State of the Hogs: South Carolina

Arkansas had some bright spots on defense and special teams against Troy State, but needs to reclaim its offensive focus before heading to Columbia. Sponsored by Arkansas National Bank

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State of the Hogs:

From week to week, this team has been hard to figure. They didn't have everything together for the Alabama game, then played decent the next week against Tennessee and then fabulous against Auburn. They slipped on special teams the next week against Kentucky, then put it all together again the next week against Ole Miss. Things were sloppy on offense against Troy State, but great on speical teams and defense.

So what should we expect this week at South Carolina? I'm not sure, but the Hogs better improve on offense because this may be the season's most important game.

Interestingly, that's what the South Carolina game is every year, the most important game for Arkansas. It may be for the Gamecocks, too. After losing their last two, and facing trips to Florida and Clemson after battling the Hogs, the Gamecocks could be staring at a five-game losing streak and no bowl game if they lose to the Hogs.

Some fret about last week's victory over Troy State, especially on the offensive woes of making only 125 yards in total offense. That's a disappointing offensive output, no doubt. But, it's not the end of the world. I suspect the Hogs will be much better in the offensive line this week, especially after watching Tuesday's workout. They had a focus about them that was missing last week in preparation for Troy State.

It was obvious in watching Tuesday's workout that the Hogs know what is at stake this week. If they want to stay in the SEC West, and if they want to play in a decent bowl game, they will have to play better than last week when they were penalized 13 times and were ragged in the passing game.

I don't put too much stock in the way the offense played against Troy State. There are going to be days that you don't click on offense, especially when the temperature is in the low 40s with rain. No offense is going to look sharp in those conditions.

More than anything, I was just glad to get a victory. I can remember in the 90s under Jack Crowe and Danny Ford when the Hogs couldn't always win those nonconference games. I remember Citadel, Memphis and SMU. Those were monumental struggles ... struggles that ended in defeat ... for previous Arkansas teams. Never did I feel threatened by Troy State in this game, just a bit disappointed that maybe the Hogs didn't score in the 30s.

After the amount of emotion the Hogs used up the previous week in drubbing Ole Miss, it was good to see them win without emotion against Troy State. The emotion isn't always going to be there, and it's good to win by three touchdowns when it isn't.

I'm encouraged by the continued solid play of the special teams, especially Tom Crowder and Bo Mosley. Those two seem to make a big play in every game, if not every half of every game. They've turned into great playmakers on special teams. It's something to watch Crowder fly down the field. His speed is incredible and makes it hard on the other team on coverage teams. He surprised this writer by turning to a bull rush and using a physical nature to block the punt that resulted in Mosley's first touchdown against Troy State.

One of the things that I've felt early this week from being around the UA coaches is a special purpose that seems to exist when they face Lou Holtz. Some of the UA coaches played for Holtz, and severeal others served as assistants on Holtz-coached teams. It is obvious that they all want to do well against Holtz and that feeling will provide some extra bounce in their steps this week. Surely, that same attitude exists in the Carolina camp with Holtz playing a team that once sent him packing for poor performance.

Yes, this is a big game, for many reasons. It's not surprising that Jefferson-Pilot picked the game up for the SEC game of the week. There will be plenty of sideline shots of Holtz, the little ball coach, and Houston Nutt. Perhaps they will be looking across the field trying to get inside the others head. They know each other well. I can't wait for game time.


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