1. Win Turnover Battle — Not Accomplished
Arkansas was careless once again and it proved costly. Brandon Allen’s early interception set up South Carolina’s go-ahead score and was his fifth turnover in three weeks. Keon Hatcher had a 50-yard run wiped out after fumbling at the end of the play. And Alex Collins lost a touchdown run when the ball slipped out of his hands and hit the pylon, which became a touchback. Meanwhile, the defense was handed a gift when Connor Shaw and Mike Davis had trouble on a read-option exchange. Deatrich Wise fell on the loose ball to stop a drive. But it was the only turnover Arkansas forced on a day in which it finished minus-2 in turnover margin.
2. Keep Allen Clean — Accomplished
Arkansas didn’t accomplish much Saturday, but it did keep Allen clean a week after he was battered by Florida’s defense in a 30-10 loss. DE Jadeveon Clowney and the South Carolina pass rush never sacked Allen and rarely touched him. Of course, Arkansas only had the ball for 37 plays and passed 12 times. So the Gamecocks didn’t have to put much pressure on Allen, who completed four passes for 30 yards.
3. Tackle Well — Not Accomplished
Arkansas was plagued by missed tackles once again Saturday and the mistakes played a big hand in South Carolina’s 537 yards. The Razorbacks had trouble getting QB Connor Shaw down (he scrambled for 18 yards on one third-and-17 play). RB Mike Davis was a bruising ball carrier, too, who kept churning his legs through Arkansas tacklers en route to 128 yards. The troubles were particularly frustrating for the Razorbacks, who regretted its tackling troubles on two big-play touchdowns at Florida and vowed to fix the mistakes in time for the Gamecocks.
4. Fourth-Quarter Success — Not Accomplished
The game was over by the time the fourth quarter arrived Saturday, but Arkansas didn’t do anything to close strong after falling into a 38-7 hole. In fact, South Carolina’s margin grew after backup quarterback Dylan Thompson threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Kane Whitehurst and third-team quarterback Brendan Nosovitch added a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:07 left. Arkansas —which had a fourth quarter scoring opportunity snatched away when Collins fumbled at the goal line — has been outscored 41-0 in the fourth quarter of its four losses in 2013.
5. Stop The Run— Not Accomplished
Arkansas’ defense was gashed on the ground for the second time in three games. The Gamecocks ran for a season-high 277 yards and impressively averaged 5.1 yards a carry. Davis continued his strong season, topping the 100-yard mark for the fifth time in six games. The total also was the most Arkansas has allowed on the ground this season, topping Texas A&M’s 262 rushing yards two weeks ago. The struggles helped South Carolina have an astounding advantage in total plays (89 to 37) and time of possession (43:25 to 16:35) in the rout.
• Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash on his group’s struggles:
“You look at the tape and there’s a lot of bad on the tape. It was one of the most embarrassing games that I’ve been a part of as a coach. Honestly, I can’t recall being a part of something like that. When I watched the film, I saw a defense that didn’t align to formations right that we practiced. I saw a defense that didn’t fit the runs the right way like we practiced. I saw a defense that doesn’t use its hands very well, doesn’t tackle very well. I see a defense that’s not very aggressive, not very violent. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of that this year and we’ve got to get that corrected and move in the right direction.”
• Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney on QB Brandon Allen’s confidence:
“I thought going into the game, he was fine. But I thought after the one he threw, he got a little shaky again. It’s part of the development, man. You have to learn that when you make a mistake, so what? You have to go clean slate at quarterback.”
• Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman on the offense running just 37 plays:
“I’ve never been a part of anything like that, as far as number of plays. Now, I’ve had my behind kicked before like that. But not with just 37 plays. I’ve never been around anything like that.”
• Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge on DT Robert Thomas, who suffered a broken bone in his leg Saturday:
“ You know what, I talked to him quite a bit last night and then talked to him a couple of times this morning. He was incredible. He said coach, ‘This is part of the game.’ Obviously I’m disappointed. We’ll miss his leadership and his plays, but his spirits were great.”
Players of the Game
Offense – RB Jonathan Williams (61 yards on 6 carries)
Alex Collins and Keon Hatcher both rushed for more yards (69 each), but lost fumbles that killed scoring chances. So Williams earns the offensive honor during a week in which no Razorback shined. Williams did average 10.2 yards on his limited attempts, including a 45-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Defense – DE Deatrich Wise (Sack, fumble recovery)
Wise came up with two of the few big plays for Arkansas’ defense Saturday. He fell on a fumble to stop a South Carolina drive in the second quarter, keeping Arkansas within reach at 17-7. Wise also sacked Connor Shaw on third down to force a punt from South Carolina’s 5-yard line one series later. It couldn’t help Arkansas’ offense.
Special Teams – P Sam Irwin-Hill (53.5 yards on 4 punts)
Irwin-Hill’s incomplete pass on a fake punt was a big mistake, but he wins this week’s award by default. He did have another strong day punting the ball, averaging 53.5 yards on his four attempts. It included a 79-yarder, which is the longest punt in the SEC so far this season and the second-longest punt in the NCAA in 2013.
1 — Number of seasons Arkansas has reached a bowl game after losing to South Carolina. The only Arkansas team to accomplish the feat was in 2000, when the Hogs suffered a 27-7 loss to South Carolina. The Razorbacks finished 6-6 that season received an invitation to play UNLV in the Las Vegas Bowl. Arkansas missed a bowl in the seven other seasons (1994, 1996, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2012).
42.7 — Arkansas QB Brandon Allen’s completion percentage in three games since returning from his shoulder injury. Allen suffered through his worst day as a starter against South Carolina, completing just 4 of 12 passes for 30 yards. He is 38 of 89 for 476 yards with 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in the three-game stretch.
366 — Days since Arkansas’ last Southeastern Conference win. The Razorbacks beat Kentucky 49-7 on Oct. 13, 2012. Arkansas has dropped seven SEC games since then by a combined score of 260-124 (37.1 to 17.7 a game) It includes 2013 losses to Texas A&M, Florida and South Carolina. The 0-3 start is Arkansas’ first since 2007.
Arkansas suffered a big loss when Thomas went down in the second half. The senior broke a bone in his leg, which likely ends his college career.
Thomas has been valuable on and off the field this season. The team captain has 31 tackles and 3 ½ sacks in seven games, anchoring Arkansas’ defensive front.
“He’s a great kid,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “He’s been truly one of the biggest blessings for me as a head coach to have, to lean on him. He’s obviously a good player, but a really, really good leader. It sucks for him.”
Redshirt freshman Darius Philon — who has 18 tackles, 6 tackles for losses and 3 sacks — is preparing for is first start Saturday.
Arkansas also played Saturday without starting linebacker Martrell Spaight, who sat out with a knee injury. The Razorbacks are hopeful Spaight will return this week.
What is Arkansas’ reward for suffering through its worst loss of the season? A trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to play the No. 1 team in the nation.
The Razorbacks wrap up their stretch of four straight games against ranked opponents by playing Alabama (6-0, 3-0 in SEC) in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide put together a 48-7 win at Kentucky last Saturday led by a defense that has surrendered just one touchdown in its past four games.
Arkansas has lost five straight to Alabama, including last season’s 52-0 loss in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks also have lost four straight at Alabama, including blowout losses in 2011 (38-14) and 2009 (35-7).
But Allen said Arkansas is looking forward to the challenge.
“We have the No. 1 team in the nation up next on our schedule,” Allen said. “That’s something that we’ll look forward. That’s something that will get everybody going for practice, get everybody fired up.”