Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Gamecocks dominate young Hogs defense
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/STEPHEN B. THORNTON -- Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier yells from the sidelines in the the fourth quarter during their game Saturday afternoon in South Carolina.
COLUMBIA, S.C. South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier ended his Arkansas drought Saturday, but he wasn’t gloating about it.
The Gamecocks’ 38-20 victory over the Razorbacks at Williams-Brice Stadium improved Spurrier’s record to 6-5 against Arkansas — including 3-0 at Florida — and ended his three-game losing streak in the series.
But Spurrier said Arkansas obviously has some things working against it
“They don’t know who their coach is going to be next year, and that’s hard,” Spurrier said. “That’s hard for the players. It’s hard for the coaching staff there to try to keep it going.
“I feel for those guys. But they’ve got a lot of good players. A lot of them played well. Hopefully, they can win their last couple.”
The Razorbacks had won their previous three against Spurrier’s Gamecocks a combined 118-64. South Carolina’s last victory over Arkansas was 34-21 on Nov. 8, 2008.
“The last three years, they’ve taken control of us,” South Carolina senior tailback Kenny Miles said. “We haven’t really been able to get anything done against those guys.
“To get it done today in front of our home crowd meant a lot.”
Things haven’t been the same for the Razorbacks since last spring when Bobby Petrino was fired as their coach.
“It’s a tough situation, and you’ve got families involved,” said South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, Arkansas’ defensive backs coach in 2008 during Petrino’s first season. “It’s just not the coaches, it’s the wives and the kids.
“There a lot of things involved when they know they have to find another job. You’ve definitely got to feel for those men in this profession.”
Feelings aside, the Gamecocks didn’t hesitate to take advantage of an Arkansas defense that started four freshmen: linebackers A.J. Turner and Otha Peters, cornerback Will Hines and safety Rohan Gaines.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw hit tight end Jarell Adams wide open over the middle, with Peters and Turner struggling to cover him, for a 29-yard touchdown pass that put the Gamecocks ahead 7-0 in the first quarter.
“I think I could have caught that one Jerell caught,” Spurrier said. “They sort of played a two-deep and screwed up the coverage pretty well.
“I kept saying, ‘Throw it, Connor, throw it.’ Sometimes Connor waits a little bit after they’re open, and then throws it. But obviously, he hit them OK there.”
Shaw hit Bruce Ellington with a 42-yard touchdown pass between Hines and Gaines with 1:30 left in the second quarter to extend South Carolina’s lead to 21-10 on a fourth-and-5 play.
“They screwed up a coverage as you could see,” Spurrier said. “Bruce was running a little curl and go, and they sort of ... you’ve got to ask him how they let him go.”
Shaw, a junior, said the Gamecocks were well aware of Arkansas’ freshmen on defense.
“I think as a veteran you have to recognize that,” said Shaw, who completed 14 of 22 passes for 272 yards. “You have to see the matchups and take advantage of the opportunities you’re given.”
South Carolina also scored on defense when senior D.J. Swearinger, who played nickel back Saturday to be closer to the line after being at safety, intercepted a Tyler Wilson pass and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown to put the Gamecocks ahead 31-10 with 10:41 left in the third quarter.
Swearinger, who had 13 tackles, was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after scoring when he threw the ball into the stands.
“I’ll have to run a couple of gassers,” Swearinger said of punishment from the coaches. “Maybe a few more.”
Spurrier didn’t sound upset, noting that despite the penalty, Arkansas got the ball on its 25 after Adam Yates’ kickoff sailed to the Arkansas 1 and Nate Holmes returned it to the 25 — where the Razorbacks would have taken possession on a touchback.
“So it didn’t hurt us,” Spurrier said. “So if there’s a penalty that doesn’t mean anything, you can’t get too upset.”
Spurrier was upset when Shaw underthrew a pass to Ace Sanders in the end zone in the third quarter and safety Ross Rasner was able to break it up. The Gamecocks then settled for a field goal.
“I think that guy’s a strong safety, but he looks like a linebacker,” Spurrier said of Rasner. “I said, ‘Man, we’ve got Ace on a linebacker and we can’t get that? C’mon.’ But we didn’t.
“We played good enough to beat them, but we didn’t really play well.”
Sports, Pages 32 on 11/11/2012