Carolina's Defense Scores 3 TDS In 48-22 Win Over Arkansas With videos, Galleries, Stats, Quotes & More
Gamecocks Next Face Tennessee on Oct. 14 at Noon in Knoxville
GCF Staff Report
October 08, 2017
South Carolina 48, Arkansas 22
POST-GAME: Will Muschamp on Arkansas — 10/7/17
POST-GAME: Jake Bentley, Bryan Edwards on Arkansas — 10/7/17
POST-GAME: Skai Moore, Hayden Hurst on Arkansas — 10/7/17
POST-GAME: Rico Dowdle, D.J. Wonnum on Arkansas — 10/7/17
POST-GAME: T.J. Brunson, Alan Knott on Arkansas — 10/7/17
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — An unprecedented night by South Carolina's defense may have rescued the Gamecocks season and sent Arkansas back down a familiar, discouraging path.
The Gamecocks (4-2, 2-2 Southeastern) scored three touchdowns on defense - returning two interceptions and a fumble - in a 48-22 win over Arkansas (2-3, 0-2) on Saturday.
After a 75-yard touchdown drive by the Razorbacks tied it at 10 early in the second quarter, Arkansas gained just 48 yards in their next 18 plays. Those plays included an Austin Allen interception Skai Moore returned 34 yards for a TD and an Allen fumble that T.J. Brunson returned 74 yards for a score.
By the time the Razorbacks started moving the ball again, the Gamecocks led 41-10 in the fourth quarter.
''Everything disintegrated right in front of us,'' said Arkansas coach Brett Bielema, who will need three wins over five SEC teams he is a combined 8-15 against with the Razorbacks
South Carolina has no record of ever scoring three defensive touchdowns in the 125 years it has played football. Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp, known for his defensive mind, couldn't remember three touchdowns from his favorite unit in his career. And Brunson - he had never been in the end zone in all his football life, either.
''That was fun. I hope to get to do it again,'' Brunson said.
And all that defense helped build the confidence of an offense that had seen several shaky games but come through with two more wins than the halfway point in 2016. Jake Bentley went 16 of 31 for 199 yards and three touchdowns, including a critical 18-yard pass to Bryan Edwards in the corner of the end zone with four seconds in the first half.
Bentley spread the ball around to nine receivers as South Carolina beat a team from the SEC West for the first time since 2013.
The Gamecocks gained 358 yards, scoring on five of eight possessions in the final three quarters. Bentley was sacked just once, a week after the offense line allowed seven sacks in a loss to Texas A&M.
''It takes the pressure off of us,'' Bentley said of the defense. ''Their confidence is through the roof.''
QUOTING COACH MUSCHAMP
"I'm really pleased with how our football team responded. It was a gut-wrenching loss last week. We spilled our guts and played really hard in the game. We just never really found a way to get a move in offensively or get a stop on defense. Always as a coach when you go through that and see the hurt in the locker room, you're worried about the next week regardless of the circumstances. I want to take this [opportunity] to thank our fans for an unbelievable environment. I thought we played a clean game, until late in the game defensively. That was embarrassing. I thought offensively we established the run well. We wore them down in the third quarter. We ran the ball well. Defensively, we had some huge plays with turnovers. I told [Arkansas head coach] Bret [bielema] at the end, you can't win with those turnovers and turnovers with scores off of that. I'm extremely proud of our football team and the way we responded today."
The Gamecocks are now 4-2 (2-2 SEC) on the season.
Saturday was the first matchup with Arkansas since 2013. South Carolina now has three straight wins over the Razorbacks, its longest win streak ever in the all-time series (led by Arkansas, 13-10).
The 48 points scored for Carolina were the second-most in the series, behind only the 52 points scored in the 2013 meeting.
South Carolina captains for the game were No. 8 D.J. Wonnum, No. 10 Skai Moore, No. 70 Alan Knott, and No. 90 Taylor Stallworth.
Attendance for Saturday's game was 79,416. South Carolina is now averaging 77,910 fans through the first three home games of the season.
With the game tied at 10 in the final minute of the first half, Jake Bentley hit Bryan Edwards with an 18-yard touchdown pass, giving the Gamecocks a 17-10 lead with four seconds remaining. South Carolina took a lead it would never relinquish heading into the halftime locker room.
3 -- The South Carolina defense recorded three touchdowns for the first time in modern history. Skai Moore and Keisean Nixon each returned an interception for a score while T.J. Brunson had a 73-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.
The Gamecocks will be back on the road in the SEC next week when they travel to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols lead the all-time series by a 25-8-2 count including a 16-2 advantage when the teams have played at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. However, Carolina has won four of the last seven meetings between the two SEC Eastern Division rivals, including a 24-21 win in Columbia last season.
From USC Sports Information
MORE GAMECOCK POSTGAME VS RAZORBACKS
For a night, Gamecocks kings of the line of scrimmage
For nearly 2 1/2 seasons, South Carolina’s work up front was a source of near consistent frustration.
The defensive line was forever compared with the late Spurrier era, and the talent level was simply not close. The offensive line was always struggling.
It might not carry forward, but for one day, Saturday against Arkansas, the Gamecocks were good on both lines. That’s something worth paying attention to.
The defensive line was faced with an Arkansas offense that loved to load up on tight ends or play a fullback and get downhill on folks. But South Carolina almost never let those plays get downhill.
Arkansas ran 23 times before the game got truly out of hand. Only six gained more than 4 yards. There were almost none of those runs where Arkansas reset the line of scrimmage, created seams and let backs hammer in for nice chunks of yardage.
That’s because the USC defensive line didn’t let it happen.
“Point of attack, they set the line of scrimmage,” linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “They played their tails off ... really thankful that they came out and showed out, did what they did.”
On the other side, Arkansas got the better of USC for a stretch. Tricky pressures from all over had Jake Bentley falling backwards on throws to avoid rushers. But USC adjusted, and then that line started hammering the Razorbacks.
On its two offensive drives in the third quarter, USC handed off again and again, getting the gains that move the chains with ease. For a unit down two starters and a top replacement, that meant something.
“I’m tremendously proud,” center Alan Knott said. “Getting those guys on the right page is a big task, but it’s something that coach (Eric Wolford) helped me with, and I think we did a great job tonight.”
Maybe it’s a step for a couple sometimes-beleagured units. Maybe it’s just one great night as part of a larger process.
In either case, the Gamecocks controlled the trenches in a way its fans haven’t seen in a long while.
Dominant victory could help Gamecocks regain momentum
It wasn’t difficult to imagine South Carolina would be 4-2 at the midpoint of this season. Predicting how it would get here would have been the tough part.
The Gamecocks blasted Arkansas 48-22 in front of 79,416 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium, putting a feel-good bookmark in the middle of their season and potentially setting the stage for a second half that has some winnable games.
“I think this is going to propel us for the rest of the season,” said quarterback Jake Bentley, who had his second three-touchdown game of the season. “We knew going into the game it was a big game for us.”
That’s because the past three had been so bad. After a 2-0 start, South Carolina stumbled against Kentucky, needed to get lucky against Louisiana Tech and then blew a late lead against Texas A&M. It was that last game that coach Will Muschamp worried about.
“It was really a gut-wrenching loss last week, stomped our guts,” Muschamp said. “When you go through that and see the hurt in the locker room in the end, you kind of worry about the next week.”
For 29:56 seconds, it seemed Muschamp was right to be worried. The Gamecocks (4-2 overall, 2-2 SEC) were tied with the Razorbacks (2-3, 0-2 SEC) at 10-10 until wide receiver Bryan Edwards made a circus catch in the back of the end zone with four seconds left in the second quarter to give South Carolina a 17-10 lead at halftime.
South Carolina’s defense took over in the second half, scoring three times on Arkansas turnovers in the most dominant performance of the Muschamp era in Columbia.
“I don’t know that in our first six games I have ever questioned our effort,” Muschamp said. “I don’t question our ‘want to.’ Has it always been exactly what you wanted? No, but our guys give effort. Our guys have had a competitive edge about themselves.”
For almost a month, South Carolina had been swimming upstream despite its best efforts. Saturday night, it felt the wind at its back for the first time in a long time.
“It definitely gives us momentum going into next week,” center Alan Knott said. “I think it was definitely a big step for us.”
Beating Arkansas was not the Gamecocks’ greatest achievement of the evening. Plenty of teams have done that this season, and from the looks of things, plenty more will to close out the season. For South Carolina, simply getting out of its own way was a positive step forward that should give the team confidence as it heads to the second half of the season.
“It most definitely does, but right now, we are going to enjoy this win, and tomorrow, we are going to come in and prepare for Tennessee,” Rico Dowdle said. “We’re taking it one game at a time.”
The Gamecocks outgained Arkansas 358-330 in total offense but the disparity was much greater than that. South Carolina punted just twice to the Razorbacks’ five times and led by 31 before emptying its bench.
“That’s big for our confidence, especially on offense when you can run the ball like that,” tight end Hayden Hurst said. “That’s what we’ve been looking for all year, and we were finally able to do that tonight.”
Even with giving up two garbage time touchdowns to the Razorbacks, it was South Carolina’s largest margin of victory under Muschamp and the first time it has scored 48 points since 2014 against Vanderbilt.
“It’s good,” linebacker Skai Moore said. “After a big win, it’s always a great feeling. Whenever our work shows on Saturday, it feels great. It’s good, and we want to continue it.”
South Carolina’s defense brought their A game against Arkansas
The South Carolina defense didn’t let a second-half collapse against Texas A&M in Week 5 define its season.
The Gamecocks scored 24 points off a season-high four turnovers in their 48-22 win against the Razorbacks at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.
“As a coach, when you go through that and you see the hurt in the locker room at the end, you worry about the next week regardless of the circumstances and situation,” coach Will Muschamp said of the Texas A&M loss, in which the Gamecocks allowed 17 points in the second half.
“This was a good game for us defensively from the standpoint of the two-back challenge and not seeing it a lot. I thought Travaris Robinson and our defensive staff had a really good plan and executing the plan.”
Saturday’s win marked the first time the USC defense scored multiple touchdowns in a game since it faced Georgia on Sept. 10, 2011. The touchdowns came from pick sixes by Skai Moore and Keisean Nixon, and TJ Brunson’s first career touchdown, which he scored by returning a strip sack 73 yards.
Along with creating explosive turnovers, the USC defense held the Razorbacks to 106 rushing yards and a 43 percent (6-for-14) third down completion percentage. For Brunson and Moore, the game felt like the most complete defensive performance of the season.
“I think we were all locked in and on the same page,” Brunson said. “…The defensive line played their tails off. I’m really thankful they came out, showed out and did what they did.”
Moore added, “T-Rob was emphasizing that we needed to have a complete game this week, so I think we did that for sure.”
Moore’s 34-yard pick six extended the Gamecocks’ lead to 17 points with 8:33 left in the third quarter. It was his 13th career interception, which is one shy of the school record.
“It’s something that’s been around in my ear,” Moore said of the milestone. “Something that people have been telling me, so it’s on my mind. I’m just going to keep playing and doing what I do. If the plays come to me, I’ll make them.”
Muschamp said he doesn’t remember a time when his defense has scored three touchdowns in a game.
“I don’t think it’s happened before. I think I’ve been around two. Not three. If Jam (Williams) scooped it up, it would’ve been four,” Muschamp said. “I don’t care what kind of coach you are. You can be a field goal guy. It’s good.”
For quarterback Jake Bentley, who threw 199 passing yards and three touchdowns, the defense’s performance on Saturday helped take pressure off the offense.
“Their confidence is through the roof right now,” Bentley said. “To see them playing well gets us playing well and really just boosts the confidence of the whole team.”
The Good, The Bad: South Carolina vs. Arkansas
Three defensive TDs
Three of them. Skai Moore with a pick six. T.J. Brunson with a fumble return after another defensive TD got called back. Keisean Nixon with an interception TD in his first meaningful action. The defense had 22 points to Arkansas’ 22, 12 scored after the game wasn’t in doubt.
The Gamecocks star passer started 5-for-15 for 28 yards. He closed the day with 11 completions in his final 16 attempts with three scores and 171 yards.
The sophomore was a one-man wrecking crew. He finished with four tackles, one for loss, two breakups and a forced fumble, and all seemed to come in big moments.
Closing the half
South Carolina’s final drive of the second quarter drew boos early, as the Gamecocks began by running the ball. Then they marched 69 yards in nine plays and scored on Bryan Edwards’ TD catch with four seconds left.
Oh for a kicker
Parker White missed two more kicks, both from 49 yards. He’s at 4-for-11, and USC is hitting 35.7 percent for the season.
USC’s first 23 plays yielded 56 yards. It was another tough start for a team that’s had a few this season. Of course, that just set up an explosive second quarter.
Sherrod Greene came back from an elbow injury, and Dennis Daley didn’t have to after what looked like a minor leg issue. But that’s two more dinged up guys at two already paper-thin spots.
What might have been
Arkansas seemed like an OK team. And USC just knocked them around. It leaves folks to only wonder about the lost lead in Texas and the Kentucky struggles.