Arkansas Embarrasses South Carolina 41-20 Behind Mallett, Davis
Greg Childs did the honors Saturday at South Carolina. As usual, it took a while. The Razorbacks scored 41 points in 41-20 blowout.
What made Saturday's count strange was that Childs didn't account for any of the points. The star wide receiver didn't even make the trip to Columbia, staying home in Arkansas after undergoing knee surgery Friday.
He led the count by telephone instead.
"Hearing him on the phone meant a lot to our guys," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "We missed him."
Not on the field they didn't. The Razorback offense rolled up 400 yards in the first three quarters, with quarterback Ryan Mallett throwing to Childs' stand-ins and tailback Knile Davis running for 110 yards and three touchdowns against the Southeastern Conference's best run defense.
Davis was so effective Petrino often called his number in what would normally be considered passing situations on third down. Davis converted two third-and-threes and a third-and-five in the game.
Childs' absence due to the patella tendon tear he suffered last week against Vanderbilt seemed to sharpen the focus of Arkansas' offense Saturday. The Razorbacks led by 31 points early in the fourth quarter before South Carolina tacked on 10 inconsequential points in the closing minutes.
"We did whatever we wanted whenever we wanted," Arkansas' Davis said.
The Razorbacks' dominance so offended South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier that he apologized to the fans for the performance afterward. Saturday was the school's homecoming, and the fact that the Gamecocks still play a winner-takes-the-SEC-East showdown against Florida next week had the Ol' Ball Coach doing his best Joe Riggins -- the manager in the movie Bull Durham who dressed down his team in the shower following a loss -- in the postgame press conference.
"The way we played, you wonder how we won six games this year," Spurrier said. "We had a terrible night. We weren't even competitive."
A one-dimensional offense was partly to blame. Star tailback Marcus Lattimore, who has rushed for 180-plus yards twice this year in Williams-Brice Stadium, bruised his knee in the second quarter and managed just 11 carries for 30 yards.
A limited Lattimore put the onus on quarterback Stephen Garcia. The senior ended up leading the team in rushing with 54 yards and found his usual connection with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery -- seven catches for 99 yards -- but he struggled otherwise. Garcia threw two interceptions and made several other mistakes that elicited grimaces and play-sheet tosses from Spurrier.
Spurrier could sense the game slipping away even before halftime. Trailing 17-7 late in the second quarter, Spurrier called a fake punt on a fourth-and-six play from his team's 38-yard line. The fake failed to fool Arkansas, and the Razorbacks tackled the ballcarrier four yards shy of the first-down marker. The Razorbacks scored a touchdown three plays later.
"I thought it was the right call and I would do it again," Spurrier said. "We were struggling to stop them and trying to get a possession there. We just didn't make it."
Unlike the two teams to beat Arkansas this year -- Alabama and Auburn -- South Carolina didn't have the playmakers to trade scores with Arkansas in the second half. The Razorbacks allowed the Gamecocks just 21 plays after halftime. Arkansas doubled their opponent in time of possession in the second half.
Gamecock safety Akeem Auguste made no excuses.
"As the teams get better, we have to get better," he said. "We have to start playing to our competition."
Arkansas found little competition from the SEC East this season. The Razorbacks went 3-0, defeating Georgia and South Carolina on the road and Vanderbilt at home. Yet the Hogs sit in fourth place in the SEC West behind two teams that have been ranked No. 1 this season and a third, LSU, that will likely climb into the top 10 of the polls Sunday. LSU knocked off Alabama earlier on Saturday.
"We can't do anything about it -- it's all geography," said Mallett, who finished with 303 yards, his seventh 300-yard passing performance in nine games this season. "Arkansas is west and they broke up the conference into east and west. It is pretty interesting to think about what it would be like if we were in the other division."
The SEC East has turned into a mid-major conference this season -- or at least the ACC or Big East. South Carolina and Florida are tied for the lead with 4-3 marks, which would put them next to last in the SEC West.
Yet the Gamecocks and Gators will play next Saturday in Gainesville, Fla. for a berth in the SEC Championship game against either LSU or Auburn. Florida defeated Vanderbilt early Saturday afternoon to set up the showdown, and the Florida-Vandy outcome failed to escape the South Carolina players' notice prior to kickoff against Arkansas.
"I don't think anybody was looking ahead to the Florida game, but I think it was on everybody's mind," Garcia, South Carolina's quarterback, said. "Everybody knew that (the Arkansas game) didn't mean a whole lot in terms of the East Division, but we wanted to go out and get some momentum going into Florida."