Hillis Takes Fumble To Heart

Leading 17-14 and with South Carolina quarterback Dondrial Pinkins on the bench because of a shoulder injury reaggravated late in Saturday's first half, Arkansas looked to be in good shape as the Hogs drove early in the third quarter.

On a first-down play from the South Carolina 34, Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones handed to Peyton Hillis, who bulled straight ahead toward a sliver of daylight. About five yards into it, South Carolina's Marque Hall pounced from Hillis' right side, pawing the ball from Hillis' right hand.

The ball flicked backward and Jones looked to have a great chance to come up with it. He didn't. Tight end Jared Hicks had a shot, but missed.

A frantic pile ensued and safety Ko Simpson emerged from it, scooting 57 untouched yards for a touchdown and 21-17 South Carolina lead as the announced crowd of 78,800 in Williams-Brice Stadium crowed.

Jones tossed an interception on the next series and South Carolina went on to a 35-32 win.

A 6-foot-2, 240-pound freshman, Hillis missed the Auburn game after suffering the breakage of three transverse processes in his back against Florida on Oct. 2.

Expected to miss at least six to eight weeks, Hillis returned to start in the Georgia game two weekends back, catching a pass for a 10-yard gain in limited action.

Hillis had his first carry since the injury with about four minutes left in Saturday's first quarter when he ran for four yards to the South Carolina 7 during Arkansas' first offensive touchdown drive.

"Played hard, but he missed a couple of holes," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "You could tell he's been out a while from a game atmosphere.

"Got to hold onto that ball."

Hillis finished with 6 carries for 17 yards and agreed with his coach.

"It really was just my fault," Hillis said. "I didn't hold onto the ball. The offensive line had the hole there. I could've made 15, 20 yards on it. It's my responsibility to hang onto the ball and I didn't do it.

"I take a lot of it personally because I'm a freshman and they're seniors. They've been here four years and they want to go to a bowl their senior year. I just felt like I kind of destroyed that today."



HECKLING HOMECOMING

Arkansas linebacker Marcus Whitmore had a tough homecoming. After the loss, South Carolina fans gave him a heck of a hard time as he made his way to the visitors' locker room.

But not all in the crowd made sport of Whitmore. Some 50 family members and friends joined him in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, and the Hogs made the senior linebacker a team captain for the game.

Whitmore, a 6-0, 220-pounder from Lauren, S.C., had 2 tackles, 1 solo.



FORMER TEAMMATES

Razorbacks noseguard Titus Peebles and South Carolina defensive end Charles Silas, teammates at Swainsboro (Ga.) High, made an official visit to Fayetteville together two years ago when they played for Georgia Military (junior) College.

Both verbally committed to Arkansas after the trip, but Silas obviously changed his mind before signing day.

Neither started Saturday, but both played a part.

Peebles, a 6-2, 290-pound senior, had one solo tackle.

Silas, a 6-6, 255-pound redshirt junior, had 2 solo tackles, 1 for a loss.



GIMME A BREAK

Arkansas place-kicker David Carlton and his South Carolina counterpart, Joey Bowers, lined up to practice kickoffs on the 35-yard line on the north side of Williams-Brice Stadium toward the end of intermission.

They were interrupted, however, by charging, flag-waving Arkansas cheerleaders who swarmed Carlton as they led the Hogs back onto the field.



TOSS AND TURN

Arkansas won Saturday's coin toss, but going against convention, Nutt decided to receive the kickoff.

The Hogs didn't cash in on their first drive. After a first down, the Hogs were forced to punt.

However, Vickiel Vaughn picked off a Pinkins pass on the next series, returning it for a 52-yard score.



FIRSTS

Vaughn's interception return for a score was the first given up by South Carolina since 2002.

The 3-yard second-quarter run by South Carolina's Daccus Turman was his first touchdown of the season.

The 34-yard interception return by South Carolina's Taqiy Muhammad in the third quarter was his first career pick.



CHANGE OF PLANS?

Despite what some knucklehead columnist (wink, wink) wrote in Saturday's Morning News, the Independence Bowl will not be played on New Year's Eve this year as in years past.

The game still will be played in Shreveport, but it will be on Tuesday, Dec. 28, kicking off at 5:30 p.m.

South Carolina (6-3, 4-3 in the SEC) seems lots more in the running for that than Arkansas (3-5, 1-4) at this point.

Representatives from Orlando's Capital One Bowl and Tampa's Outback Bowl also were on hand.

We think they were lost.



THE SERIES

Arkansas still leads 8-5. South Carolina broke a three-game losing streak to Arkansas and Nutt fell to 5-2 against the Gamecocks.



NUMBER CHANGE

Arkansas redshirt freshman fullback Farod Jackson wore No. 33 rather than his accustomed No. 44 Saturday.

Jackson had no carries or catches Saturday.




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