Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
ARKANSAS VS. SOUTH CAROLINA:
No charity expected
Gamecocks have 3 scores to settle with Hogs
COLUMBIA, S.C. Not only has Arkansas beaten South Carolina three years in a row, the Razorbacks have managed to get under the skin of Coach Steve Spurrier, who said the Gamecocks have been “clobbered” by the Razorbacks.
“We need to treat Arkansas like it’s Georgia, Tennessee or Clemson,” Spurrier said, jump starting his post practice news conference Thursday. “This team has beaten us more than all of those teams have beaten us in the last three years combined.
“So we need to get after Arkansas. We need the fans screaming and yelling. This is a huge game for us.”
South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC) is out of SEC East title contention, but winning out could put the Gamecocks in the conversation for an at large Bowl Championship Series bid, which would be the school’s first.
Arkansas (4-5, 2-3) might not have serious swagger in its step after losing four in a row earlier this season, but the Razorbacks will bring confidence into today’s 11 a.m. kickoff at Williams-Brice Stadium. Arkansas has won the past three games in the series by a combined 118-64, hence Spurrier’s “clobbered” description, and has taken five of the past six games against the Gamecocks.
“We want our players to know that we play good against these guys and we match up pretty good against these guys,” Arkansas Coach John L. Smith said.
“They know that we’re going to come in and battle,” Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson said. “We’re not laying down against these guys. They know what to expect from us. We know what to expect from them.”
Arkansas must win two of its last three games to extend its streak of postseason appearances to four and to salvage some measure of redemption after its fall from a preseason No. 10 ranking inthe Associated Press poll.
BCS No. 8 South Carolina seemingly holds all the advantages, being at home, having an extra week to prepare and in the midst of a more successful season. South Carolina is favored by two touchdowns.
Arkansas, which has failed to score a touchdown on defense or special teams this season, has struggled to put together a complete effort outside of a 49-7 weather shortened thrashing of Kentucky.
The Razorbacks have one of the nation’s worst turnover margins (112th at minus-1.22 per game), and their red-zone scoring of 71 percent ranks 106th nationally. One of the nation’s top-scoring units the past couple of years, Arkansas has scored in the teens or less as many times (three) as it has scored 30 or more.
The Arkansas defense, rocked by injuries and poor performances early in the season, has not allowed more than 355 yards (against Ole Miss) in any of its past four games, including 170 yards in the victory over Kentucky to bring the four-game average to 293.5 yards per game.
South Carolina must reestablish its offensive identity in its first full game without ace tailback Marcus Lattimore, an All-SEC performer who is lost for the season after knee surgery. The Gamecocks were fortunate to have an open date last week, as it gave starting quarterback Connor Show more time to recover from a sprained foot on which he was still struggling to run Monday.
Injuries and other issues that have plagued Arkansas all season still apply today. Tight end Chris Gragg (leg/knee), linebacker Terrell Williams (indefinite suspension) and slot receiver Brandon Mitchell (third game of a four-game suspension) are out, and tailback Knile Davis (hamstring) is questionable.
Williams’ absence, because of an arrest on a DWI charge last weekend after the Razorbacks’ 19-15 victory over Tulsa, has forced Arkansas to turn to two true freshmen - A.J. Turner and Otha Peters - at their inside linebacker slots.
“You’re in the SEC, this is big-time college football,” Arkansas linebackers coach Taver Johnson said regarding the Razorbacks’ personnel issues. “Every week you’ve got to come to play and we’re in the meat of our schedule.
“No one cares. South Carolina doesn’t care. ... The guys who are on the field, the ones who dress up and put that Hog on their helmet, they better be ready to play.”
South Carolina will send out the SEC’s top sack unit (3.3 per game) against the league’s third-ranked passing offense and Wilson, the SEC leader with 316 passing yards per game, setting up the most-anticipated match up of the game.
Arkansas will look to establish tailback Dennis Johnson, who has rushed for 100 yards in back-to-back games for the first time in his career against the nation’s 14th-ranked rush defense.
Arkansas at South Carolina
WHEN 11 a.m. Central WHERE Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) Columbia, S.C.
RECORDS Arkansas 4-5 (2-3 SEC);
South Carolina 7-2 (5-2 SEC) RANKINGS South Carolina is 8/12/11 BCS/AP/Coaches BETTING LINE South Carolina by 14 COACHES John L. Smith (4-5 in first year at Arkansas, 136-91 in 19th year overall); Steve Spurrier (62-37 in eighth year at South Carolina, 204-77-2 in 23rd year overall)
SERIES Arkansas leads 13-7. TELEVISION CBS RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network, including KABZ-FM103.7, in Little Rock; and KQSM-FM, 92.1, KEZA-FM, 107.9, KUOA-AM, 1290 and KUOA FM, 105.3, in Fayetteville. XM-Radio 91, Sirius 91
Sports, Pages 19 on 11/10/2012