COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Gamecocks looked like a different team last Saturday as they took on the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Gamecocks were able to run the football as well as play really good defense as they routed the Hogs 48-22 at Williams Brice Stadium.
The real story of this game is just how well that defense played. The Gamecock defense allowed a total of 330 yards to the Razorbacks with only 106 of those yards coming on the ground. A lot of those yards were gained late in the contest when the game was already decided. The Gamecock defense also scored three touchdowns, two on interception returns and one on a fumble return. The Gamecocks scoring on defense was huge for a South Carolina offense that has struggled to score in its previous games. Senior linebacker Skai Moore had one of those interceptions for a touchdown, and Keisean Nixon had the other. The Gamecock defense almost had a fourth defensive touchdown but the fumble was called back after review showed that the runners knee was on the ground prior to him being stripped of the ball.
When your defense scores three touchdowns, it takes a lot of pressure off of your offense. The rushing attack was much better for the Gamecocks as they rushed for 159 yards on 36 carries. Rico Dowdle was the Gamecocks leading rusher with 61 yards on 11 carries. Dowdle has been nursing a thigh injury for the last couple of weeks and finally looked healthy Saturday. Ty’son Williams had just eight carries in the game but managed 35 yards on those limited carries.
Jake Bentley also has a decent game, going 16 for 31 for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air. I imagine those numbers might have been a good bit higher had the offense seen the field more, but the defense scoring touchdowns really limits your offensive possessions. That is a really good problem to have.
Hayden Hurst was the leading receiver for South Carolina hauling in 2 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Bryon Edwards and Ty’son Williams both also had touchdown catches for the Gamecocks. Union Native Shi Smith caught two passes for 16 yards.
The Gamecocks will travel to Knoxville this weekend to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols have struggled this season to find wins. Coach Butch Jones probably has the hottest seat in coaching right now. A loss to South Carolina at home could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Jones, who Tennessee fans seem to want gone. Will Muschamp has faced Tennessee 5 times in his head-coaching career, both at Florida and at SC, and is 5-0 against the Vols. The Gamecocks will need to continue to improve in the running games and create turnovers just like last week. Tennessee was off last week, following a 41-0 loss to Georgia two weeks ago. The Vols also struggled against UMASS the week before that but defeated the Minutemen 17-13. Saturday’s game kicks off at noon.
Tyler Shugart can be reached at [email protected]