Five Keys Review
1. Protect Tyler Wilson
Arkansas knew Jadeveon Clowney and the South Carolina defense would be a handful for its offensive front and it was clear Saturday. The Gamecocks spent a good portion of the day in the Arkansas backfield, sacking quarterback Tyler Wilson four times and pressuring him into other early throws and mistakes.
“It makes you throw the ball a little earlier than you normally do,” Wilson said about the pressure from South Carolina. “It makes you have to guess sometimes.”
Clowney got one of the Gamecocks’ four sacks, swallowing Wilson after going unblocked on a bootleg. It derailed an early drive. Overall, the four sacks allowed also equaled a season-high surrendered by the Razorbacks, which had given up 12 in nine games. Alabama also collected four sacks against Arkansas this season.
2. Steady Play From Linebackers
Arkansas knew the Gamecocks would test its two freshmen linebackers, who started together for the first time this season. South Carolina wasted no time, either, going at Otha Peters and A.J. Turner on passing plays during an opening-drive touchdown.
The plan worked. Tight end Jerell Adams slipped in between both linebackers to pull in a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Connor Shaw on South Carolina’s first possession. Show threw for 78 yards on the opening drive, completing most of it to tight ends and running backs with Peters and Turner chasing in coverage.
The freshmen deserve credit for sticking in there, though. Peters finished with a team-high 8 tackles in his starting debut. Turner added six tackles and a sack.
3. Win Turnover Battle
Another week. Another round of turnover problems. The Arkansas offense hurt itself immensely with turnovers once again Saturday, committing three in the loss.
Running back Dennis Johnson lost a fumble inside the South Carolina 5-yard line with the Razorbacks trailing 7-0 in the first half, wiping out a scoring chance. Wilson threw an interception that was returned 69 yards for a touchdown by South Carolina defensive back D.J. Swearinger in the third quarter, busting the game open.
Arkansas has now committed 24 turnovers in 10 games this season.
4. Stop the Run
South Carolina was without Marcus Lattimore, but still posed a threat on the ground because of Shaw and running backs Kenny Miles and Mike Davis. The Razorbacks kept the Gamecocks under wraps for much of the day, though, allowing 104 rushing yards on 41 attempts (2.5 yards a carry). So Arkansas accomplished its goal of forcing Shaw to throw the ball in order to beat the Razorbacks.
The problem? Shaw was pretty effective through the air Saturday. Especially in the first half, when he completed 9 of 15 passes for 192 yards with two touchdowns.
5. Win Second Quarter
It was an odd goal, but very important to an Arkansas team that had been outscored 72-21 in the second quarter of its five losses. The Razorbacks struck first in the second quarter Saturday, getting a touchdown drive to tie the game at 7-7.
Arkansas struggled defensively, though, giving up a pair of touchdown to fall into a double-digit hole by halftime. The backbreaker came in the final two minutes of the quarter, when a 42-yard touchdown pass gave South Carolina a 21-10 halftime lead.
The Razorbacks were outscored 14-10 in the second quarter Saturday.
Players of the Game
Offense – RB Jonathan Williams (7 carries, 61 yards)
Arkansas didn’t enjoy an outstanding day on offense, missing opportunities throughout the loss. But Williams showed some promise when the game was already decided. He led the Hogs with 61 rushing yards on seven carries. It included some nifty moves against a defense successful in stopping the run. One issue that must be corrected: Williams fumbled twice, although none were lost.
Defense – S Ross Rasner (7 tackles, TFL, PBU)
The leader of Arkansas’ back seven turned in another solid performance, finishing second on the team with seven tackles. He had one tackle for loss and also broke up a pass in the end zone, helping Arkansas avoid more trouble. Rasner now has team-highs in tackles (74), break ups (6) and interceptions (3).
Special Teams – K Zach Hocker (2-for-2 on FGs, 2-for-2 on PATs)
The junior enjoyed a perfect day, making 20- and 21-yard field goals in the Arkansas loss. Hocker also enjoyed a record-setting day, setting the school mark for points scored by a kicker. Hocker has scored 285 points with the Razorbacks, breaking a record held by former Razorback Steve Little (280 points from 1974-77).
0 – Number of touchdown catches in SEC games this season for Arkansas receiver Cobi Hamilton. The wideout owns the school’s single-season receptions (73) and receiving yards marks (1,149), but has had trouble getting in the end zone. Hamilton has four touchdowns this season, but none in conference play. In fact, he hasn’t reached the end zone since scoring three touchdowns on his record-setting night against Rutgers on Sept. 22. The drought stretches six games.
1 – There were a number of firsts for some Razorbacks in the South Carolina loss. Receiver Keon Hatcher caught his first pass, which also was his first touchdown. Running back Nate Holmes got his first rushing attempt. Linebacker Otha Peters earned his first start. And cornerback Tevin Mitchel grabbed his first interception.
539 – Career completions for Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, which is a school record. Wilson — who completed 26 of 41 passes Saturday — broke the mark held by Clint Stoerner. The former Razorback completed 528 passes in his career.
Arkansas (4-6, 2-4 in SEC) is back on the road to play at Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3 in SEC). The Bulldogs opened the season 7-0 and climbed as high as No. 11 in the Bowl Championship Series standings, but have dropped three straight to Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU. The Tigers beat the Bulldogs 37-17 in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday.
Mississippi State will try to end the skid against Arkansas in a series that has been dominated by the Razorbacks since 1999. Arkansas has won 12 of the past 13 against the Bulldogs, including a 38-31 (2OT) win in Starkville, Miss., in 2010.
The game is set for an 11:21 a.m. kickoff and will be televised by the SEC Network.
“As long as my guys look at me and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to fight our tails off and keep moving the football, I’m going to stay in there. I don’t want to be the guy sitting on the sideline while the rest of the starters are on the field. That’s just not me. That’s the way I look at it.” — Wilson, when asked why the Arkansas coaching staff kept him on the field late in the fourth quarter with South Carolina in control.
“Why? Because we’re trying to score points and he’s trying to lead them and he’s our starting quarterback. That’s why. … I kept Tyler in. So if you want to criticize me, criticize me. I’m not going to change my answer.” — Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, when asked the same question Saturday.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau