Welcome to the SEC, Bret Bielema, as if you haven’t been welcomed to the conference of champions already when the Texas A&M Aggies and Florida Gators saddled your team with double-digit losses in recent weeks.
The hits — the bad ones that is — continued today for Bielema and Arkansas as South Carolina came to Fayetteville and spoiled Homecoming for the Hogs with a 52-7 country boy butt-spanking in front of a large crowd at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
With the loss, the Razorbacks have lost four in a row, and are 0-3 in conference play. They are 3-4 overall.
At first, it looked as though the Razorbacks were going to make this a game as they scored on the opening offensive series, courtesy of a six-yard run by running back Alex Collins to give the home team and its fans a good feeling with an early 7-0 lead. Arkansas seemed to have a good gameplan in place, thanks to offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who called a balanced mix of run and pass plays. Using their tight ends in blocking situations, they were able to subdue the Gamecocks’ JaDeveon Clowney, who had drawn the ire of head coach Steve Spurrier for his inconsistent performances in recent games.
This marked the sixth time in seven games that Arkansas has scored a touchdown in the first quarter. The good feeling among Razorback faithful would subside later in the first quarter as the Gamecocks put up 10 points to take a 10-7 lead at the end of the stanza. But the misery for Arkansas players, coaches and fans was in the process of beginning.
South Carolina mixed the run and pass effectively throughout the second quarter as quarterback Connor Shaw returned to action after sustaining a shoulder injury in an earlier outing at Central Florida. Running back Mike Davis had another solid game as he rushed for 134 yards on 19 carries. He has proven to be an adequate replacement for Marcus Lattimore.
Through the remainder of the game, Arkansas would have nine possessions, and failed to score points on any of them. Turnovers and penalties were the things that hindered the Razorbacks today. Also, on at least four occasions, the visitors from the Palmetto State had fourth-and-one or fourth-and-inches. All four times — count them, four times — South Carolina was able to convert on those chances. This led to more points, as well as chewing up yards and melting the clock.
South Carolina added two touchdowns each in the second, third and fourth quarters, even when backups entered the game to spell the starters, and helped them rout the Razorbacks.
Perhaps the only other highlight for Arkansas was when punter Sam Irwin-Hill booted a 79-yard punt in the second quarter. If a fan, even the most pedestrian of college football fans, wants to call that a highlight.
There were a few hints of sunlight in the clouds for Arkansas. Collins rushed for 69 yards on 10 carries, Jonathan Williams had 61 yards on six carries. On defense, Darius Philon, a redshirt freshman defensive tackle from Mobile, Ala., had three tackles and a quarterback sack. Eric Bennett, Jarett Lake and Braylon Mitchell all had nine tackles apiece.
There were at least five true freshmen seeing a lot of playing time for Bielema and his staff. That should bode well for the future, provided they stay healthy, and the staff can continue to recruit well and consistently over the next two or three years.
The road gets much tougher for the Razorbacks next week as they travel to Tuscaloosa for a game with the defending national champs.