COLUMBIA, S.C. - Just when it appeared that the University of Arkansas might come all the way back Saturday afternoon, South Carolina defensive end Jordin Lindsey snatched victory right out of the air on the last play of the third quarter.
The Gamecocks' clock-rocked the Razorbacks from that point on.
South Carolina turned Lindsey's theft of a Casey Dick pass into a touchdown soon afterwards and went on to down Arkansas 34-21 Saturday afternoon before 80, 920 fans at Williams Brice Stadium.
It was one of three interceptions picked up on the day by the Gamecocks (7-3, 4-3), who have won 6 of their last 7 games and had six sacks during the game.
"It was a disappointing game for me," Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said. "I think offensively, to have those errors in the first quarter was not good. We can't throw interceptions.
"Defensively, it was just the opposite," Petrino continued. "We played good, we're competing, we're playing hard in the first half and kept us in there, but in the second half we couldn't get them shut down."
Arkansas (4-6, 1-5) lost leading rusher Michael Smith for the final two quarters with a stinger, but he did top the 1,000 mark this season with 7 carries for 25 yards.
The Razorbacks cut their deficit to 20-14 when Dick hit walk on fullback Mitchell Bailey with a 4-yard touchdown pass with 4:42 left in the third quarter.
That scoring toss happened at the end of a 15-play, 64-yard drive with Alex Tejada than adding the extra point.
Arkansas got the ball back soon afterwards with Dick hitting London Crawford on a 30-yard that put the visitors near midfield and possessing momentum.
But Dick – who was 16-of-26 passing for 217 yards with three picks and two TDs including a 70-yard touchdown pass to Jarius Wright – had his next pass land in the wrong hands.
Lindsey leaped up, snatched the interception at the South Carolina 45 and raced all the way back to the Arkansas 15 before being hauled down by Dennis Johnson.
"Jordin Lindsey made the play that turned the game around," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said. "Not many guys can jump up and intercept that pass. They can knock it down, but that thing stuck. Somebody said it was just like the Liberty Bowl, two years ago. He jumped up and got one, which helped turned that game around. So obviously, Jordin got the game ball."
Petrino thought it was about to be a big play the other way.
"We had the back open hot in the flat and all we have to do is get it up over the top of him and we've got a big play," Petrino said. "He ended up picking it off and running it back and then we couldn't get them stopped from then on."
Quarterback Stephen Garcia, who South Carolina alternated every play with Chris Smelley throughout the entire game, hit Kenny McKinley two plays for a touchdown.
Ellis Johnson, who was the defensive co-ordinator for 25 days at Arkansas before heading to South Carolina was impressed with the pick by his defensive end.
That was a great play," Johnson said. "He was actually involved in the pass rush. He was working outside and was able to get a hand on it. He's pretty athletic for a defensive lineman. He made a great reaction to the ball."
The Gamecocks then essentially put the game away on its next possession with an all-rushing play drive that ended with Mike Davis' 13-yard TD and a 34-14 lead with 6:21 remaining.
Arkansas, with redshirt freshmen Nathan Dick (4 of 8 for 38 yards) seeing his first career action for his injured brother, did cut that margin late when Brandon Barnett scored on a 1-yard late in the game to cap a 13-play, 80 yard jaunt.
Petrino was asked if it was the injury or the interceptions that caused the switch of quarterbacks.
"It was a little bit of both," Petrino said. "He (Casey Dick) got hit in the head - probably helmet to helmet hit on the one that the thought was a fumble - and I just made the decision to put Nathan in."
Petrino liked what he saw out of the younger brother.
"I liked the way Nathan operated," Petrino said. "He did some real nice things. He made some good throws. He made some real nice decisions."
Johnson was obviously pleased that his defense held Arkansas to just 54 yards rushing and just over 300 overall a year after the Razorbacks had rushed for 542 with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones shredding the Gamecocks.
"I think Arkansas is the best offensive team that we've played since Georgia," Ellis said. " At this point in the year, I'm not sure that they are not playing better than Georgia was at the time we played them. (Arkansas) is a really good offensive team.
" In the short time I was out there with Coach (Bobby) Petrino, I would ask him questions," Ellis added. "They are just brilliant on how they set things up. They have some concepts that get you in trouble in normal defenses. When you start trying to check out of this or that, you get kids confused. It's a really, really good attack, and they are a lot better than I thought they would be this early, because they had to transition out of a different style of offense. They are really executing extremely well."
The loss means that the Razorbacks, who have an open date next week, have to win their final two games at Mississippi State and against LSU in Little Rock to be eligible for a bowl game.
"It was a physical game," Arkansas senior center Jonathan Luigs said. "We knew that coming it. They had a good plan and so did we. They executed and we didn't. It was a hard fought ball game and we came out on the short end.
"We're a better ball club than we showed tonight," Luigs said. "It's tough. You really don't know what went wrong. We weren't ready to play and they were. It's hard to overcome that."
South Carolina scored on its opening possession, needing only 4 plays to cover 44 yards after an Arkansas 3-and-out and a short punt.
Garcia covered the final 14 yards on his own with Ryan Succop adding the PAT to put the Gamecocks up 7-0 less than 2 minutes into the game.
After Addison Williams' picked off a Dick pass, Succop boomed a 54-yard field goal to surge South Carolina ahead 10-0 with 11:20 remaining in the opening quarter.
Succop's miss on a 25-yarder on the second gave the Razorbacks some life and they quickly turned that into a touchdown.
After Dick hit Lucas Miller for a short gain, he loaded up and hit freshman wideout Wright on a deep ball that turned into a 70-yard touchdown pass.
Tejada's PAT cut it to 10-7 with 9:59 left in the second quarter.
But South Carolina responded right back, tossing a short pass to tight end Jared Cook, who covered the final 40 yards of a 66-yard scoring play.
Succop's extra point proved to be the last point of the half and put the Gamecocks 17-7 ahead.
It grew to 20-7 on the first possession of third quarter when Succop booted a 37-yarder.
Smelley was 9-of-19 for 148 yards while Garcia was 4-of-11 for 71 yards.
"I thought both quarterbacks played pretty decent, all things considered," Spurrier said. " I wish that one would play better, extremely better, than the other. Chris was a little bit better defensively, but Stephen also had some pretty good plays in there as well."
Brandon Barnett had 7 carries for 45 yards to lead the rushing attack while Johnson had 4 carries for 10 yards filling in for Smith.
"I was very happy with the way Brandon Barnett ran and Dennis Johnson gave us some plays," Petrino said. "We came out of the locker room and did a really nice job, move the ball down there, got them out of their 30 look. But we just weren't able to convert when we had the opportunity when it was 20-14."
Wright had 2 catches for 82 yards, Miller 5 for 57 and D.J. Williams 4 catches for 40 yards.
McKinley had 7 catches for 130 yards to lead the way for South Carolina while Cook had 82 yards on his 2 receptions.
Arkansas will be off the practice field until Tuesday, but will be in the training room since it has a plethora of injured players after playing eight straight Saturdays without an open date.
"We need to do a great job in our recovery," Petrino said, "getting healthy and getting our legs back in getting ready to go down and play Mississippi State.
A little time away for the coaches and the players will probably help according to Petrino.
"We needed a bye," Petrino said. "It's a good time for us to have a bye. We need to make sure we get healthy. It's a good time to get refreshed. Get them away from the coaches for a while and the coaches get away from the players for a while and get back and win a game."
South Carolina 34, Arkansas 21
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