D.J. Swearinger had to be one upset individual in the third quarter of South Carolina's game against Arkansas. It isn't often that a player is called for three penalties on consecutive plays, much less all three of the personal foul variety, but that's what happened to Swearinger. He was more than happy to take the end result of the three penalties, six points.
Swearinger had just been called for a pair of penalties, one legit, and one not so legit. Nate Holmes ran the ball on a pitch to the left, avoiding a diving Akeem Auguste and ran down the sideline for a five yard gain. Swearinger made the tackle from behind on the play, but he grabbed Holmes around the shoulder pads and drew a horse collar penalty. That moved the ball 15 yards to the Arkansas 45.
"He was running to the football on the first penalty and horse collared the kid and it was a good call by the official," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said.
On the very next play, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson threw over the middle to Javontee Herndon. Swearinger came charging in to hammer Herndon to dislodge the ball. He appeared to lead with his arm, not his helmet as he did earlier in the season against UAB, and avoid the head of Herndon. It drew a penalty anyway and Arkansas had the ball inside Carolina territory on 30 penalty yards against Swearinger.
"I'm not an official and haven't seen the tape whether he was hitting a defenseless player, but I told him the thing he probably has to do is hit low," Ward said. "I think that's what the game has come to and now you're going to see more knee injuries. We'll address that because we have after-the-play penalty and we have punishment for that and he'll pay for it on Monday."
Swearinger has already been suspended for a game for the hit in the UAB game when he clearly led with the helmet, but this time it appears he turned his shoulder to avoid a helmet-to-helmet hit and another suspension. At least that's what he believes.
"I think they'll see that I tried to lead with the shoulder," Swearinger said. "I know I tried to so I don't think I should get suspended for that."
Following the two penalties, Swearinger turned it around in the blink of an eye.
Wilson threw to the right, but Swearinger was right there to pick it off and race 69 yards for the score, outrunning Wilson on the play.
"We felt like D.J. could make some plays in the nickel so we tried to match personnel," Ward said. "We felt like he could make plays closer to the ball being inside, and he did. We never want to throw the ball in the stands. We want to act like we've been there before, which he has, and just toss to the ball to the official and let them know that you will have an opportunity to do it again."
Swearinger drew his third penalty in a row on the play, tossing the ball up into the stands after the interception, drawing a third consecutive penalty.
"The first two penalties was just me playing football," Swearinger said. "On the hit I actually tried to turn and lead with my shoulder, but in the speed of the game it's hard for the refs to see that. On the pick six it was kind of a stress reliever from the two penalties. I got it into the end zone and we were all having fun so I just kind of tossed the ball."
Adam Yates bailed Swearinger out on the ensuing kickoff, belting it all the way to the one-yard line from his own 20, and the coverage team stopped Nate Holmes inside the 20.
"My reacation was you can't do that," head coach Steve Spurrier said of tossing the ball in the stands. "Yatesey kicked if off to the one and he didn't get back to the 25, so it didn't hurt us. If there's a penalty that doesn't mean anything, you can't get mad at the guy. Obviously we don't like doing that."
Swearinger ended the game as the leading tackler, recording a game-high 13 tackles, one tackle for loss, and the interception. Ward said Swearinger will pay for the penalty on Monday in practice, with Swearinger saying it will likely be two or three gassers, but laughed and said it could be more.
Ellington thriving in new position
Spurrier decided to make a move several weeks ago to switch Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington in hopes to get Sanders some more balls. It seems to have had a reverse effect. Ellington had his second consecutive 100-yard performance with 104 yards on five catches and a 42-yard touchdown reception.
"Bruce is starting to get a bunch of balls," Spurrier said. "We kind of swapped him and Ace thinking we don't get many balls to Ace and now they're all going to Bruce most of the time. We try to put our guys in position for the route they run the best."
Facing fourth-and-six late in the second quarter with a slim 14-10 lead, South Carolina decided to go for it. The call paid off as Connor Shaw found a wide open Ellington down the sidelines, who turned it up field and took it to the end zone from 42 yards out to give Carolina a 21-10 lead heading to the locker room.
"They screwed up a coverage and Bruce was running a little curl-and-go," Spurrier said. "We had Ace going down the middle and it ended up being a good play for us and bad play for them. Sometimes defenses come with elaborate coverages and get burnt sometimes. We just happened to have the right play on as it turned out."
On the play, Ellington recognized that the cornerback sat down in a zone in front of him and the safety was deep so he turned a curl-and-go into a curl. Shaw saw it, hit him with the pass and the rest is history.
"We had seen on film that they were in a cover two blitz," Shaw said. "I saw the blitz and ducked under it and Bruce made a heads-up play and sat down in the hole. If he had kept on running the safety would have covered him."
Ellington now has his first back-to-back 100-yard performances in his South Carolina career and continues to have a solid sophomore season.
"They moved me to the outside and I'm running the same routes that I did," Ellington said. "I'm just getting open and Connor is doing a great job of passing me the ball. I'm just happy to be getting the ball.
"I think it's just a coincidence that I'm getting wide open. I guess they're just double-teaming Ace and leaving me wide open."
Seniors move into the record books
The South Carolina seniors still have three games left in their final season but they have already made history. The win over Arkansas was their 35th win, most in school history for any class. They have been a part of an SEC Eastern Division Championship team, first 11-win season in school history, first three-game winning streak against Georgia, Tennessee, and Clemson, and still have the potential to play for the school's first BCS Bowl if they earn an at-large bid.
Junior tailback Marcus Lattimore had a video board message to fans in the first quarter: "Hey Gamecock Country. I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you very much for all the notes and cards. I appreciate all of your support. I am feeling fine and working to get back to football. To my teammates, I only have one message... Beat Arkansas! Go Gamecocks!"
Today's game marked Steve Spurrier's 100th (63-37) career game at the University of South Carolina.
The Gamecocks' win over the Razorbacks gave them a 6-2 SEC record for the second-straight season.
Carolina now has eight or more wins for the third-straight season, the first time in school history.
South Carolina's win kept it undefeated at home this season and extended the Gamecocks' home winning streak to 10 games, the third-longest home winning streak in school history.
South Carolina now has 35 wins over the last four years, a school record for wins in a four-year period.
Captains for the Gamecocks are senior spur DeVonte Holloman, senior free safety D.J. Swearinger, senior linebacker Shaq Wilson, and senior offensive lineman T.J. Johnson.
Freshman tight end Jerell Adams scored his first career touchdown on a 29-yard pass from Connor Shaw in the first quarter.
Connor Shaw scored his third rushing touchdown of the season with a 10-yard run in the second quarter.
Freshman tailback Mike Davis scored his second career touchdown on a two-yard run in the third quarter.
Holloman forced his first fumble of the season in the second quarter. Senior linebacker Reginald Bowens recovered the fumble, his second recovery of the season.
Swearinger had a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. It marked the second interception returned for a touchdown by the Gamecocks this season.
Senior cornerback Akeem Auguste grabbed his first interception of the season in the fourth quarter.
Swearinger posted his season high of 13 tackles in today's game against the Razorbacks. Sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney now holds third place in school history for total sacks in a season with 9.5 after adding a sack for a loss of nine yards against Arkansas.
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