Carlos Hall blocked a 32-yard field goal with 48 seconds left to lift Arkansas to a 10-7 victory over No. 9 South Carolina before 53,514 Saturday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium.
The Gamecocks had driven from their own 20-yard line to the Hogs' 10-yard line before going for the tie on a fourth-and-8 situation. Hall blocked Tyeler Dean's field goal from the right hash mark.
Arkansas, which played a turnover-free game, took the lead on Zak Clark's 10-yard touchdown pass to Richard Smith with 4:28 left. The Hogs improved to 3-3 overall, and 1-3 in the SEC. It was South Carolina's first loss in six games this season.
The Hogs were outgained, 272 to 224, in total yards, but they did not make the mistakes they had committed in the first three SEC games.
"What a victory," Houston Nutt said. "I'm so proud of our kids and staff, and thanks to our fans. It was one of the loudest games I've ever heard with my headphones on. The fans gave us a big lift."
Defensive coordinator John Thompson gave the credit to the players and to secondary coach Dave Wommack for the game plan.
"Dave came to us Tuesday morning with the plan," Thompson said. "He wanted to put pressure on them from off the edge. That meant playing man in the secondary and we had some corners beat up. Usually, your secondary coach doesn't suggest that, so I give him the credit. He had the plan, and his guys executed it."
Thompson congratulated Carlos Hall for the blocked field goal.
"That was a big-time play, but he was making plays all day," Thompson said. "He was executing out of our defense. He was getting a push from outside in and we were coming hard with Tony Bua, Ken Hamlin, Corey Harris and Caleb Miller from the outside. We wanted to hit them quick and not let them dink us and trap us. We wanted to force the action quick.
"Tony Bua played his heart out. He missed a couple of sacks. He was trying to take the quarterback's head off. He was going for home runs. Sometimes when you go for the homerun, you will swing and miss. He missed some, but he hit that quarterback an awful lot today.
"I told Carlos Hall yesterday that he would have a crowd around his locker room after the game, and he made that prediction come true. I give Bobby Allen credit for getting Carlos going. This may have been Carlos' coming out party."
Defensive line coach Bobby Allen agreed that it may have been Hall's best game as a Razorback.
"He did it in practice this week, and did it today," Allen said. "I challenged him a bit this week and again today. I just told him I didn't think he was going to get it done, and kind of teased him about it."
Hall recalled the teases.
"Yeah, he did that," Hall said. "I didn't say anything. He called me out. I don't talk much, and I just tried to execute the game plan today."
Arkansas' defense controlled the first half, except for a mild South Carolina threat as the second quarter clock ran out. The Hogs owned a 3-0 lead after Brennan O'Donohoe capped a 12-play, 54-yard drive with a 21-yard field goal with 4:35 left in the first quarter.
Zak Clark completed two passes in that drive, but would throw incomplete on his final eight passes of the half. That drive was sparked by a 17-yard strike to Matt Jones to convert a third-and-6. Fred Talley had six carries for 25 yards. The Hogs stalled at the South Carolina 4-yard line when Clark's screen to Richard Smith made 6 yards on third-and-9. Clark was ineffective after suffering a knee injury in the next UA drive on a scramble to the sideline.
Arkansas outgained South Carolina by 126-65 in total yards, with most of that edge coming on the ground. The Hogs limited the Gamecocks to 25 yards on 12 first-half rushes. USC quarterback Phil Petty could add only 40 yards with 6 of 16 passing with two interceptions, both deep in UA territory. The last one was in the end zone by Corey Harris on a fourth down pass to end the half on a heave from the UA 33-yard line.
The Hogs tried Matt Jones on several option runs in the first half, but they were not effective. Talley made 75 yards on 20 carries in the opening half. The best thing the Hogs did was avoid turnovers, but they did shoot themselves in the foot with a couple of key penalties, including a motion penalty by Marcellus Poydras to snuff one UA drive.
South Carolina turned to junior quarterback Corey Jenkins, a 6-2, 225-pound tank of a quarterback, to open the second half, and it paid big dividends. After a reverse on the third-quarter kickoff moved the Gamecocks to their own 42-yard line, Jenkins marched them 58 yards in just five plays. Jenkins fooled the Hogs with a keeper on a counter for the final 45 yards. He ran through arm tackles tried by Tony Bua, Carlos Hall and Eddie Jackson. It was 7-3 at 11:56 of the third quarter.
Arkansas responded with a 15-play, 69-yard touchdown march, with the Hogs converting two fourth downs. Clark found DeCori Birmingham in the flats for 4 on fourth-and-3. And, on fourth-and-5 at the USC 26, Jones kept on the draw out of the shotgun for 14 yards. Clark looked left, then turned to fire to Richard Smith at the goal line for the 10-yard touchdown pass. It was 10-7 at 4:28 of the third quarter. Clark's throw was just over USC's 6-6 outside linebacker Kalimba Edwards dropping into coverage and between tight coverage by the safety and the cornerback. O'Donohoe coverted the extra point despite a celebration penalty that made it a long kick.
The Hogs firgured out Jenkins on South Carolina's next possession. After David Carlton's kickoff into the end zone started USC at their own 20, the Gamecocks were three and out. The Hogs couldn't move, but the field position gained from the good UA defensive stand resulted in a kicking game break. Richie Butler's 51-yard punt was downed at the goal line by Marvin Jackson and Batman Carroll.
Petty returned to throw incomplete, just avoiding the rush in his end zone on first and second down. Then, on third-and-10, he waited patiently with good protection as Brian Scott worked free down the sideline for a 38-yard completion, beating Eddie Jackson's tight coverage. The Gamecocks stalled at the UA 38-yard line. They reached the 33 where they were prepared to go for it on fourth-and-7 ... but decided against it when they were called for delay as they snapped the ball.
The Gamecocks kicked the Hogs back to the 10-yard line. The Hogs took six minutes off the clock by converting two first downs on runs by Jones. He kept right on a rollout for six on third-and-3, and made 7 on an option keeper to the left on third-and-4. He made only 1 yard on an option keeper on third-and-4. Butler's 57-yard spiral sailed deep in the end zone to put the Gamecocks at their 20 with 6:23 to play.
Two draws and a full-house plunge produced one first down. On second and 10, Petty found Watson on a screen for 21. On third-and-10, Petty beat the blitz to find Scott just barely behind Carroll on the sideline for a 30-yard completion to the 17. Bua's pressure forced Petty to throw early and incomplete on third-and-8. Carlos Hall blocked a 32-yard field goal with 48 seconds left.
Arkansas' defense prepares to rush South Carolina quarterback Phil Petty.
Lawrence Richardson (1) intercepted a pass in the first half.
Zak Clark prepares to fire a pass down field against Carolina.
Photos by Lance Davis