NOTEBOOK: Showdown Set

For the first time in school history, the South Carolina football team will face the Florida Gators in a winner-take-all showdown in "The Swamp." The Gamecocks will be coming off a 41-20 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks, while the Gators routed Vanderbilt 55-14.

Despite South Carolina's 41-20 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks, the stage is still set for next week's showdown for the SEC East in Gainesville, as the Gamecocks travel to take on the Florida Gators. The Gamecocks knew well before the game that the game with the Razorbacks wouldn't matter after the Gators trounced Vanderbilt 55-14 in Nashville earlier in the day.

"We are where we are," Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier said. "We have three losses in the conference, Florida has three losses and we are going to play them next week for the Eastern Division championship."

All the Gamecocks lost in the standings was a top 25 ranking and a possible drop in the bowl pecking order. However, the problems are starting to run much deeper than that. The Gamecock defense has begun giving up far too many points and the offense that was seemingly unstoppable the first half of the season has sputtered at times. It all started back on October 16th.

The Gamecocks were just coming off a monumental 35-21 win over then-#1 Alabama and sat at 4-1 overall and sat atop the East with a 2-1 record in the SEC. The Gamecocks headed to Lexington, KY to take on a struggling Wildcat team that was 0-3 in the SEC.

For the first half of the Kentucky game, the Gamecocks continued to roll. Marcus Lattimore had rolled up 206 yards of offense and three touchdowns as the Gamecocks jumped out to a 28-10 halftime lead. On Carolina's second play of the second half, Lattimore rolled his ankle. He could only watch from the sideline as Mike Hartline and the Wildcats stormed back for a 31-28 win. The Gamecocks managed just 85 yards in the second half - 49 coming on the final drive - but still had a chance to win the game on that final drive. With Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley on the field, the Gamecocks elected to throw to redshirt freshman Lamar Scruggs. The ball was badly under-thrown and intercepted to end the game.

The Gamecocks hit the road the following week minus Lattimore to face the Vanderbilt Commodores. The Gamecock offense continued to sputter, gaining only 141 yards of offense in the first half. Carolina did score on the final drive of the half to end a near-four quarter scoreless streak. Luckily for the Gamecocks, they were facing an incompetent Vandy offense and was able to head into the locker room tied 7-7.

Thanks to a career high in rushing yards by Brian Maddox, a career high in receptions by Gurley, and a 72-yard touchdown reception by Jeffery the Gamecocks were able to move the ball in the second half en route to a 21-7 win.

With Lattimore back and the Gamecocks back in the friendly confines of Williams Brice the Gamecock offense finally got it going against a bad Tennessee team. However, it was the defense that struggled against the Vols. Denarius Moore had a career-high 228 receiving yards as the Vols passed for 312 yards. Thankfully for Carolina, a Devin Taylor interception return for a touchdown, three Tennessee fumbles, and a Gamecock offense that put up 435 yards was enough to overcome another porous effort by the secondary in a 38-24 victory.

Meanwhile, the Gators has seemingly found an offense that works. After losing three straight games to Alabama, LSU, and Mississippi State the Gators found themselves at 2-3 in the SEC heading into their bye week. The Gators used the ‘wildcat' with Trey Burton and John Brantley's arm in a 34-31 overtime win against Georgia, amassing 450 yards of offense. The Gators were able to stem a furious rally by the Bulldogs that forced the overtime by intercepting an Aaron Murray pass to set up Chas Henry's game-winning 37-yard field goal.

The Gators continued to roll up yardage on Saturday against Vanderbilt, thanks in large part to a Commodore team that didn't even try to put up a fight. The Gators blocked two punts, forced two fumbles, and one interception in a 55-14 win. The Gators racked up 480 more yards in the win.

So the showdown is set. The biggest game in the history of South Carolina football. The Gamecocks and Gators clash for the SEC East title in "The Swamp." Two teams seemingly headed in two different directions. Were the Gamecocks looking ahead? Will the November swoon continue? Will this just be the latest in years of heartbreak in Columbia? Are the Gators back? Is it a lack of competition? Who will win the SEC East? Those questions - and more - will be answered next week as the Gamecocks face the Gators at 7:15 P.M.

"We just need to regroup now," Spurrier said. "We need to realize that we were pretty sad tonight and we can't get it back. Regroup, and give the Gators a game next week."

"Maybe it was a good thing this happened," Garcia said. "Maybe we'll learn from this, practice harder, and be ready to go into Florida to play for the Eastern Division championship."

Notebook

Struggling Against the Hogs

Steve Spurrier was 3-0 against the Razorbacks at Florida. He is just 2-4 at South Carolina as the Razorbacks improved to 12-7 against the Gamecocks.

Streak Snapped

The Gamecocks had won six consecutive home games dating back to a 24-14 loss to #1 Florida last season and had also won 13 out of 14 at home. The Gamecocks are 5-1 at home this season, failing to reach their goal of being undefeated at home.

Offense

Garcia Moving On Up

Stephen Garcia moved into fourth place all-time in school history in passing yards with his 161 yards on 14-of-29 passing against Arkansas. He now has 5,759 yards, passing Phil Petty (5,652) and Anthony Wright (5,681).

Jeffery Hits Two Marks

With Jeffery's seven catches for 99 yards he hit two marks. Jeffery became only the third Gamecock receiver to reach 1,000 yards in a season, joining Sidney Rice and Sterling Sharpe. His 1,034 yards ranks him fourth in school history for receiving yards in a season. He now has 1,797 receiving yards in his career, moving into ninth place.

He also passed the century mark in career receptions. He became the 15th player to have 100 receptions on his second catch of the night.

"It's a great accomplishment," Jeffery said. "But it doesn't mean anything if we're not winning."

Bad Night For Lattimore

Freshman sensation Marcus Lattimore had the worst night of his young career against Arkansas. Lattimore ran for just 30 yards on 11 carries and failed to reach the end zone for the first time this season.

"He was there early and we seemed to not have any running room," Spurrier said. "If Marcus is not in the game, we still can play. Other guys have to go play."

Lattimore suffered a left knee sprain early in the contest and was not much of a factor from there on out, as was the Gamecock offense.

"He's a great player," Garcia said. "Everybody knows that, but he's just one player. We have to play better offensively."

Justice For Cunningham

Justice Cunningham finally factored into the passing game this season. Cunningham had a career night, catching two passes for 31 yards, both career-highs. He also had a career-high 19-yard reception in the first half.

Everyone Playing

Four Gamecock quarterbacks got onto the stat sheet against the Razorbacks. With the game out of hand, Garcia was pulled in favor of Connor Shaw. Shaw left the game with bruised ribs after being hit out of bounds. Seth Strickland and Andrew Clifford both played and both completed their only pass attempts.

Defense

McKnight finds pay-dirt

Defensive end Byron McKnight scored the first touchdown of his career. Stephon Gilmore hit Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson to force the fumble. McKnight picked it up at the one and walked into the endzone for the final points of the game.

Holloman Picks One

Defensive back DeVonte Holloman got his second interception of the season and third of his career on Arkansas' first drive of the second half. It was Gilmore again that jumped the slant route to knock the ball in the air and into Holloman's hands as he took it 13 yards.

Big Night For Gilmore

Gilmore - along with playing a part in two turnovers - also shared the team lead in tackling with Antonio Allen, each finishing with eight.

Marty Markett

Markett saw his first significant playing time of the season and recorded four tackles.

"It felt great," Markett said of getting in on defense. "I loved this - I've been working hard for this for a long time and today I finally got a chance to play."

Special Teams

- Spencer Lanning was 2-for-3 on field goal attempts, making from 29 and 31 yards, and missing on 29 yards. He's now 7-for11 on the year.

- Bryce Sherman had a career-long 37-yard kickoff return and finished with 145 yards on seven returns.

Injury Report

- Lattimore sprained his left knee early in the game but returned.

- T.J. Johnson also sprained his left knee and did not return.

- Shaw seemed to bruise his ribs on the late hit, but it does not appear there are any broken.

- C.C. Whitlock and Jarriel King each suffered a concussion. Ellis Johnson - though making it clear that he wasn't totally sure - said Whitlock's injury "is not good."

Arkansas Notes

- Knile Davis rushed for 110 yards and three touchdowns, tying Cameron Newton for the most rushing touchdowns the Gamecocks have given up this season.

- Arkansas was 5-of-6 in the red zone and is 29-for-32 on the season.

- The Razorbacks scored two touchdowns on drives that took less than two minutes and now have 19 touchdown drives totaling less than two minutes this season. In Petrino's two years, the Razorbacks now have 56 of those drives.

- Ryan Mallett moved to third in school history for total offense with 6,309 in his Arkansas career. He has thrown for at least one touchdown in 21 of his 22 games as a Razorback. He has 56 touchdowns in his career, 49 at Arkansas. The other seven came in his freshman year at Michigan.

- Joe Adams has at least one catch in all 30 games he has played in, the longest active streak in the SEC.

- Cobi Hamilton became the second receiver in a row to have career days against the Gamecocks, setting career-highs in both receptions (six) and yards (103).

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