South Carolina vs. Arkansas final score: Gamecocks throttle Razorbacks 52-7

Wesley Hitt

Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don't. Sometimes you play your best all-around game of the season and also benefit from incredibly good luck. And that's how you blow out a pretty decent Arkansas team in Fayetteville.

The South Carolina football team needed this. The South Carolina fan base needed this. A completely satisfying blowout of a pretty good SEC opponent. The fact that this blowout was concurrent with Missouri's upset of Georgia certainly didn't hurt.

The Offense

The offense continued to fire on all cylinders, led by a near-perfect performance from Connor Shaw that was far more impressive than his stat line indicates (19-of-28 for 219 yards and 4 total touchdowns plus another 37 yards on the ground that included some pretty critical third down conversions when the game was still close). His peerless 45-yard touchdown strike to Damiere Byrd was probably his best play of the game and put the Gamecocks up 31-7 early in the third quarter, erasing any reasonable concern that South Carolina would suffer through a second half in which they frittered away a sizable lead.

Nine different Gamecocks caught passes, partly because Shaw is so good at distributing the football and partly because beating a team 52-7 means that a lot of backups are going to get into the game. Four different targets had at least 32 yards receiving, including Shamier Jeffery. Yep, Shamier Jeffery.

Mike Davis had another strong game running the ball, picking up 128 yards on 19 carries (6.7 ypc) and the last score that the Gamecocks would require to win-- they went ahead and tacked on another six touchdowns just for fun. It's truly incredible to see how explosive Davis is in the open field and how his leg drive moves piles forward on the rare occasion that the offensive line has created no room for him to run. By the way, this dude is probably getting four of his five offensive linemen back next year, so think about that, go change your pants, and then come back to finish reading this.

The Defense

It looked like it was going to be another long day for Lorenzo Ward's defense-- it ended up being an incredibly short day, as his defense was only on the field for 16 minutes and 35 seconds-- after the Arkansas rushing attack knifed its way through the field on a crisp seven-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that put the Razorbacks up 7-0 early. Linebackers were bailing on their gap assignments, Arkansas receivers were inexplicably wide open. All of the traits of the brutal back seven play that has dogged the Gamecocks at times this season.

After that drive, the Gamecocks limited Arkansas to 5.4 yards per play during their remaining 30 plays. Vic Hampton had an interception of Brandon Allen that started the turn-around. (No word yet on whether it was freelance work or if he was on payroll.)

Both of the Razorbacks' big plays in the second half-- a 50 yard run by Keon Hatcher and a 29 yard almost-touchdown run by Alex Collins-- ended in lost fumbles deep inside South Carolina territory. They were strokes of good luck that might have made this, say, a 45-21 game. But the Gamecocks have had plenty of just downright awful luck, so we'll take it.

I wouldn't get too excited about the performance here. Arkansas had some explosive plays and was able to run the ball effectively (9.1 yards per carry). The secondary was much improved, but the secondary also had the benefit of having Brandon Allen be Arkansas quarterback. What they did do really well was get Arkansas off the field. The Razorbacks were just 2 of 7 on third down conversion attempts, turned the ball over three times, and 8 of their 11 drives were three plays or fewer.

Special Teams

South Carolina had 34 punt return yards coming into this game. Pharoh Cooper picked up 36 on one play. The true freshman appears to be the answer at this position. If he can help make the kick return team anything less than absolutely terrible, I will count it as a gigantic win. Good job by Steve Spurrier of trusting a true freshman on the road in the SEC. It payed off.

There was still a fair amount of herp and derp throughout the day (blocking in the back penalties, letting a punt roll for 79 yards plus a penalty), but just as you must lear to crawl before you can walk, so must you stop having doing really stupid things before you can start doing just mildly stupid things before moving on to neutral or perhaps even good things.

The kicking specialists continue to be excellent. Landon Ard had 5 touchbacks on 9 kickoffs and continues to be a pleasant surprise there. With South Carolina down 7-0, Elliott Fry got a chance to come on and pad his Heisman stats with a 33 yard field goal. Tyler Hull had a meh punt of 42 yards (thanks to a good roll) out of his own end zone that put Arkansas in good position to score before halftime. Instead, the Gamecock defense held and forced a fourth down on which Arkansas voluntarily did this.

Injuries

Ronald Patrick went down in the fourth quarter with an ankle sprain and was replaced by true freshman Na'Ty Rodgers. There goes the redshirt.

Skai Moore, another true freshman, led the team in both tackles and concussions suffered. No word yet on the severity of the concussion, but I would consider him doubtful for next week's game against Tennessee.

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