Writers like myself can prepare for games by reading as much literature, crunching as much as data and picking apart every minor detail —- at the end of the day no matter what we do we can still be wrong.
I've already accepted the fact South Carolina will lose to Arkansas.— Chris Stanley (@theTEXAStanley) October 7, 2017
I didn't say that out of pure pessimism, there was a good reason to think Arkansas had the upper hand against South Carolina. What the Razorbacks did on offense matched up favorably against what South Carolina did on defense and nothing the Gamecock offense had done over the past three weeks made me think they could keep up a team averaging 36 points per game coming into Saturday's game.
But low and behold, South Carolina came out defensively and shattered everything I thought I knew about them. I knew South Carolina had a good run defense, but not THIS good. I thought South Carolina was awful at creating havoc plays, but that was not apparent Saturday evening either.
There's a lot to take away from Saturday's game, so let's not waste any time and dive right into it.
Jake Bentley still looks... off
I'm going to be in the minority when I say a quarterback who threw three touchdown passes didn't have a great game, but when you look at the entire body of work it's hard to call what Jake Bentley did on Saturday "great".
If I'm not mistaken Bentley started off the game 4-12 with 26 yards passing. He looked gun shy and hurried all of his throws — often grossly overthrowing receivers who were open when no apparent pressure was around him. Maybe attribute it to Bentley being sacked seven times against Texas A&M last week, but a QB of his caliber needs to settle down in situations like that.
I can recall two plays to Hayden Hurst and Bryan Edwards where Bentley simply missed what should have been easy touchdowns. Even his final stat line, 16-31 for 199 yards, isn't anything to get googly eyes over.
I can't get in Bentley's head so I don't know what's going on with him mentally, but something isn't quite right with how he played Saturday. Keep an eye on that going into Tennessee this week.
Austin Allen looked terrible
Austin Allen is regarded as one of the better quarterbacks in the SEC and was someone I thought was going to give South Carolina a lot of problems. Well, as in many cases I was very wrong.
If you believe in the QBR stat ESPN uses, Saturday was the worst game Allen's played in 18 starts at Arkansas. His previous career low QBR was Nov. 12, 2016 against LSU when he registered a 22.8 mark. Saturday Allen put up a 16.2 -- by far the lowest total by any QB SC has faced this season.
I could make the argument Allen is every bit as good as Ryan Finely, Stephon Johnson or Kellen Mond, but through heaping amounts of pressure and good coverage SC made him look incompetent. It was a refreshing sight to see South Carolina's pass defense bottle up the passing game outside of preventing deep completions.
A+ run defense
Coming into Saturday's game I knew South Carolina had a good run defense, but I also knew Arkansas was the most efficient rushing team SC had faced all season by a long shot. There were serious concerns about which one was going to give.
Arkansas hit five runs of nine yards or more totaling 65 yards, while the other 27 totaled 41 yards -- that's 1.52 yards a carry for those of you mathematically challenged folks out there. The Razorbacks identity is to grind you down with 25 runs of around four-to-five yards a pop, but South Carolina shut that down.
This put the Razorbacks in a lot of 2nd/3rd-and-long situations, forcing Allen to throw with a lot of pressure coming down his back from the SC pass rush. It was the same sort of formula SC's defense used back in the glory days of Clowney and Gilmore -- another vividly refreshing sight from Saturday's game.
DJ Wonnum is a budding stud
In our preseason literature here at GABA we harped on the importance of DJ Wonnum having a breakout year to become the star edge rusher South Carolina has so desperately needed since the departure of Jadeveon Clowney. Wonnum's had his moments this season, but Saturday was his star performance.
If you're keen in listening to the TV broadcast, a good gauge of how a defensive player is doing is how often his name is being called following the conculsion of a play. Wonnum's name was being called like numbers on bingo night as he totaled four tackles, a TFL, a hurry and two pass breakups.
Skai Moore had a great game as well, but Wonnum is the future of this defense and it was great to see him have such an impact Saturday. He could be the answer for a legitament edge presence South Carolina's been looking for since Cowlney's departure in 2013.
South Carolina's stadium DJ had a bounceback game
So what was everyone's thoughts on the in-stadium DJ at South Carolina last night?— Brad Crawford (@BCrawford247) September 17, 2017
Remember when this was a thing? Part of the remixed game day experience at Williams-Brice is DJ A-Minor, the DJ for the Charlotte Hornets who now doubles as the soundsmith for SC on Saturdays. His first go around at Kentucky was a bit rough as evidenced by the above tweet, but Saturday went much better for him.
@aminorthedj you did that tonight The Football Parents were jamming!!! You get me every time with that Nuck if You Buck “A town till I die”— Darnisha (@sportsmommy74) October 8, 2017
@aminorthedj playing Run DMC. ALL I CAN SAY IS...THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!— Chris Gillespie (@LivinNThePast) October 7, 2017
I'd say he'll be just fine moving forward.