Nov. 5, 2005
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – Steve Spurrier and South Carolina are on a roll heading into next week’s matchup with his former team.
Blake Mitchell threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Kenny McKinley on the final play of the third quarter, and the Gamecocks became bowl eligible with a 14-10 win over Arkansas on Saturday.
“This was one of the biggest of my career,” Spurrier said. “God has been smiling on the Gamecocks.”
South Carolina (6-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) has won four straight to qualify for the postseason in its first season under Spurrier. The Gamecocks have also won four straight SEC games, matching their longest streak since joining the conference before the 1992 season.
Now, they’ll prepare to host the Florida team Spurrier coached from 1990-2001.
“We set a goal of winning six,” he said. “So we are ready to accomplish another goal of winning more than six.”
South Carolina trailed 10-7 when Orus Lambert intercepted Arkansas’ Casey Dick at the Razorbacks 42. On the next play, Mitchell found McKinley over the middle to put the Gamecocks ahead.
“Even when we’re down, we always believe that something good’s going to happen to us,” Mitchell said. “Something’s going to fall our way.”
Arkansas (2-6, 0-5) had a good chance to score late in the fourth, but freshman Darren McFadden was stopped on fourth-and-1 from the South Carolina 17 with 3:33 remaining. The Razorbacks forced a punt and regained possession with 2:26 to play, but they couldn’t cross midfield.
McFadden rushed for 187 yards for Arkansas, his fourth straight 100-yard game. The Razorbacks outgained South Carolina 356-187, but struggled in short-yardage situations. Arkansas will miss the postseason for the second straight year after going to bowls in each of coach Houston Nutt’s first six seasons.
“It was a tough day,” Nutt said. “We hate to lose for our seniors. They are really good people and that’s what hurts the most.”
Mitchell went 12-of-25 for 142 yards and two touchdowns. His 7-yard scoring pass to redshirt freshman Sidney Rice – after Arkansas was stopped on fourth-and-1 from its own 29 – gave South Carolina a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
“Probably shouldn’t have gone for it,” Nutt said. “I know better than that. We just wanted to come out and get some momentum.”
Rice, who entered as the SEC leader at 95.3 yards receiving per game, caught four passes for 51 yards. He increased his own school records with his 12th scoring reception of the season and his eighth straight game with a touchdown catch.
Arkansas tied it on Dick’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Peyton Hillis in the second quarter, and led 10-7 at halftime. But the Razorbacks could have been ahead by more.
Jamaal Anderson had a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown nullified by Randy Kelly’s holding penalty. Then, late in the period, Arkansas had first-and-goal from the 1 but had to settle for Chris Balseiro’s 19-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in the half.
“It was real frustrating because we got in the red zone a few times and couldn’t get much out of it,” McFadden said.
Robert Johnson was Arkansas’ No. 1 quarterback for the first seven games, but with the Razorbacks struggling, Dick was named the starter this week. The freshman went 12-of-24 for 137 yards in his college debut. Dick’s 47-yard pass to Cedric Washington in the fourth quarter was Arkansas’ first this season longer than 29 yards.
The Razorbacks are 0-5 in SEC play for the first time since joining the league the same season as South Carolina.
The Gamecocks became bowl eligible with a win over Arkansas last year, but later decided they wouldn’t accept a bid after a brawl in their regular-season finale at Clemson.
Now, they’ve given themselves another chance.
“We got that sixth win behind us so now we are bowl eligible,” Mitchell said. “And we have to keep working for next week.”