It struggled to slow tailbacks Mike Davis and Cory Boyd, who slipped through holes and snuck out of the backfield to catch big passes. It just couldn't apply enough pressure to keep South Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell from turning in a career day.
Normally, Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring wouldn't have much reason to smile about the defensive effort in the second half against South Carolina. But after Arkansas' offense churned out 650 yards in a 48-36 win, Herring was beaming -- in his own way.
"I'm not letting you or anybody else take away this win," Herring said. "You can take all the stats and you can stuff them in your stocking, because this was a great win for this team. The offense was incredible (Saturday night). They were our best friend (Saturday)."
Arkansas' defense may have surrendered 486 yards, allowed South Carolina to score on four of its six second-half possessions and didn't look much improved from its earlier struggles in Southeastern Conference losses to Kentucky, Alabama and Auburn. But on a night Arkansas' offense dominated the Gamecocks, Herring's defense did accomplish something its counterparts couldn't -- it came up with two critical stops in the fourth quarter.
The first came early on, with Arkansas clinging to a 42-27 lead. The Gamecocks moved the ball to the Razorbacks' 2 on second down, but couldn't get in the end zone on third down. Instead of attempting a field goal, Spurrier called a swing pass to tailback Cory Boyd on fourth down. The Hogs covered the play well and forced an incomplete pass.
The second came a little later in the quarter, when Arkansas took a 48-36 lead thanks to Darren McFadden's 80-yard touchdown run. South Carolina got the ball at its own 35, but the Razorbacks forced the Gamecocks to go three-plays-and-out with 6 minutes, 42 seconds remaining. It was the last time South Carolina's offense stepped on the field.
"That was huge to give the ball back to the offense," Arkansas linebacker Weston Dacus said. "We knew that if we got off the field, the way the offense was rolling that's all we had to do. I think that was the point where everyone felt a sigh of relief."
South Carolina's second-half onslaught overshadowed a strong start by Arkansas' defense.
The Hogs pelted Mitchell with pressure in the first half, frustrated the Gamecocks and held coach Steve Spurrier's bunch to 10 points. But the second half was another story.
Herring said the Razorbacks would worry about that part of the equation later. Instead, he wanted to revel in the offense's accomplishments after the game.
And, who knows, Herring said the defense may return the favor later on this season.
"Some nights we're going to be off like this and to have an offense come and compete tonight, that's the story," Herring said. "We didn't play very well on defense obviously. We all saw that. We know that. What was unique was how the offense and controlled the game."
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