After a painful trip to the Swamp last week, the Razorbacks return to Fayetteville for Homecoming to face the Ol’ Ball Coach and the #14 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (4-1). The 11:21 kickoff will be televised by the SEC Network.
The first quarter was fun. Watching the young Hogs roll up 120 total yards against the Gators and hold their own in the trenches against one of the best defenses in America should give all fans hope for the future.
But watching how quickly it unraveled showed how far we have to go.
Brandon Allen will play better. In his first experience in a hostile environment, he was shaky to start and got progressively worse as the Gators continued to hit him. The two first half turnovers – one, another ‘pick six’ – were only part of the problem. Missing uncovered receivers and repeatedly throwing behind his targets, added to the frustration. Drops by the receivers when he was on target didn’t help his cause either. To his credit, Allen owned it all.
“I missed a lot of throws,” Allen said. “I definitely wish I could take back the pick-six. A lot of things that I could have done better. I’m not proud of my performance at all. I didn’t think that I did what it took to win this game.”
There were good plays to build on. Defensive ends Trey Flowers and Chris Smith played their usual good games (a sack and 4.5 TFL combined). 6-10 Dan Skipper got his big paw on another field goal attempt.
The injury bug though bit like a gator chomp. Cornerback Will Hines’ broken arm (out for the season) and center Travis Swanson (sprained MCL) left the game and did not return. As of Tuesday, Swanson will be able to go against South Carolina.
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks were hanging on to beat woeful Kentucky squad 35-28. USC was up 27-7 going into the fourth quarter, and watched as UK scored 14 unanswered points to make it a 27-21 ball game.
Carolina missed All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney who asked the coaches to sit out with sore ribs. Head coach Steve Spurrier (70-38, 9th year at USC; 212-78-2 24th season overall) didn’t seem all that happy with Clowney’s absence.
If Clowney “wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants,” Spurrier said. “But he if doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play. Simple as that.”
The game against Kentucky marked the return of quarterback Connor Shaw (927 PaYds, 7TDs), who was knocked out of the UCF game the week before with a shoulder injury. The Gamecocks are one of the few teams in the NCAA who don’t see much if any drop off in their backup quarterback. Dylan Thompson (378 PaYds, TD) has been a part-time starter and frequent contributor in recent years.
The bell cow of this Gamecock offense though is running back Mike Davis. Davis has been electric so far this year, rolling for 614 RuYds and 8TDs, and a lofty 6.7 yard per carry. He has the power and is elusive in space…one of the SEC’s best.
On defense, even when Clowney has been in there, USC has not been the dominating defense many thought they would be. Since dropping a weaker than expected North Carolina team 27-10 in week 1, the Gamecocks have given up 29.8 ppg in the last four.
To win this game, the Hogs have got stop Davis and do a better job in protecting Allen this week. When he has time to throw, he can be efficient. But if the Gamecocks get after him like the Gators did last Saturday, USC will be celebrating their first win in Fayetteville since 2005.
Extended forecasts call for 40 percent chance of showers and game time temperatures in the upper 60s. South Carolina is favored by 6.