia had 161 passing yards and two interceptions. Both players sat out the fourth quarter as Arkansas (7-2, 4-2) handed South Carolina its first home loss of the season.
As Garcia pointed out after the game, the loss did nothing to affect South Carolina’s chances of playing in the SEC title game.
“I think (the performance) caught everybody off guard,” he said. “Everybody knows that it didn’t mean a whole lot, but that wasn’t our mentality going in.”
That will not take the sting out of this beating, though. The defense gave up 443 yards, getting gashed on both the pass (303) and the rush (140). Only Auburn has gained more yards against the Gamecocks.
“I expected to see our players play better,” Johnson said. “We are just not performing well. The statistics and the score aside, there are still assignment problems. We wouldn’t have beaten an average football team tonight, and we didn’t play an average team tonight.”
Special teams did not help either. Spencer Lanning missed a 29-yard field goal, and the Gamecocks set up a short Arkansas touchdown drive after failing to convert a fake punt on fourth-and-6 from their own 38.
“We just need to regroup now, we need to regroup and realize we were pretty sad tonight,” Spurrier said. “We can’t get it back, but we can try to regroup and give the Gators a game next week. We will try our best to do that.”
Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett was 21-of-30 for 303 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Cobi Hamilton led the Razorbacks with 111 receiving yards, and Knile Davis added 110 on the ground.
“We sat there and traded punches with them for about 30 minutes, but” Johnson said. “We had successful plays on which I knew we had problems.”
The Gamecocks trailed 41-10 with 11:13 left but made the final score more respectable on a 31-yard field goal by Lanning and a 1-yard fumble recovery and return for a touchdown by Byron McKnight.
“I feel like it was just a minor setback,” safety Akeem Auguste said. “Some people bounce back from setbacks, some people don’t. We are a team that is going to fight regardless. Backs against the wall, I would rather have my guys than anybody in the SEC.”
Ark - Hamilton 4 pass from Mallett (Hocker kick), 10:19.
USC - Gurley 4 pass from Garcia (Lanning kick), 5:09.
Ark - FG Hocker 41, 10:32.
Ark - K. Davis 2 run (Hocker kick), 6:33.
Ark - K. Davis 21 run (Hocker kick), 1:57.
USC - FG Lanning 29, :00.
Ark - K. Davis 1 run (Hocker kick), 5:39.
Ark - FG Hocker 51, 1:18.
Ark - Mallett 1 run (Hocker kick), 11:10.
USC - FG Lanning 31, 5:35.
USC - McKnight 1 fumble return (Lanning kick), 3:52.
Attendance - 75,136.
|Time of Possession||34:20||25:40|
RUSHING: Arkansas, K.Davis 22-110, B.Green 5-26, Wingo 6-18, Mallett 4-0, Wilson 1-(minus 14). South Carolina, Garcia 7-54, Lattimore 11-30, C.Shaw 4-23, Maddox 1-4, Miles 1-3, D.Wilson 1-0, Strickland 1-(minus 4), Team 1-(minus 5).
PASSING: Arkansas, Mallett 21-30-1-303. South Carolina, Garcia 14-29-2-161, C.Shaw 2-2-0-20, Clifford 1-1-0-10, Strickland 1-1-0-(minus 1).
RECEIVING: Arkansas, Hamilton 7-111, D.Williams 5-67, J.Wright 4-88, Adams 3-27, Cleveland 1-5, K.Davis 1-5. South Carolina, A.Jeffery 7-99, Gurley 3-24, Cunningham 2-31, A.Sanders 2-4, Lattimore 1-10, Triglia 1-10, Maddox 1-8, D..Moore 1-4.