Arkansas came up with three turnovers and played a turnover-free game on offense to cruise past South Carolina, 23-0, Saturday at Columbia, S.C., to improve to 6-3 on the season and draw even at 3-3 in SEC play.
Arkansas plays host to Louisiana-Lafayette at 1 p.m. Saturday in Fayetteville, then travels to Mississippi State on Nov. 23 before closing the season on the day after Thanksgiving against LSU in Little Rock.
Matt Jones fired a 4-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to convert the Hogs' first takeaway, a bizarre interception (it was almost like an intercepted handoff) by Gavin Walls at the USC 22-yardl line. Jones and Carlos Ousley hooked up on a 47-yard catch and run touchdown play early in the third quarter for the other UA score. David Carlton booted field goals of 43, 27 and 22 yards. The last two field goals came after pass interceptions by Eddie Jackson and Lawrence Richardson.
Arkansas outgained South Carolina, 313 to 233, in total offense. It was a sweet victory for the Arkansas coaches, most of whom worked under Lou Holtz earlier in their careers. Holtz took controls of the offense as playcaller this week after the Gamecocks had lost the two previous weeks. It did no good as Carolina was blanked for the first time since Mississippi State turned the trick in 1999.
Matt Jones completed 10 of 18 passes for 113 yards on the day. His two TD passes gives him 10 on the season, and pushed him to 1,079 yards through the air.
Carlton's three field goals makes him 9 of 12 on the season. He has yet to miss from under 50 yards. He is 17 of 18 on extra points.
Arkansas now has 431 running attempts and two lost fumbles. That's an amazing statistic. And, the Hogs have lost only nine interceptions, so that's 11 turnovers. Conversely, the defense has forced 29 turnovers, so Arkansas leads the nation in turnover margin, a big reason it is 6-3 on the season with two SEC road victories.
And, they have begun to eliminate penalties, too. That's been a trademark in Houston Nutt's time at Arkansas ... limit turnovers and penalties.
One of the things that Houston Nutt said he corrected in practice last week was the trash talking. He asked that it be eliminated, and I think it was gone Saturday. Nutt mentioned that in his post-game that he wanted to cut out the talking, and he was pleased with that for the most part. Most of the trash talking had happened on defense, and mainly in the secondary.
"We like to talk and coach just told us to do our talking with our play, and not to trash talk on the field anymore," said Tony Bua. "For some of us, we like to do that. Football is a tough, tough game, and there is going to be some talking out there. We just have to clean up our side of it and not get into it. We have to eliminate all profanity. We did that today. It's tough sometimes, but we were able to do it. If that helps us win, then we need to do that."
Eddie Jackson said, "I don't see why we can't eleminate it. Coach told us that we need to eliminate anything that could get us a penalty. We had 13 (penalties) last week, and the refs told him that we were doing too much trash talking. So, we made sure to cut it out in practice this week, and today in the game. You can see now that we don't need it to play. We can play without it, so it needs to stay gone. We were fine today. Some guys like it, but it's gone now."
Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Markuson said afterwards that tackle Shawn Andrews tried to go at the outset and it was obvious that he couldn't push off that bad ankle. He put in Zac Tubbs and let Andrews rest for one series and then tried to bring Andrews back once. It was no better.
"He needs to rest it and get it well," Markuson said. "At his weight, it's not going to get better by playing on it. He needs to do the rehab they give him and get it well. We will not play him this week. We have to get him well.
"Plus, we burned the redshirt with Zac and we got him ready. He needs to play, and this gives us an opportunity to get Shawn well. I haven't seen the film, but we made some runs behind Zac today. I thought he did well in the running game and the passing game. I liked what he did today and that allowed us to keep Shawn out. We'll do it again this week and until he's well."
Houston Nutt gets a bath in the final seconds of the South Carolina game.
Fred Talley looks for running room against a tough defense.
Carlos Ousley crosses the goal line with a third-quarter TD pass.
Matt Jones reads an option handoff to Fred Talley.
Photos by Tom Ewart.