Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas-Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
Series has had its moments
Programs have been compared since joining SEC
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson is pressured by South Carolina defensive end Jadaveon Clowney during a Nov. 5, 2011 game at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks beat the Gamecocks 44-28 in a matchup of top 10 teams.
FAYETTEVILLE We say so long this week to one of the more unlikely long-standing series in college football.
Arkansas and South Carolina have been paired and compared with one another since taking a leap of faith and joining the Southeastern Conference in 1992. The teams were cross-division rivals by necessity, no mind the 1,000-plus miles separating their campuses.
The series has featured some memorable wins and performances for both teams, but by and large hasn't excited either fan base. Next year the SEC twins will be separated for the first time since their birth in the league. Arkansas will begin a cross-divisional game against Missouri on the other side of the Ozarks, while South Carolina will play its out of division game against Texas A&M.
Arkansas and SEC officials hope the game against Missouri will turn into the rivalry the Razorbacks were never able to find after leaving the Texas schools in the Southwest Conference. South Carolina has a long-standing rivalry against cross-state school Clemson.
Twenty-one years after their arrival the schools are still being compared to one another. South Carolina appears to have the immediate upper-hand, but long-term both have remained stuck near the middle of the SEC pack.
- 1995: Madre Hill rushes for school-record 6 TDs 6% 84 votes
- 2001: Carlos Hall blocks a FG to upset No. 9 Gamecocks 9% 118 votes
- 2007: Darren McFadden rushes for SEC-record 321 yards 71% 926 votes
- 2011: Razorbacks win top 10 matchup in Fayetteville 13% 176 votes
1304 total votes.
Only Alabama and LSU have won more SEC West titles than Arkansas, though the Razorbacks are 0-3 in their trips to Atlanta. South Carolina became the first eastern division school other than Florida, Georgia or Tennessee to make it to the Georgia Dome three years ago, but also lost.
Six other teams have won SEC championships since the league's expansion to 12 teams in 1992. The Razorbacks and Gamecocks have combined for only one BCS bid.
Arkansas and South Carolina will still play in future years, but it's unknown when their next game will be played. As we say goodbye to the series on an annual basis, we look back at what the series provided.
It gave Arkansas its first matchup ever against a former coach (Lou Holtz) and is the Razorbacks' only conference matchup to feature shutouts by both teams (South Carolina in 1994; Arkansas in 2002). The Razorbacks hold a 13-8 lead in the series with all of South Carolina's wins coming in years Arkansas didn't finish with a winning record.
The game between the schools often told the story of their respective seasons. The losing team only made a bowl appearance six times, while the winning team advanced to the postseason in 16 of 21 years.
Two of Arkansas' greatest individual rushing efforts came against the Gamecocks. In 1995, Madre Hill rushed for a school- and conference-record 6 touchdowns in a 51-21 win at Razorback Stadium. A dozen years later, Darren McFadden tied the conference record with 321 yards in a 48-36 win over the Gamecocks in Fayetteville.
A pair of Razorback legends were recognized during those games. In 1995, John Daly was introduced to the crowd two months after winning the British Open. The 2007 game was memorable not only for McFadden's performance, but also because the Razorback Stadium field was named for Frank Broyles that night.
Overshadowed by McFadden's performance that evening was Felix Jones also having one of the best rushing efforts in school history, totaling 166 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Many forget South Carolina was Arkansas' first opponent following a loss to The Citadel - also located in the Palmetto State - in the 1992 season opener, a game that cost Jack Crowe his job as head coach of the Razorbacks. Six days after Crowe was fired, Arkansas players carried interim coach Joe Kines off the field following a 45-7 win at Williams-Brice Stadium in their first SEC game.
Kines' replacement, Danny Ford, went 2-3 against the Gamecocks, his former arch rival while head coach at Clemson. Ford's first SEC win came when his unranked Razorbacks came from behind to beat the ranked Gamecocks 18-17 at Razorback Stadium in 1993.
A 39-13 loss to South Carolina four years later in front of one of the smallest crowds in Little Rock history sealed Ford's fate. He was fired following his third 4-7 season.
After Houston Nutt arrived as head coach, the Razorbacks played a series of exciting games at War Memorial Stadium in the early 2000s, one of which was a 10-7 upset of the No. 9 Gamecocks in 2001. We caught our first glimpse of Matt Jones in an SEC game that day and Carlos Hall blocked a field goal in the final minute of the contest, sending the Little Rock crowd into a frenzy and preserving the win.
With Bobby Petrino and Steve Spurrier at the helm, the game took on some national appeal. Arkansas beat South Carolina in top 25 matchups in 2010 and 2011, the latter of which featured a pair of top 10 teams. That game went head-to-head in the TV ratings against the 1-2 showdown between LSU and Alabama, which aired at the same time.
An earthquake rattled the Razorback Stadium press box shortly after the game.
South Carolina's most notable win over the Razorbacks came in 2004, Holtz's final year as the Gamecocks' head coach. Arkansas scored with a little more than 3 minutes left, but South Carolina drove down the field to set up a 14-yard touchdown catch by Troy Williamson with 1:09 remaining, giving the Gamecocks a 35-32 win.
South Carolina is the favorite Saturday. The No. 14 Gamecocks are likely bowl-bound, while Arkansas has some work ahead in order to make the postseason.
Like many years in the past, the Razorbacks' bowl hopes hinge largely on a strong performance against South Carolina, giving us one final chance to compare a couple of programs used to it by now.