They call themselves the Gamecocks, but they didn't get to do any crowing Saturday night in Columbia. The Hogs crowed first and crowed loudest. And they got to crow a little afterwards during a celebration of the 41-20 victory.
I laughed afterwards when one Razorback came off the field looking for the Homecoming queen. It wasn't Homecoming in Columbia, but to the victors go the spoils.
Arkansas hauls a big bell to road games. They ring it afterwards if they hit a peak performance. This was the best peak of the Bobby Petrino era. They probably beat the SEC East champ -- a team with a No. 1 scalp -- on its home field and made them like it.
The pre-game Top 10 Things to Watch that was penned on Friday turned out pretty sweet for the Razorbacks. Most everything that was important fell their way, including a missed field goal and a touchdown called back for pass interference.
The best thing the Hogs did was win the physical hitting match up front. The Hogs were the hammer. The Gamecocks were the nail. The South Carolina sports information office brought back a long list of injuries to the press box. There were two concussions, several bruised knees, bruised ribs and assorted other problems after the Hogs knocked them around for four quarters.
Make no mistake, the Hogs knocked them around. They reduced them to playing their No. 3 center in the second half, a 270-pound deep snapper. The Arkansas defensive line got off blocks against a Carolina line stacked with three seniors. The Arkansas offensive line blocked for the run and protected for the pass equally well. The Hogs seem to be getting better as far as the physical nature of the game as the season progresses.
There are two historical notes worth mentioning. First, that completed a perfect 3-0 sweep of the SEC East for the Razorbacks. The only other time the Hogs did that in 19 years of SEC play was in 2006, but the Hogs lost to SEC East champ Florida in the title game in Atlanta so even that year wasn't a clean sweep. Also, the Hogs, now 14th in one poll, keep intact a run of being in every poll of the season. They have never been ranked every week for an entire season since coming to the SEC in 1992. The last time they did that was in 1989 on the way to the Cotton Bowl.
Here's our pre-game Top 10 -- and a reminder that I was one of the few to pick an Arkansas victory last week -- and how it turned out:
1) Marcus Lattimore
The big South Carolina back was never a factor. The Hogs hit him in the hole early and eventually knocked him out of the game with a knee bruise. Lattimore finished with 30 carries on just 11 runs. He wasn't a factor after the first quarter.
2) Mallett and Garcia
Ryan Mallett won this battle easily. The Arkansas quarterback was 21 of 30 for 303 yards through the air. He threw for one touchdown and scored another on a 1-yard sneak. His only interception was a slant for Jarius Wright that the defender stuck a hand in on and should be considered a standout play, saving a touchdown. The Hogs had the ball back quickly on a Garcia interception, then put the game away with a touchdown for a three-score lead. Garcia's decisions weren't that great, while Mallett did a nice job of protection checks against a hefty list of blitz calls from Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. Tight end D. J. Williams said most of his five catches came when Mallett found him after rolling through his progressions. Mallett's decisions were outstanding all night. It did not appear that Garcia had the same kind of success as he made checks and decisions.
This one spoke to what the Hogs were trying to do on defense, leave Steve Spurrier guessing on the sideline as to what the Hogs were doing with their scheme and coverage. The Hogs tried not to tip their hand until after the snap and did a nice job. Garcia never looked comfortable in reading the UA secondary. Robinson said afterwards that he tried to disguise the look so Garcia couldn't find one-on-one matchups. It looked like the Hogs had double coverage most of the time on Alshon Jeffery, the go-to man in the USC wide receiver corps.
4) Hold Everything
The SEC refs, led by official Tom Ritter, didn't get it all right. Ritter, all by himself, made the big screwup in the game, robbing Jerry Franklin of a sack against Garcia that should have been a lost fumble. Bobby Petrino was livid on that one, even getting Ritter to trot over for a not-so-well-received explanation of his "in the grasp" call. Never mind, there is no "in the grasp" rule in the college game. The Gamecocks could have been called for holding quite a few times as the Arkansas ends beat the Carolina tackles on the edge in rush situations. They finally called a couple of holds. Carolina's top wideout, Jeffery, did have a pushoff that was called to negate a touchdown catch that cost the Gamecocks four points.
5) The Replay Man
Thankfully, this wasn't an issue for a road trip. The reviews were correctly ruled and there were no problems. The Hogs actually got a touchdown after a review. Mallett was viewed to have been short of the end zone on a sneak. The line judges probably were blocked. The replay man, with a higher camera look, noted Mallett had crossed the plane and that call was reversed. It's hard to applaud them for finally getting it right after so many botched replays this season.
6) The Fourth Quarter
This was actually not a factor. Arkansas took the fourth quarter out of the equation by rolling over the Gamecocks with a 34-3 haymaker in the middle part of the game. It was 41-10 early in the fourth quarter and it was an empty stadium, except for the Arkansas fans and players left to celebrate one of their biggest SEC road victories. Carolina did win the fourth quarter, 10-7, in case you are keeping track.
7) Van Stumon
It was another solid performance for the senior fullback, but he had help from his buddies in what is called the Dog Pound. That's the fullbacks, H-backs and tight ends. They were great at the point of attack on the perimeter to clear Knile Davis for big runs. They seem to have the Gamecocks outflanked on a lot of those sweeps. They caught the end crashing inside and sealed the linebackers and safeties, along with a pulling guard. Some of these blocks were crushing.
8) Cornerback Play
Arkansas held up here despite losing Ramon Broadway to a leg injury early in the game. Eric Bennett was the first man off the bench, but the true freshman gave way to veteran Greg Gatson. The tiny Gatson, just 5-10 on a tall day, had little trouble matching up with Carolina's tall receivers, although Willy Robinson seemed to plan for his presence with plenty of zones and not so much man coverage. The Hogs missed several chances at a few more interceptions, including one drop by Isaac Madison. Conversely, the Hogs abused the Carolina corners with Cobi Hamilton and Jarius Wright. They also put D. J. Williams wide looking for bad matchups on the outside and that worked great, too.
The Hogs had two, but neither affected the game. Tyler Wilson's lost fumble in the closing minutes was the only blip on the radar, but the Hogs were up by four touchdowns and it didn't even cause the Gamecocks to think about using timeouts at the end of the game. They knew it was over. Ryan Mallett's only interception was close to being a touchdown and came about because of a tip. No one was blaming him afterwards. Obviously, the Hogs should have gotten one more when Garcia fumbled, but forward progress ruled and the takeaway nullified.
10) Special Teams
The Hogs did all right, but probably had too many penalties. There was one poor kickoff coverage play, but for the most part the Hogs won this battle. They stopped a fake punt for a critical momentum swing just before halftime. Zach Hocker made two nice field goals, including a 51-yarder. Carolina had a critical missed field goal, its first of the season. The Hogs did enough here for Bobby Petrino to say afterwards that his team won all three phases. It was the type of performance that makes it easy to review a Top 10 pre-game list.
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