Second Thoughts: Arkansas
It finally happened.
South Carolina put together a complete game against the Arkansas Razorbacks and the end result was utter domination from the Gamecocks.
After an impressive opening drive by the Razorbacks to score first in the game, the Gamecocks settled down on defense and used a stellar offensive output to score 52 unanswered points on their way to their biggest win on the road in SEC play for South Carolina.
The stats tell the story in this one. South Carolina controlled the ball in this game for over 43 minutes. They ran 89 total offensive plays to Arkansas's 37. They picked up 537 yards of offense as opposed to Arkansas's 248. The Gamecocks picked up 32 first downs compared to Arkansas's seven first downs.
There really isn't anything on the stat book that doesn't show South Carolina owned Arkansas in the final game in the annual matchup since both teams became members of the SEC. It was great to see the Gamecocks play with a sense of urgency and see this defense show some signs of life. Jadeveon Clowney was vocal for South Carolina and his energy level seemed to feed other members of the defense. The Gamecocks did give up some yards on the ground to Arkansas but it seemed to matter little as once the game turned in favor of South Carolina, there was no stopping the Gamecocks.
Offensively, Connor Shaw and Mike Davis continue to lead this team in their effort level each week. Shaw has played some near perfect football this season and Davis shows that he deserves to be mentioned as one of the best running backs in college football. He added another stellar performance against Arkansas and is tops in the SEC in most rushing statistics. The Gamecocks also get value out of their small receivers in Bruce Ellington, Damiere Byrd and Nick Jones each week and they just show that this offense doesn't need a tall, physical receiver to take over. The little guys have their fun just as much as a Sidney Rice and Alshon Jeffery did during their time at South Carolina and will likely keep adding to their great seasons in the coming weeks.
It was a great game to be a fan and great to see the start of a dangerous road trip with such a dominating performance.
Now, let's get to this week's Second Thoughts on the Arkansas game:
-- I loved what I saw out of Jadeveon Clowney. Seeing him energetic and constantly pushing up field on Arkansas despite the double/triple teams that he saw was a great thing to see. Whether Clowney could have pushed through against Kentucky or not, it doesn't matter. He looked healthy and rested against Arkansas which is exactly what the Gamecocks were hoping by him sitting against the Wildcats. He will be looked upon as a leader moving forward so Clowney needs to make sure he shows that same attitude each week for the rest of the season. He may be frustrated with his statistics so far but he has to know the impact he has on the game just by showing up on the field. Not many people can say that as a defensive end.
-- Connor Shaw proved yet again that he is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the SEC. He played smart yet again by not throwing any interception and once again made the right plays at the right time. His mobility has always been a bonus but he has really blossomed into a great passing quarterback as well. He's got the accuracy needed to run this offense but has shown some great touch on deep passes this season. His throw to Damiere Byrd for a touchdown at the start of the third quarter was a thing of beauty. Shaw may have put a little extra “mustard” on that throw, but he knew he had the speedster Byrd running downfield open and able to turn on the jets for the catch. Spurrier continues to praise Connor Shaw and we as fans should do the same. There appears to be very little Shaw can't do on offense for the Gamecocks and he is the man to lead the Gamecocks to more glory this season.
-- Just like Shaw, Mike Davis showcases that he's one of the best in the SEC. This man runs with authority, power, speed, balance and any other adjective you could use to describe a top-notch running back. He added 128 yards on 19 carries and added another touchdown to his total. He's now up to nine this season is on pace to break Marcus Lattimore's record of 17 set in 2010. Davis has taken on such a big role in this offense and he will carry the load all season long. What huge pickup last year landing Mike Davis and having him ready to go this season. You could tell last season that Davis could be a special player but he's definitely looking better and better each week. Glad he's on our side.
-- It was great to see the play-calling by Coach Spurrier towards the end of the first half. The Gamecocks started on the Arkansas 49-yard line thanks to a turnover by downs by the Razorbacks. South Carolina ran off 12 plays for 49 yards in 2:07 on the clock to score thanks to a Shaw-to-Ellington pass play that was good for six points. A big part of the drive for Shaw's 3-yard scramble on fourth down to the Arkansas four-yard line. South Carolina could have kicked a field goal here considering they got the ball back after halftime. However, Spurrier knew he could get in the end zone, went for it and it paid off. A nice series to set the tone and give South Carolina an extra score heading into halftime.
-- It was good seeing some new faces in the defensive lineup. Granted, guys like Victor Hampton, who was benched, came in early in the first quarter but it sent a message that no spot is a given for this defense. It seemed to help Hampton when he came away with a crucial interception early in the first quarter that helped put USC in position to take the lead away from Arkansas. Another player that stood out was Chaz Elder. Elder has the size and ability to be a physical presence at the safety spot and played well in his start there against Arkansas. I'd like to see him there with more opportunities moving forward.
-- Shamier Jeffery deserves some recognition for his performance Saturday. He finally made a bit of an impact on a game and finished the day with five receptions, which were the first catches of his Gamecock career. He's been a guy with a ton of talent but it has never translated over to an actual game. He made a few nice plays on Saturday and seemed angry at himself after being tackled for a nice gain. Maybe, just maybe, the light is finally on for Jeffery and he can be that bigger receiving threat for South Carolina this season.
-- This Skai Moore kid is the real deal. South Carolina landed a steal with him when he committed to the Gamecocks out of high school. He led the team in tackles with six on Saturday and just gets better each week. The more experience he gains, the better for the Gamecocks. He's athletic, quick and has a nose for the ball. He'll be a player that should make a big impact the rest of this season and in the future for the Gamecocks.
-- Pharoh Cooper has a great name. And it looks like he's got the talent to back it up. Two straight weeks he's made some nice plays in a variety of ways. This past Saturday, he had a nice 33-yard run from the Wildcat and a nice 35-yard punt return as well. He's the Gamecocks return man at this point and likely won't give up that role any time soon. I just like what I've seen from this freshman and hope he gets more chances on offense real soon.
-- It's always great when the third-string quarterback gets a touchdown. Here's Brendan Nosovitch doing his thing late in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand. He's got a nice future with South Carolina.
I don't think this game could have gone any better for South Carolina. Being able to dominate a quality team like Arkansas on the road was a great boost for the mentality of this football team. Everyone needed a good solid win like this and they got it and more with the 52-7 victory. South Carolina should be able to take these good feelings on the road against Tennessee next weekend and continue to build off of this win.
The mantra is always “one game at a time.” This will certainly be the case as South Carolina is now back in the SEC East hunt with Georgia's loss to Missouri. Florida fell this past Saturday as well and the only unbeaten team in the East is the Missouri Tigers, who South Carolina faces in two weeks. Will Georgia lose again? Can the Gamecocks rally and continue its run towards defeating this SEC East foes? They've got a chance now thanks to the Georgia loss and that's all they've asked for.
This weekend shows that you should never give up hope on your aspirations. The Gamecocks hoped for a shot at the SEC Championship and now they've got it. The only thing they need to worry about is winning the next game, which is Tennessee.
It won't be easy but they should feel good about where they are as a team now thanks to this blowout win over Arkansas.
5-1 ain't too bad, is it?