Mistakes, inconsistency doom USC against Hogs
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark – South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia was asked to put Saturday's inability to reach the endzone on a frustration scale. Without hesitation, the sophomore called it a seven or eight on a one to ten rating system.
And Garcia recognizes the Gamecocks have no one to blame but themselves.
Despite moving the ball up and down the field, USC struggled to find the endzone against the Razorbacks as the team suffered a 33-16 loss. The Gamecocks fall to 6-4 with a 3-4 mark in SEC competition.
"We moved the ball we just killed ourselves. And that's another frustrating part – we're hurting ourselves," Garcia said. "We move down the field and end drives with penalties, turnovers, sacks, get out of field goal position. It's just hurting us against these good teams."
Behind a balanced attack, Carolina opened the game with a 14-play drive that spanned 65 yards, but three straight runs by Kenny Miles inside the 5-yard line went nowhere as USC was faced with a fourth and goal at the one. A delay of game penalty moved the ball back five yards as the team settled for a 23-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
It lasted all of four plays, as Arkansas responded with a quick drive to go up 7-3 on a Joe Adams touchdown run from 18 yards out. USC took advantage of the Razorbacks lone mistake of the day as a fake field goal did not meet the yardage needed giving the team a turnover on downs and a short field to work with.
Garcia hit receiver Moe Brown for 17 yards on a curl route and then connected with D.L. Moore for four yards. A Miles' run moved the ball to the 1-yard line as Garcia cashed in on a quarterback sneak to retake the lead at 10-7.
That margin looked like it might hold until the Gamecocks' prevent defense was bested on a 69-yard pass play to set up an Arkansas field goal just before the half, tying things up at 10-10.
USC looked to have the offense going in the second half as Garcia connected with receiver Alshon Jeffery for an 80-yard bomb on the first offensive play of the second half for a score to give the team a 16-10 lead. A botched point-after attempt by Carolina resulted in just six points and what coach Steve Spurrier referred to as a possible omen.
Spurrier proved to be right as Arkansas responded with an 11-play drive for 73 yards and a Ryan Mallett sneak into the endzone to retake a 17-16 lead.
"We had a little momentum right there, but they took it and went down and scored. They had some, and someday around here hopefully if we can get some momentum around here we can not let them catch up so fast. But they caught up real fast," Spurrier said. "We dropped the snap on the extra point which always seems to be a bad omen for us. Anytime we miss an extra point it just seems like nothing good happens. But that was just one play. … A lot plays in the game, but I don't know how many could have turned it around."
The Gamecocks appeared to be turning the first half defensive struggle into a second half shootout as Garcia and the offense overcame an early holding penalty on the ensuing drive to move into Razorback territory at the 25-yard line. However, a fade route pass to Jeffery brought that drive to halt as cornerback Jerell Norton grabbed an interception on the pass for a touchback to end the threat. That proved to be a major turning point as Arkansas marched 80 yards in seven plays for a Broderick Green 2-yard touchdown run and a 24-16 lead. They would never look back.
"I guess defenses have seen us do it so much and they're just sprinting back there and making plays," Garcia said of the fade route to Jeffery. "I probably threw it a little too soon, I didn't really give him a chance to run down there as far as he needed. Those are the kind of plays that turn momentum and it did and it spiraled down there from then."
Things only got worse for Carolina as its next possession started off with a sack for a six-yard loss. After an 18-yard pass to tight end Weslye Saunders, a snap sailed over Garcia's head and into the endzone resulting a safety and 10-point lead for the Hogs.
USC's final two possessions of the game went for a punt and a turnover on downs inside the redzone as the offense was almost doubled up in time of possession in the second half (19:47 to 10:13).
It is the second straight week the Gamecocks have fallen prey to their mistakes as three first half turnovers against Tennessee resulted in a 21-0 deficit the team could not crawl out of. The need for something new is well aware in the locker room. The Gamecocks will face the SEC's top defense next week in a home contest against Florida before closing out the regular season with in-state rival Clemson. The teams aren't getting any easier making the scoring situation a top priority.
"We've got to get back to the basics, back to the drawing board and try to figure something out. Try and get into the endzone," Saunders said. "That 80-yard pass to Alshon, that looked easy. But then we get to the 5-yard line and we're struggling. We've just got to figure something out."
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