Nov 6, 2003
By DOUGLAS PILS
AP Sports Writer
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – After an impressive win on short rest, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt gave his team a well-earned reward: two days off.
Playing only five days after a seven-overtime victory against Kentucky, the Razorbacks easily handled South Carolina 28-6 Thursday night.
Nutt kept his players fresh this week, going through light workouts, and the lack of contact seemed to help.
“I was concerned. It was unfamiliar, new territory,” said Nutt, 4-1 at Arkansas following overtime games. “Our staff did a great job. This was the first time with such a quick turnaround, but we played with heart.”
Matt Jones threw three touchdown passes and the Arkansas defense held the Gamecocks out of the end zone for the first time this season.
“Our inability to score was detrimental,” South Carolina coach Lou Holtz said. “We had a lot of mental errors. I don’t have a lot of patience for self-inflicted wounds.”
The Razorbacks had little time to prepare, behind Jones and DeCori Birmingham’s 51-yard TD run, they did fine. Now, they can rest before returning to practice Sunday.
Arkansas (6-3, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) became bowl eligible for the sixth straight season under Nutt, who is 16-0 at War Memorial Stadium.
The bowl streak ties a mark Holtz set when he was at the school from 1977-83. Ken Hatfield, the current Rice coach, equaled that record at Arkansas from 1984-89.
“There were 24 seniors who knew this was their last game in Little Rock and they wanted to make a statement,” Nutt said. “They swarmed to the ball.”
Jones didn’t start, but entered on the second series. He completed 11 of 14 passes for 148 yards, including TD tosses to tight end Jason Peters and wide receivers Richard Smith and George Wilson.
“Matt Jones is such a threat whether passing or on the option,” Holtz said. “He gives us a lot of problems.”
Nutt started Ryan Sorahan for the second week and Jones said he doesn’t mind.
“It doesn’t make any difference to me,” said Jones, who had a 23-game consecutive start streak snapped. Last week, he started at wide receiver. “It’s kind of good to watch and get a feel for the game.”
Peters led the Razorbacks with four catches for 42 yards, giving him 17 receptions for the season. It’s the most for an Arkansas tight end since Joe Dean Davenport, now with the Indianapolis Colts, caught 21 in 1999.
“Peters had a great night tonight,” Jones said. “When he makes plays, it opens up our offense tremendously.”
It was the third time this season that Jones threw three touchdown passes in a game. Known more for his running ability, the junior moved into a second-place tie with Barry Lunney Jr. with 33 career touchdown passes at Arkansas.
South Carolina (5-5, 2-5) had four turnovers, and two mistakes left the Gamecocks with just three points after a pair of 13-play drives.
Quarterback Dondrial Pinkins fumbled on both drives, losing one at the Arkansas 9 in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, Pinkins recovered a fumble forced by Jeb Huckeba on first-and-10 at the Razorbacks 11, but a 10-yard loss forced the Gamecocks to settle for a field goal.
Pinkins completed 21 of 36 passes for 181 yards. He threw two interceptions.
South Carolina drove inside the Arkansas 10 late in the fourth quarter, but Bo Mosley recovered a fumble by receiver Matthew Thomas on fourth down.
Arkansas overcome three fumbles of its own. One of those bobbles was by linebacker Jimarr Gallon while he was returning a second-half interception.
Both teams were sloppy in the first half.
Arkansas’ Cedric Washington fumbled the opening kickoff and Jamacia Jackson recovered at the Razorbacks 26. South Carolina only moved the ball a yard and Daniel Weaver kicked a 43-yard field goal.
On its second drive, Arkansas countered with a 51-yard scoring run by Birmingham, who started his second straight game in place of Cedric Cobbs.
Birmingham showed no ill effects from carrying the ball 40 times for 196 yards against Kentucky last Saturday night.
Birmingham had 91 yards on seven first-half carries. He carried just once in the second half, for 7 yards.
Pinkins threw his first interception in four games midway through the second quarter. Arkansas gave the ball back two plays later when Birmingham fumbled at the end of a 32-yard run at the South Carolina 9.
The Razorbacks took a 14-3 lead into halftime with a 13-play, 71-yard drive. Jones rolled right on a bootleg and threw a 1-yard pass to Peters.