Arkansas runs hog wild against Gamecock 'D'
Running like they were going down from "The Hill" where Donald W. Reynolds Stadium is located, running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones combined for 502 yards on the ground on 47 carries. The Hawg rushing output was more than the Gamecocks total offensive output of 489 yards. USC's offensive outburst was not enough for the second consecutive game.
"Obviously it was a mismatch tonight," said USC Head Coach Steve Spurrier. "It looked like a division III team trying to play a division I team. Maybe a Division III team could have slowed ‘em down a little better than we could."
"They ran right through us," said Spurrier. McFadden had a Razorback record 328 yards on 35 carries and an 80 yard TD run with 8:04 left in the game to clinch the win. Jones was even more dangerous, scoring three rushing TD's on runs of 40 and then 27 yards in the first quarter to stake Arkansas to a 21-3 lead.
"Felix (Jones) is just beautiful to watch," said Arkansas Head Coach Houston Nutt, whose team improved to 6-3, 2-3 in the SEC. "He said the 6-2, 215 pound McFadden "is like another Barry Sanders. McFadden is explosive, and he knows how to change the game as a whole. He can withstand any game. The bigger the game the better he plays, and that is why he deserves the Heisman."
While McFadden caused multiple problems running the "Wild Hog" formation, where he lines up at the quarterback position in the shotgun – he threw a 23 yard scoring strike to Robert Johnson with 5:13 left in the third quarter – Jones had the most memorable highlights.
"We've got the best backfield in the nation," said Jones, also a junior and also getting some Heisman talk. "We've got the best offensive line in the nation as well."
While USC rebounded from deficits of 21-3 at the end of the first quarter, 28-10 at the half, and 35-20, 42-27 to close within a touchdown and two point conversion behind the passing of senior Blake Mitchell, the Gamecocks could not close closer than 42-36 on a Cory Boyd TD run with 8:15 left. That's because McFadden closed the door with the 80 yard TD run. Mitchell went the distance hitting on 27-51 for 364 yards and 2 TD's. Boyd led USC on the ground with 97 yards on 17 carries while freshman Dion Lecorn had a career best 8 catches for 109 yards and a TD. But it wasn't offense Carolina lacked. It was a stop.
After taking the second half kickoff and driving 60 yards on 11 plays to a 30 yard Ryan Succop field goal, Carolina attempted and recovered its first onside kick of the season. The Gamecocks then drove 55 yards in 5 plays with Mitchell hitting tight end Jared Cook on a post pattern, and with 9:07 left in the third quarter, USC trailed by just 8. The teams traded touchdowns the next two possessions each and then Carolina got a break. After misfiring on two passes on the 2-yard line and turning it over on downs two plays into the fourth quarter, the defense forced a 3rd and 2 and McFadden could not handle a high and slightly wide snap in the Wild Hog formation that eventually went out of the end zone for a safety. Trailing by 13, the Gamecocks took the kickoff and drove 55 yards in 13 plays, capped by Boyd's TD run with 8:15 left – but McFadden raced 80 yards untouched on the first play from scrimmage for the clinching TD.
After McFadden's 80 yard TD run, USC faced a 4th and 9 at their own 36, but decided to punt and hope to hold Arkansas with 6:42 left. Arkansas then ran out the clock.
"I think we played with the lack of a lot of things" on defense said Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix when asked about a lack of intensity. "They were able to do whatever they wanted to" against the Gamecock defense. "We did not match the challenge."
"It was very shocking to me," said sophomore standout Eric Norwood, who had 5 tackles, including two for a loss. "They're the type of backs that could take it 80 (yards), whereas other backs in the SEC might not take it 80."
Middle linebacker Marvin Sapp led USC with 12 tackles, but he and fellow middle linebacker Rodney Paulk seemed caught up inside and unable to fill the holes which Jones and McFadden raced through.
Norwood said the USC defense feared this could happen, but could have and should have stopped the dynamic duo of McFadden and Jones. "The (Arkansas) O-line is not dominant. Those type of backs, they can just get somebody in front of our defensive player, they can hit it. They can take it the distance."
McFadden and Jones took the football about one-tenth of a mile Saturday night for four touchdowns, sending USC to its third straight loss and dropping Carolina to 6-4, 3-4 in the SEC.
"We've hung our defense out to dry in games before," said Mitchell, who said USC could have won the game if the offense had just kept scoring. "We just didn't get things done as a team today."
Carolina hosts Florida Saturday in Columbia in the Gamecocks' final SEC contest of the season. Junior Kenny McKinley, who caught 7 passes for 72 yards, is already looking ahead. "This (part of the season) is where we really started to get on track last year. Blake's playing tremendous ball, and I can't wait to keep going on next week. For Mitchell and the other seniors, they have two games remaining to get a win and hopefully solidify a bowl bid, which would be a USC school record three straight bowls.
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