For the second straight week, Arkansas started off with a flourish against a highly ranked team.
But consistent with what happened the previous Saturday at No. 18 Florida, an interception cost the Razorbacks the lead and then they just fell completely apart in a fourth straight loss.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw threw three touchdown passes – two to football-basketball star Bruce Ellington – and ran for another score as the No. 14 Gamecocks absolutely crushed the Razorbacks 52-7 before 66,302 Homecoming fans in Fayetteville.
"Today is a day that you have to put it in a memory bank and vow that you will never let it happen again – as a head coach, as an assistant coach, as a coordinator, as a player, second string, third string," Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said afterwards. "It is unacceptable and I apologize to the Homecoming crowd. I know they came out and wanted a good show.
"I thought our guys showed up and were ready to play and once again we just hit a little bit of adversity and we can't get over that speed bump," Bielema added. "It is very, very frustrating to the players and the coaches and I know for fans."
It was the worst loss of Bielema's eight-year head coaching career, topping a 48-7 loss to Penn State when he was at Wisconsin.
South Carolina (5-1, 3-1) absolutely dominated Arkansas (3-4, 0-3) in total offense (537 yards to 248) and time of possession (43:25 to 16:35), snaps (89 to 37) and first downs (32 to 7).
Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier had lost his last three trips to Arkansas, but got his money's worth on Saturday.
In fact, he went for it on fourth down late and later tossed a touchdown pass to former Razorback wide receiver Kane Whitehurst, a Gamecocks' walk on who left Arkansas after getting in to some legal trouble.
"I do feel badly for Arkansas," Spurrier said. "That's no fun getting your butt beat at home, homecoming and all that."
He added that Arkansas was not the team that it had been in the past.
"They're not as strong of a team as they were when they were kicking our tails the last three times I've been in here, but Bret and his guys need to recruit their way out of it," Spurrier said. "It's going to take a little while as we all know.
...Sometimes this is a leading misleading," Spurrier said. "We're not this good and they're not this bad, but it really worked out for us today."
South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who took a lot of heat for not playing last week against Kentucky, started and had one tackle.
Bielema tried hard to find a positive note.
"The good news is that it is so many things that are correctable," Bielema continued. "If I take Sunday's practice and Tuesday's practice and we just work on ball security offensively and tackling defensively, we will get better as a football team. It's as simple as that.
"There was a drive, I think their second scoring drive where we had five different misalignments and executions on an 11-play drive," Bielema added. "You can't play winning football that way."
To sum up the day, Arkansas had two plays where they gained 79 yards only to suffer fumbles at the end of both big gainers.
"To have two big offensive plays negated by ball security, that's coaching and that is on me 100 percent," Bielema said. "It's a point of emphasis in our program and it needs to cease. It's as simple as that.
"All of us have to get better, starting with me," Bielema said.
Bielema admits he was shocked by the result.
"Just what I saw during the course of the week, what I saw during the course of the week," Bielema said. "Again, I go back to the winter conditioning, spring ball, the fall camp – the one thing that you can not simulate or is hard to do when you are playing each other is to simulate adversity.
"That is the one thing that we can not withstand," Bielema added. "We have a negative play and then it cartwheels into everything and is around us in every way. I have been a part of programs that have been in it and when you get out of it, you can hit the ground running, but until we do that it is just a very frustrating feeling."
There was a vast difference in the productivity of the two starting quarterbacks.
Shaw was 19-of-28 passing for 219 yards and the three touchdowns with one lost fumble on a bad exchange and also rushed 14 times for 37 yards.
Arkansas rushed for 218 yards with Alex Collins and Keon Hatcher both getting 69 yards and Jonathan Williams 61.
But quarterback Brandon Allen was just 4-of-12 passing for 30 yards.
"The kid deserves a medal of some kind," Bielema said of Allen. "He basically does minimal practice on Tuesday, the entire practice on Wednesday and then he doesn't do much on Thursday and Friday.
"It is hard for him to get the rhythm going, but I think he provides the best answer for us right now at quarterback for sure," Bielema added. "It is pretty important to keep him healthy and get us into that bye week and get some guys some rest."
The Razorbacks are now winless in their last seven SEC games – the longest streak since they entered the league in 1992. It was the first time they have failed to score more than one touchdown in back-to-back games since 2008.
It's also the first time that Arkansas has started 0-3 in the SEC since 2007 and it doesn't get any easier with a trip to No. 1 Alabama next week to cap off an eight-week run without an open date.
"We will just hunker down and I don't think these guys will have any quit in them," Bielema said. "It is a group that has a real amount of pride and you don't have any better reason to get ready now than the number one team in the country, getting ready to go on the road after a eight-week stint.
"I feel for our guys, but on the same account, until we decide to make a stand, it is going to permeate and continue to be a part of what we are doing," Bielema added.
On the injury front, senior defensive tackle Robert Thomas broke a bone and will be lost for some time while linebacker Martrell Spaight did not play because of an injury suffered at Florida.
"Robert Thomas, unfortunately, looks like he broke a bone," Bielema said. "I don't know exactly the specifics of it, but he'll have surgery and will be out for a long time.
"...That's too bad because he is a great kid and one of the biggest blessings for me as a head coach to have to lean on him," Bielema added. "He is obviously a good player, but a really, really good leader."
Arkansas took a 7-0 lead when it took the opening kickoff 64 yards in seven plays.
Allen hit Javontee Herndon with a 20-yard pass on the drive while Hatcher had a run of 19, Kiero Small one of 16 and Collins capped it off with a 6-yard scoring dash.
"One of the reasons that first drive was so successful that we had nice rhythm," Bielema said. "Keon had that nice play taking it down, we hit some nice runs and passes."
South Carolina cut it to 7-3 and then got its big break when Allen's pass for D'Arthur Cowan was picked by Victor Hampton for what almost turned into a pick-six for the third straight week.
"It was a formation that I had seen on film," Hampton said. "I'd seen them run it quite a bit, that same route. It was one of those preparation things. It just happened to happen."
After Hampton returned it 21 yards to the Razorback 6, Mike Davis plowed in on the next play for what would be a 9-7 lead.
"Obviously that corner sat there right there on that play," Bielema said. "Either he was in the huddle or knew we were going to run that play. We have got to do a good job as a receiver to try and get it, but also as coaches to not be as predictable to throw into that press look right there."
Shaw then hit Ellington on touchdown passes of 9 and 6 later in the half to push the Gamecocks' lead to 24-7 before intermission.
The second touchdown pass – which happened after a Arkansas failed fake punt pass from its own 49 – came with 13 seconds left before intermission.
That fake punt was by Sam Irwin Hill – who had a 79-yard punt and averaged 53.5 yards on four boots – whose pass fell incomplete. He had completed a pass for a first down early this season at Rutgers.
"Obviously on a fake punt, the rationale would be to get a first down," Bielema said. "The second part is that he had two options on that play and we obviously wish he had chosen the second option (to punt).
"But it is a package that can continue to grow," Bielema added. "Sam has just got to be able to get a better feel for it."
That lead quickly grew to 31-7 as the Gamecocks roared out of the locker room, got the opening kickoff for a 6-play, 75-yard drive – the final play a 55-yard pass from Shaw to Damiere Byrd.
As if to personify the game, Arkansas wide receiver Keon Hatcher took a reverse on the next possession and went 50 yards to the South Carolina 21 – only to fumble and have that upheld by a review.
Shaw then did the honors himself with a 10-yard scoring run that made it 38-7 with 1:29 left in the third quarter.
"We just started calling our ball plays," Spurrier said. "I told the team at halftime, we're going to keep calling our ball plays. We throw interceptions? Get a sack? That's too bad. We are going to play.
"Fortunately, we hit the middle on that long one and our defense from about midfield and our defense stopped them just about every time there," Spurrier added.
The Gamecocks then added a pair of fourth quarter scores with back-up quarterback Dylan Thompson's 15-yard pass to Whitehurst and third-string signal caller Brendan Nosovitch running in from seven yards out with 1:07 left in the game.
Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith, who had seven tackles, was named the Crip Hall Award winner as the outstanding senior player in the Homecoming game.
It was of little solace to him.
"We have to minimize mistakes," Smith said. "Mental errors and things of that nature. You can't do that against a Top 25 team."
Bielema talked about the direction of the program from this point forward.
"I think a lot of people can see the direction," Bielema said. "I think there's a lot of people, our players, our kids, everybody is kind of giving them some upbeat understanding.
"People that are really close to the program and know exactly what we are trying to do, it is a different way of doing things than these kids are used to," Bielema said. "It's a way I know will work. The good news is the negatives of certain things can be turned into positive things in other areas. Certainly with player development."
Alex Collins tries to elude a defender.
Javontee Herndon fights for yardage after the catch.
Alex Collins turns up field on a sweep.
Deatrich Wise sacked Connor Shaw in the first half.
Keon Hatcher rolls on a sweep.
Photos by Jason Ivester, Hawgs Illustrated
South Carolina 52, Arkansas 7
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