It gave the Gamecocks a four-point lead en route to a 35-32 win and taught Hillis, a true freshman, a valuable lesson.
"Sometimes, when you get the ball, you turn and look and you're not really tensing up yet for a hit," Hillis said. " Then, coming from behind me, I didn't see him. I'm not saying it wasn't my fault because it was and now I know to just hold on to the ball at all times."
Hillis also learned that his teammates and coaches believe in him because of the way they rallied behind him after the fumble.
"If I was them, I would probably kick me out, take away my scholarship and everything else but they're being good guys about it," Hillis said. "In the game of football, anything can happen. You wait so long to get your shot and finally you get your shot and crap happens. But you can't go back and fix them.
"And my teammates and coaches have helped me understand that and it feels great to have teammates like that who expect you to do better and encourage you.
"They really boosted me up."
Hillis said it was running backs coach Danny Nutt who lifted him up the most.
"He had his head down and I just told him to get his head up," Nutt said. "It was his first big fumble. He did fumble once out of bounds earlier in the year and this one really hurt him because they scored on it and took the lead.
"I told him that that's going to happen. You can't do nothing but get your head back up because I'm going to get you back in there as soon as I can."
Hillis got one more carry against South Carolina and said he's chomping at the bit to make it up to coaches and teammates Saturday.
"I can't wait to prove to them that I can do it," Hillis said. "And this time, you can bet that I'm going to lock that ball up and not fumble."
Sophomore Randy Kelly and junior John Johnson will start at free safety and husky, respectively. Kelly will make his second start in place of Lerinezo Robinson, while Johnson will earn his first start in place of John Jackson.
"The way (Kelly) played last week has just given him more opportunities to get in there," said secondary coach Bobby Allen. "He's done a good job the times he's got in there.
Allen said Robinson, the team's leading tackler with 52 stops, still will play.
Johnson has seven tackles, mostly coming as a gunner on punt team.
"Looking at the productivity we had at the husky last week, (defensive coordinator Dave Wommack) felt like we needed to give another person a chance to start," Allen said. "We're hoping to jump start the motors on some of the other players and when they get their chance again, hopefully they will go full speed and get it done."
Guess Who's Back
With an even tan, former Razorback and current Miami Dolphins rookie Tony Bua attended Thursday's practice. The Dolphins have a bye week.
"When football is over, I'm either at the beach or hanging out at my pool," Bua said about his tan. "When I left, it was like 82 degrees and some of the guys asked me where I was going and I said, 'I'm going back to Arkansas.' And they said, 'You're on vacation right now, why are you going back to the cold?'
"I told them that I'm a Hog and you wouldn't understand."
Bua, Arkansas' all-time leading tackler with 408 stops, is a second-team linebacker and has been a regular contributor on special teams. He has kept close tabs on Arkansas, watching the Alabama and Texas games.
"I feel like we have a better team than a lot of people thought we were going to have," Bua said. "It's just unfortunate that we've lost a few games in the stretch, in the fourth quarter, because it doesn't really show what type of team we have."
The River Ridge, La., native was selected in the fifth round (160th overall pick) by the Dolphins and was signed to a four-year contract on July 30.
Arkansas is a 9 1/2-point favorite against Ole Miss, but when studying similar opponents, the game could be much closer.
The Rebels won at South Carolina 31-28, while the Hogs lost 35-32. Both had similar results against undefeated Auburn with Ole Miss losing by 21 points (35-14) and Arkansas by 18 (38-20).
Maybe oddsmakers are using Alabama, which both teams played on national television in September, as reference point. The Hogs beat the Tide 27-10, while the Rebels lost 28-7. After Saturday, both teams wrap up the regular season with games against Mississippi State and LSU.
Hunting For Fans
Arkansas coach Houston Nutt beckoned for a solid turnout from the Hogs' faithful for Senior Day. The game, which is expected to be played in cold temperatures, also coincides with the opening day of rifle season for deer.
"I really need our Razorbacks fans to be there," Nutt said. "I know it's early (kickoff at 11:30 a.m.), get up a little bit earlier. I need you to be loud and I need this to be such a home field advantage.
"(The seniors) I think they really deserve a good Saturday and I need you there."
Two of those seniors, Jeb Huckeba and Gene Perry were named to the CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) Academic District VI football team. It includes all universities in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
1954 Razorbacks Honored
Members of the 1954 Razorbacks squad will be recognized at halftime of Saturday's game. The team, affectionately known as the "25 Little Pigs," posted an 8-3 record and won the Southwest Conference title.
The team was responsible for perhaps the most famous play in Arkansas history called the "Powder River Play." Tailback Buddy Bob Benson threw a 66-yard touchdown to Preston Carpenter during a 6-0 upset win against No. 5 Ole Miss.
Receiver Cedric Washington (bruised hip) returned to practice Thursday and appeared to be at full speed. ... Receiver David Thompson (groin) and cornerback Michael Coe (thigh) also practiced, but remain questionable. ... Tailback Dedrick Poole (hamstring) did not practice Thursday and is doubtful for Saturday's game.
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