COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Razorbacks walked into Williams Brice Stadium for a key SEC game on Saturday night and the Gamecocks never knew what hit them.
Ryan Mallett passed for 303 yards, Knile Davis rushed for 110 yards and three touchdowns and Zach Hocker booted two field goals – including a career-long 51-yarder - as No. 18 Arkansas downed No. 19 South Carolina 41-20 Saturday night before 71,356 fans.
"It was our most complete game," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "We had to leave (injured wide receiver) Greg Childs at home. We called him on the phone afterward and he counted down the points for us. We wanted to win the game for Greg.
"That's a good win for us, a team win. We did well in all three phases. We were well prepared. Our coaches did a great job. Our team took the field with energy."
Petrino said he was pleased with the play of Ryan Maleltt.
"He was focused and really understood what it took for us to win the game," Petrino said. "He had the one interception, but it was a tipped pass.
"I thought Knile Davis did a great job of running the ball. Our line worked hard. They've stayed healthy and they've all worked together. It was a great effort to run the ball, but we've seen this coming. Our line also did a nice job of protecting Ryan.
"Defensively, we thought if we slowed down the run, we'd be in good shape. We didn't just slow it down, we stopped it."
Cobi Hamilton added 7 catches for 111 yards in the rout, which the Razorbacks (7-2, 4-2) led 41-10 early in the fourth quarter and was a stunning beat down of the SEC Eastern Division leading Gamecocks (6-3, 4-3).
"We were really focused," Arkansas senior offensive lineman DeMarcus Love said. "We knew we had to come get this one in order to be in position we want to be at the end of the season. We came into a hostile environment. But the team stuck together."
Mallett was 21-of-30 with one rushing touchdown and one passing score and went over the 300-yard mark for the 12th time in his 22-game Razorback career.
He emphatically answered criticism from the ESPN College Gameday crew on Saturday morning he had never won a big road game and also moved past Quinn Grovey into third on the all-time total offense chart with 6,309 yards.
The South Carolina secondary came into the game last in the 12-team SEC, was without starter Chris Culliver and lived up to its billing.
"We put it all together tonight and we have to keep doing," Mallett said. "If we were doing this all season, then we wouldn't be in the position we are in. But we're progressing every game still. It's like last year when we got on a roll toward the end of the season."
Davis scored on runs of 2, 21 and 1 yards against the Gamecocks the last of which was a dive into the end zone that surged the Razorbacks ahead 31-10 with 5:39 left in the third quarter.
Hocker hit field goals of 41 yards and the career-long 51 to make him 10-of-11 for this season.
He has also made all 39 of his PATs attempts with the lone non-successful one occurring because of a bad snap.
The Arkansas defense also had a big night, holding the Gamecocks big trio of tailback Marcus Lattimore, wideout Alshon Jeffrey and quarterback Stephen Garcia in check.
Garcia was 14-of-29 for 161 yards, Jeffrey had 89 of his 99 yards receiving in the opening half and Lattimore – the true freshman – was limited to just 30 yards rushing on 11 carries.
"We had a bad night, a very bad night," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said afterwards. "I apologize to the fans that we weren't even competitive tonight. The way we played it's a wonder that we have won six games this year. For some reason we didn't have much tonight...They thoroughly beat us so give those guys credit. They were the best team out there today.
"They thoroughly outplayed us, out-coached us, out everythinged us," Spurrier added. "They certainly deserved to win the game."
South Carolina has been averaging 151 yards rushing per game, but was held to 105 on Saturday with 54 of that coming via Garcia scrambling.
Lattimore had 184 last week in a win over Tennessee, but battled the Arkansas defense and a bruise and could not get going.
"Our running game didn't go nearly where we thought it would tonight," Spurrier said. "It didn't come out like it did in prior games. So it seemed like we were forced to throw a little bit more than we wanted to and had to try a few deep balls and hit a few here and there. But we are not good enough to throw 30 or 40 times a game. The best thing for us is to not get behind."
Gartica was surprised at his team's humbling.
"It caught us off guard," Garcia said. "...We move the ball well in the first half. We just had stupid stuff happen. We missed the field goal. we had an offensive pass interference. We had a lot of missed opportunities that you just can't have.
Arkansas took a 41-10 lead early in the fourth quarter when Mallett crashed in from the 1-yard line.
Over half of the crowd had left by that time.
"We jumped on them fast and I guess – around the third quarter – the fans started leaving," Love said.
"You can sense it anytime when you take it out of them," Love added "You can see it in their body language and by the way they play. You know you're on their heals and that's a good feeling."
Mallett wasn't surprising to Spurrier.
"Mallett played about like we thought he would," Spurrier said. "He is a good passer and had excellent protection and run the ball well enough to keep you off balance."
South Carolina - who gave up a season-high 41 points - did make it better cosmetically with a field goal and taking a Tyler Wilson fumble into the end zone for a score, but the game was over by that time.
The Gamecocks had won their last six home games and 10 of their last 11.
With Greg Childs – Arkansas' leading receiver out for the season – Hamilton, D.J. Williams (5 catches, 67 yards), Jarius Wright (4 catches, 88 yards) and Joe Adams (3 catches, 27 yards, 2 first downs) all stepped up.
Hamilton became the fourth different Razorback wideout to go over 100 yards in a game this season.
The team called Childs from the locker room after the game just as they did Dennis Johnson earlier when his season ended after an injury.
"This team is a family," Williams said. "This win was for them. He's a great player. We hope he gets better. Tonight we had players step up. We picked up the slack. That's the great thing about our offense: depth.
The only bad part of the night was a knee injury to senior cornerback Ramon Broadway, who had to leave the game in the first quarter and didn't return.
The first half – and likely the game - turned on a possession where it appeared the referees missed a call – something that clearly upset Petrino.
Arkansas had taken a 10-7 lead on Mallett's 4-yard TD pass to Hamilton and Hocker's 41-yard field goal sandwiched around Garcia's 4-yard pass to Tori Gurley.
South Carolina was driving for a go-ahead touchdown, but Razorback linebacker Jerry Franklin knocked the ball loose from Garcia.
The visitors also recovered, but the play was ruled down because of forward progress even though the play was a continuous one.
Poetic justice ensued as Spencer Lanning's 29-yard field goal hit the left upright and bounced away harmlessly.
Arkansas responded immediately as Mallett hit Wright on a 57-yard bomb to flip the field.
Four players later, Davis crashed into end zone from two yards out and Hocker's PAT surged the Razorbacks ahead 17-7 with 6:33 left in the second quarter.
South Carolina tried a fake punt, but Elton Ford's tackle spoiled that attempt and gave Arkansas the ball just 38 yards from paydirt.
"It was fourth-and-5 from midfield and it looked pretty good," Spurrier said. "One guy backed out and somehow or another we didn't block him. At the time I thought it was the right call and I'd do it again. We were having trouble stopping them and we were trying to get a possession there and didn't make it."
The Razorbacks needed just three plays to cover that with Davis' 21-yard dash capping the drive.
Hocker's extra point had Arkansas suddenly ahead 24-7 with 1:57 left in the half.
Garcia's apparent touchdown pass to Jeffrey was negated by offensive interference so the Gamecocks settled for Lanning' 29-yard field on the last play of the half to cut it to 24-10.
"In the first half we had some scoring opportunities that could have got us back in the game at halftime and made it a game in the second half, but we didn't convert them," Spurrier said. "They just simply outplayed us."
Arkansas took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove to the South Carolina 13, but Mallett's pass to Wright ended up being tipped by Stefon Gilmore and intercepted by DeVonte Holliman.
Tramain Thomas picked Garcia off to set up Davis' score and Hocker booted his 51-yarder soon afterwards to give the Razorbacks a 34-10 advantage with 1:18 left in the third quarter.
"It was really important for us to get a lid on them and make them one-dimensional," Thomas said. "We made them one-dimensional tonight and it came out to our advantage. As a whole, our defense just played our hearts out. Our defensive line was giving them trouble out there. We were giving them trouble trying to disguise it. We played well as a defense tonight." Despite the loss, South Carolina will still play at Florida next Saturday for the SEC Eastern Division crown and the right to play in the league's championship game.
"What the teams have done so far doesn't matter, just what we do in that game," Spurrier said. "We just have to regroup and do what we can for improvement. We will try to do that and give ourselves a chance for next week."
Arkansas takes a break from SEC action next weekend when it host UTEP in a 6 p.m. game that will be televised by ESPNU.
Cobi Hamilton heads for the sideline in the first half against South Carolina.
DeQuinta Jones trips Stephen Garcia.
Jarius Wright has a catch against the Gamecocks.
D. J. Williams churns for yards.
Elton Ford stops Carolina's fake punt as Matt Marshall arrives to help.
Greg Gatson clutches an interception.
Knile Davis walks a tightrope on the sideline for a touchdown run.
Knile Davis found running room in the middle.
Knile Davis leaps for the end zone.
Rudell Crim knocks down a pass.
Photos by Marc. F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated