COLUMBIA — South Carolina looked lethargic against a struggling Arkansas team for most of the first half.
With no Marcus Lattimore to rely on, the Gamecocks’ offense had been inconsistent. And late in the second quarter, another drive appeared to have stalled at the Arkansas 42.
Time for the Head Ball Coach to roll the dice.
Steve Spurrier called Connor Shaw over to the sideline, then sent him back on the field for fourth and 5. When Arkansas let Bruce Ellington slip behind the secondary, Shaw stepped up in the pocket and threw a strike. Ellington juked the remaining defender and went into the end zone untouched for a touchdown and a 21-10 Gamecock lead.
South Carolina scored 10 points in the first five minutes of the second half – six on D.J. Swearinger’s 69-yard interception return – and the rout was on. The Gamecocks won 38-20 before an announced crowd of 78,772 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The victory broke a three-game losing streak against the Razorbacks and kept the Gamecocks (8-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) in line to match their best record ever if they win out. Arkansas fell to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the SEC.
While Spurrier was not happy with the Gamecocks’ overall performance, he did praise Ellington’s play. The receiver nabbed five passes for 104 yards, including the touchdown.
“Well, they screwed up the coverage as you could see,” Spurrier said. “You’ve got to ask them how they let him go. We had Ace going down the middle and it ended up being a good play for us and a bad play for them. We just happened to have the right play on for that particular defense they’ve got on. Sometimes you’ve just got to get lucky, I guess.”
Shaw accounted for South Carolina’s other two scores in the first half. He connected with Jerell Adams for a 29-yard touchdown pass, and he ran in from the 10 for another score.
On the touchdown pass to Ellington, Shaw said his receiver did a nice job.
“Bruce sat down in the hole, if he had gone downfield the safety would have covered him,” he said. “It was a good, heads up play by Bruce.”
Arkansas could have kept it closer in the first half, but stumbled inside the 10-yard line on two occasions.
South Carolina’s defense forced a fumble on one and held the Razorbacks to a field goal on the other.
After the early fireworks to start the second half, both teams struggled the rest of the game. Mike Davis scored South Carolina’s final points on a 2-yard run.
With the victory, South Carolina completed back-to-back 6-2 seasons in the SEC and now has eight overall wins or more for the third season in a row. Even though they won’t make the conference championship game, the Gamecocks can win seven home games for the first time in school history if they beat Wofford next week.
“We still have a chance to have a great year,” Shaw said. “I think we all know we have a chance to repeat last year and win 11 games.”