Carolina takes advantage of miscues
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina scored on its first two possessions of the game and added another score to open the second half on its way to a 34-21 win over Arkansas on Saturday in front of 80,290 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Arkansas (4-6, 1-5 SEC) couldn’t overcome a slow start and the absence of leading rusher Michael Smith against South Carolina (7-3, 4-3 SEC). Smith earned 25 yards on seven carries to break the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season, but left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury.
On Homecoming for the Gamecocks, the Razorback running game never got on track with only 54 yards for the day, plus losing Michael Smith for most the game with an injury, and the Carolina defense recorded three interceptions.
Arkansas’ Casey Dick had an up-and-down day, hitting a 70-yard bomb to Jarius Wright in the second quarter, but struggling at times to move the Razorback offense. Dick finished 16-of-26 for the afternoon with 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Gamecocks stopped the Razorbacks on the opening drive of the game and inherited favorable field position after a 20-yard punt. USC quarterback Stephen Garcia hit Kenny McKinley for 30 yards on the Gamecocks second offensive play to advance USC to the Arkansas 14-yard line. Two players later, Garcia carried it in from 14 yards for a touchdown. Ryan Succop added the extra point to make it 7-0 with 13:17 to play in the first quarter.
South Carolina took advantage of good field position again on its second drive. Addison Williams intercepted a Casey Dick pass at the Arkansas 31-yard line. Arkansas defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard dropped USC quarterback Chris Smelley for a six yard loss on first down. The Razorback defense held, before Succop connected on a career long 53 yard field goal to extend the USC lead to 10-0 with 11:20 to go in the first quarter.
Arkansas dented the scoreboard approximately midway through the second quarter. Following a missed South Carolina field goal attempt, Arkansas struck quickly on a two play, 80-yard drive. Dick found Lucas Miller for a 10-yard gain before hooking up with freshman Jarius Wright for 70 yards and a touchdown. The completion marked the second longest in Dick’s career trailing only the 76-yard pass to D.J. Williams against Louisiana-Monroe earlier this season. Alex Tejada drilled the extra point to close the USC lead to 10-7 with 9:24 to play before the half.
The Razorbacks’ momentum was short lived, however. On a second down play from the South Carolina 34-yard line, Smelley spotted tight end Jared Cook on a crossing route for 66 yards and a touchdown. The PAT extended the Gamecocks’ lead to 17-7.
South Carolina opened the second half with a seven play 34 yard drive to increase its lead. The Gamecocks settled for a 37-yard field goal making It 20-7 with the 12:54 to play in the third quarter.
Arkansas responded with its best drive of the day marching 62 yards on 15 plays without the services of Smith, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Dick completed a pass early in the drive to set a new school record for completions in a season. But it was Dennis Johnson and Brandon Barnett who handled the ground work. Arkansas mixed the pass and the run effectively and finished the scoring drive on a four-yard touchdown pass from Dick to fullback Mitchell Bailey. It was Bailey’s first career reception. The Tejada extra point closed the USC lead to 20-14 with 4:42 to play in the third quarter.
Arkansas’ defense made an important stand to set the Razorbacks’ offense up again for a potential go-ahead score. The promising drive was foiled on the final play of the third quarter when a Dick pass was snagged by Jordin Lindsey and returned 40 yards to the Arkansas 15-yard line. Two plays later, Smelley found McKinley for 15 yards and at touchdown. Succop tacked on the extra point to make it 27-14 early in the fourth quarter.
South Carolina gained possession with just more than 12 minutes to play in the game. The Gamecocks recorded their longest drive of the day executing 11 consecutive rushing plays for 72 yards to keep the clock running and extend their lead. Mike Davis finished the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. The extra point made it 34-14 with 6:21 to play.