State of the Hogs: Domination

South Carolina rode momentum all the way to the finish in a 52-7 domination of Arkansas in a sour Homecoming that included only four pass completions for the Razorbacks.

FAYETTEVILLE -- South Carolina's 52-7 domination was so complete that one of the few Arkansas highlights was David Hurd's stalemate with Jadeveon Clowney. The other two bright spots had fumbles attached.

That was pure irony because the entire week was spent on Clowney's decision not to play the previous game in a 35-28 victory over Kentucky and the criticism from Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, then an attempt to kiss and make up.

There was even talk about Clowney in pre-game after rumors spread in the press box -- fueled by a crazy joke by Chris Fowler on ESPN's Game Day -- that the South Carolina defensive end did not arrive at the stadium on the team bus.

Of course, that was not true. In fact, a Carolina newspaper photographer snapped a shot of Clowney stepping off the team bus. It would be the only time worth getting a shot of Clowney, with only one tackle on the day.

Hurd did more than enough to neutralize Clowney, but no one could handle Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, running back Mike Davis or wide receiver Bruce Ellington. That trio plundered the Arkansas defense.

Hurd got my vote for the Crip Hall Award, the outstanding player in the Homecoming game. Defensive end Chris Smith, with seven tackles, got the nod in the media vote.

It wasn't that Hurd did so much, but none of the other seniors made a real statement. You could give it Kiero Small, the senior fullback who ended up leading the team in catches, with just two for 4 yards. Or maybe one of the seniors in the heart of the defense who were credited with nine tackles.

It will be on those seniors like Hurd, Smith and Small this week and the remainder of the five games to hold things together in Bret Bielema's tough first year as head coach.

"I think we are holding onto the rope for Coach Bielema," said linebacker Jarrett Lake, another senior.

Lake joined senior safety Eric Bennett and junior Braylon Mitchell atop the tackle charts against Carolina with nine apiece.

"At the end of the day, coaches coach and players play, but Coach Bielema set things up for this to be our team," Lake said. "We can't give up.

"It's tough right now, but we don't want no one feeling sorry for us."

The Razorbacks went more than two quarters without a first down in a complete no-show by the offense. The Gamecocks entered with the most porous pass defense in the SEC, but quarterback Brandon Allen was ineffective.

Allen's third pass of the day was intercepted and only a nice tackle by Alex Collins saved him from a third straight game with a pick six. Allen hooked up with Javontee Herndon on a 20-yard pass, one of the highlights in a 64-yard touchdown march to open the game. There was hardly a whimper from the UA quarterback the rest of the way.

It didn't help that the defense couldn't get the ball back. Carolina kept it for almost the entire third quarter, thanks to a fumble by Keon Hatcher at the end of a 50-yard wide receiver sweep. The Hogs didn't top 100 yards until that play.

The capper was another lost fumble -- with 8:30 left in the game -- after another big play. Alex Collins scooted 29 yards to the 1-yard line, but lost the ball stretching for the pylon. His fumble that hit the pylon, ruled an automatic touchback. Jonathan Williams rolled 45 yards on the previous play.

"Those are plays where you can switch the momentum, but fumbling at the end just gives it right back to the other team," Small said. "You are close to shifting it, then it shifts right back with a fumble.

"It was a game that you couldn't get in the flow. All of the flow went the other way."

Small, Allen and Lake all talked about momentum. Bret Bielema talked about not responding to adversity. No one had an answer on how that changes.

"It's tough as a player, because you want to win," Small said. "As a team, you have to focus on the little things. That's how you get a win."

Bielema said it goes back to even the small things off the field, like an academic meeting that went about one hour too long.

"There are a lot of things away from the field that carry over," Bielema said. "The academic meeting we have on Thursdays should take 30 minutes, and we were in there an hour and 20 minutes.

"That's not where you want to be as a team. When we improve there, I've learned that you are going to be better on the field.

"You can't skip a step. You can't force things. I probably forced the fake punt."

Bielema was asked about the message he'd send fans that aren't real happy with the 3-4 start and blowout loss on Homecoming.

"I have had shots fired before," Bielema said. "People close to the program see that it's going a different way, the way I know will work. The negatives will turn into positives."

The focus last week was on pass protection and a change to more rollout passes to take the pressure off of Allen, hit eight times last week at Florida. That didn't translate to yards or first downs against Carolina. Allen was 4 of 12 for 30 yards, although he wasn't sacked or hit.

Again, Bielema said it was the little things that would pay dividends.

"Defensively, there was one 11-play drive that I counted five different missed alignments," he said. "And we had a couple of big plays negated by ball security. That's part of emphasis of the program.

"We'll hunker down. I don't think we'll quit."

Bielema praised the toughness of Allen, battling back from a shoulder sprain.

"He deserves a medal," Bielema said. "He doesn't practice much on Tuesday. And he doesn't do much on Thursday and Friday. But he gives us our best chance.

"The interception, it's on me. It was like the corner was in our huddle. That's predictability.

"Anytime a quarterback struggles, you worry about that. We wanted to put him in the right spots, move the huddle with Clowney and his crew coming in. He's a young quarterback, a sophomore. It's extremely tough to play hurt. Better things are ahead."

Allen didn't want to hear any of that. He put it on himself.

"The interception, that was me," he said. "It's my fault. I put the defense in a bad spot. The corner made a good play. It's a timing route and he jumped it.

"Then, we put the defense in a bad situation with four straight three and outs. That put the defense out there a long time."

South Carolina held the ball for 43:25, compared to 16:35.

Lake said, "We make a play, we get off the field. Yes, we got winded, but if we make some stops, it's not like that. That 44 minutes, it means we didn't do our job. That's tough, but our job is to stop them."

It gets tougher for the Hogs. They travel to No. 1 Alabama this week, their eighth straight game without an open date. They'll be lighter in the defensive line after senior Robert Thomas broke a bone in his leg.

Byran Jones, the other starting tackle, played through a knee injury against Carolina after "getting rolled up" on one of the final plays against Florida. Linebacker Martrell Spaight sat out with a knee injury but is expected back this week.

"The truth is there isn't a better reason to get ready right now than the No. 1 team in the country, getting ready to go on the road."

How will they respond?

"It's SEC football," Smith said. "I'm excited for it. I'm excited to go play the No. 1 team. Let's go play, that's what you do.

"We are not scared. We are going to go play. We've faced tough times before and what Coach Bielema tells us, play them one at a time."

Small said the seniors will keep fighting.

"We've seen everything there is to see in college football," Small said. "What we have learned to do, just focus on one game at a time. That's all there is that you can do."

Allen, told that the Hogs are on a seven-game SEC losing streak, said there are more wins left on the schedule.

"We can beat anyone on the schedule," he said. "We have to keep our heads up and moving forward. There are certain things we have to do better, a lot of little things.

"We still have our confidence. The (SEC) losing streak is tough. It's not an easy conference. We didn't show it today, but we can do it."

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