Ground Game Carries Arkansas to Win Over South Carolina, 2-0 Start

Rocket Sanders, Arkansas vs South Carolina
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — South Carolina made it close for a moment in the second half, but Arkansas once again used a turnover to put it away Saturday night.

After the Razorbacks pushed their lead back to two possessions on the first play of the fourth quarter, Latavious Brini forced a fumble and Hudson Clark scooped it up on the Gamecocks’ ensuing drive. Some crazy stuff happened afterward, but KJ Jefferson’s touchdown pass to Warren Thompson essentially sealed the win for Arkansas, with the final score settling at 44-30.

Jefferson was an efficient 18 of 21 passing, giving him the best single-game completion percentage against an SEC team with a minimum of 20 attempts in school history at 85.7 percent. Those went for 162 yards and one touchdown, plus he added 67 yards and a score on 19 carries.

Rocket Sanders led the rushing attack with a career-high 156 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. AJ Green and Rashod Dubinion also had rushing touchdown. A final kneel down put the Razorbacks at 295 rushing yards for the game.

Follow along here for live updates from the Arkansas vs South Carolina matchup, including pregame tidbits…

15:00, 1Q – Arkansas 0, South Carolina 0

Arkansas won the coin toss and deferred. South Carolina will receive the game’s opening kickoff.

12:20, 1Q – Arkansas 0, South Carolina 0

The Razorbacks opened in a 3-2-6 dime formation and South Carolina gashed them for a couple of solid gains to cross the 50. They switched to a four-man front and got the Gamecocks into a third-and-short. Spencer Rattler’s pass fell incomplete, but South Carolina was called for an illegal hands to the face. That backed South Carolina up 15 yards and it once again threw an incomplete pass, forcing a punt.

South Carolina punter Kai Kroeger shanked a 21-yard punt to give Arkansas good field position.

6:42, 1Q – Arkansas 7, South Carolina 0

It’s the Rocket Sanders show early on, as he rips off a 8-yard run for a first down and then KJ Jefferson checks it down to him and he picks up 17 yards to get into South Carolina territory. A couple of plays later, Sanders ran for another first down on third-and-5 and then followed it up with a nice 13-yard run, making several guys miss on the way. South Carolina defensive tackle Alex Huntley was shaken up on the play and had to be helped off the field.

Out of the injury timeout, Sanders picked up four yards — but it was immediately erased by a false start by Warren Thompson. The Razorbacks got it back and then some on a quick pass to Haselwood, setting up a third-and-short. They went fast and ran a reverse with Haselwood. He nearly got the first down, but was stopped inches short.

On fourth-and-inches at the 3, Arkansas lined up and appeared to score on a Jefferson keeper, but South Carolina called a timeout. When they came back out, the Razorbacks had two quarterbacks, one running back and three tight ends on the field. They converted it and, a couple of plays later, Sanders punched it in from one yard out.

3:32, 1Q – Arkansas 7, South Carolina 3

It looked like South Carolina had Arkansas beat on a deep ball on the first play, but Jayden Johnson made a great play to break it up. However, Cam Ball was called for illegal hands to the face to give the Gamecocks a first down anyways.

A couple of plays later, Rattler hit MarShawn Lloyd on a screen and it was perfectly blocked. He took it 43 yards before finally getting brought down in the red zone. The Razorbacks didn’t let them get much further, with Isaiah Nichols making a nice open-field tackle on second down and Drew Sanders breaking up a pass on third down.

That forced the Gamecocks to settle for a field goal. Mitch Jeter’s 28-yard attempt split the uprights to get them on the board.

END of 1Q – Arkansas 7, South Carolina 3

The Razorbacks are keeping it on the ground for the most part, using three straight runs to move the chains. However, after a first-down run lost yardage, Jefferson hit Warren Thompson and Jadon Haselwood on back-to-back plays to get another first down and get into South Carolina territory.

Sanders made a beautiful cut back to get 12 yards and then Haselwood bailed out Jefferson, coming down with a high pass on a screen. Jefferson then found an open Matt Landers to get into the red zone as the first quarter ended.

Jefferson is 7 of 7 passing for 61 yards and has 16 yards on the ground. Sanders has 50 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, plus a 17-yard reception.

14:28, 2Q – Arkansas 14, South Carolina 3

Jefferson completed a short pass to Landers to start the quarter, but then Arkansas went right back to the ground game. Sanders went untouched for an 11-yard touchdown.

13:06, 2Q – Arkansas 14, South Carolina 3

Drew Sanders is good, y’all. He starts the South Carolina drive with a TFL and then on the next play, he comes out of nowhere to sack Rattler on a roll-out. On third-and-long, Rattler’s pass fell incomplete and the Gamecocks will have to punt.

Stephens fielded a punt, which was better but a live drive, and returned it 16 yards, but it was wiped out by a face mask penalty on Malik Chavis. Instead of starting in South Carolina territory at the 43, it will start at its own 39 – a swing of 18 yards.

10:02, 2Q – Arkansas 14, South Carolina 3

Malik Hornsby has been in the backfield on back-to-back snaps and taken a handoff and pop pass for 8 and 9 yards, respectively.

After Jefferson was stopped short on a keeper on third-and-short, the Razorbacks dialed it up again and this time got it.

Jefferson managed to escape some pressure on first down and fired a pass downfield. A South Carolina player came down with it, but landed out of bounds, so it was incomplete. Jefferson had completed his first 10 passes.

Two Gamecocks were hurt on the play – starting middle linebacker Mohamed Kaba and starting cornerback Darius Rush. There were both able to walk slowly to the bench, but Rush was down much longer. That would be a significant loss for South Carolina considering it is already without a starting safety and backup nickel.

8:13, 2Q – Arkansas 21, South Carolina 3

After the injury timeout, Landers made a really tough catch on a pass thrown behind him. AJ Green then had a couple of tough runs to get Arkansas down to the 4. The Razorbacks then subbed in Rashod Dubinion, who needed two carries to score his first career touchdown. It came on a 1-yard run.

The Razorbacks have gained 204 yards and scored touchdowns on each of their three possessions. South Carolina has one field goal and two punts while racking up just 72 total yards on its three possessions.

3:16, 2Q – Arkansas 21, South Carolina 3

Jake Bates’ kickoff is fielded at the 6 and returned to the 30, giving South Carolina its best starting field position yet.

The Razorbacks nearly had a three-and-out for a second straight possession, but Dwight McGlothern was called for pass interference to keep the drive alive. He had his hand on the receiver, so it was probably a good call, but it was unnecessary.

That seemed to get the Gamecocks going, as they quickly got down to the 25 on three plays. That set up a second-and-short, but the Razorbacks stopped them on the next two plays to set up a fourth-and-short, which they converted.

For several of those plays, Arkansas had all six of its defensive transfers on the field at the same time. One of them, Landon Jackson, was called for illegal hands to the face after a false start put South Carolina behind the chains.

Now Brini is on the field with what seems to be a leg injury with South Carolina in the red zone.

2:56, 2Q – Arkansas 21, South Carolina 9

Out of the media timeout, Malik Chavis is lined up at safety. He is/was the Hogs’ top backup at cornerback, but did play safety last year. MarShawn Lloyd scored on the next play, though, running it from 7 yards out. However, Jeter missed the PAT. The pass interference by McGlothern costs the Razorbacks six points.

1:53, 2Q – Arkansas 21, South Carolina 9

After a touchback, the Razorbacks start their drive with a shovel pass to Sanders that gets a first down. South Carolina was called for pass interference on a deep ball, moving Arkansas into South Carolina territory.

Jefferson scrambled on the next play and managed to stay up despite being hit by multiple Gamecocks. He was eventually brought down after an 11-yard gain. O’Donnell Fortune, in the game for the injured starter Darius Rush, was called for targeting on the play, too. After a replay review, though, it was overturned, so he’ll stay in the game.

0:50, 2Q – Arkansas 21, South Carolina 9

A holding penalty on first down moved the Razorbacks back 10 yards and then Jefferson was sacked for another loss of 8. With the Razorbacks facing a second-and-28, South Carolina called a timeout with 1:23 left.

Jefferson once again somehow evaded a potential sack and this time actually found Landers for a 14-yard gain. South Carolina calls its final timeout with 1:02 remaining. On third-and-14, Jefferson was nearly intercepted, but it fell incomplete.

Cam Little’s 50-yard field goal attempt sails wide right, so the Gamecocks will take over at their own 32 with 50 seconds left.

HALF – Arkansas 21, South Carolina 9

The Gamecocks quickly get it to the 50 on a pass to Ahmarean Brown. However, they eventually had to settle for a Hail Mary attempt. Rattler was hit has he threw near the Arkansas sideline and it fell incomplete. He and some Arkansas player exchanged words before heading to their respective locker rooms.

Also, apparently South Carolina nickel Cam Smith had to go to the locker room earlier in the quarter with an injury. He is the Gamecocks’ projected first-round pick. His backup at nickel did not make the trip. They also saw a starting corner get hurt earlier and are without a starting safety.

First-Half Stats

  • KJ Jefferson: 13 of 15, 115 yards, 10 carries, 29 yards (including 1 sack for -8)
  • Rocket Sanders: 11 carries, 61 yards, 2 TD, 2 receptions, 28 yards
  • AJ Green: 3 carries, 22 yards
  • Rashod Dubinion: 2 carries, 4 yards, 1 TD
  • Malik Hornsby: 1 carry, 8 yards, 1 reception, 9 yards
  • Jadon Haselwood: 3 receptions, 15 yards, 1 carry, 2 yards
  • Matt Landers: 4 receptions, 45 yards
  • Warren Thompson: 2 receptions, 13 yards
  • Trey Knox: 1 reception, 5 yards
  • Drew Sanders: 7 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 BPU
  • Bumper Pool: 5 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 QBH

11:46, 3Q – Arkansas 21, South Carolina 9

The Razorbacks keep it on the ground to start the second half, with back-to-back carries by Sanders before Jefferson kept it for a first down. Sanders had a nice run to get them close to midfield before Arkansas finally called a pass, but Jefferson was sacked on the play.

On third-and-long, South Carolina dialed up some pressure, but Landers broke free and Jefferson put it right in the breadbasket – only for him to drop it. That brings on punter Max Fletcher for the first time today. His 40-yard punt was fair caught at the 12.

8:51, 3Q – Arkansas 21, South Carolina 16

Latavious Brini is on the field for Arkansas’ first defensive possession of the second half after leaving the first half with an injury.

The Gamecocks moved the chains on a pass to tight end Austin Stogner up the seam, but then had to burn a timeout on a second-and-10 play. Out of the timeout, South Carolina dropped a pass to set up a third-and-long, which it converted.

On second down, Drew Sanders got to Rattler and knocked the ball free. Rattler picked it up, but was quickly hit hard by Chris Paul Jr., who knocked it loose again, before it was eventually recovered by South Carolina. A false start backed up the Gamecocks even more, setting up a third-and-17.

South Carolina not only converted, but Rattler found a wide open Antwane Wells Jr. over the middle of the field and he took it the rest of the way for a 61-yard touchdown.

6:54, 3Q – Arkansas 21, South Carolina 16

Arkansas opens the drive with a run by Sanders and he rips off a run of 47. That puts him over 100 for the game. After another short run, he’s up to 128 yards on 17 carries.

Facing a fourth-and-1, Jefferson kept it and tried falling forward for the first down. They brought the chains out and he was just short, so South Carolina takes over on downs.

5:12, 3Q – Arkansas 21, South Carolina 16

With a chance to force a three-and-out, Bumper Pool gets in the backfield and does just enough to trip Ratter for a sack. South Carolina will be punting out of its own end zone.

Bryce Stephens fielded it at the South Carolina 48 and didn’t get anything on the return. The Razorbacks were called for holding on the return, though, so they’ll start in their own territory.

END of 3Q – Arkansas 21, South Carolina 16

Arkansas opens the drive with three straight runs by Sanders that moves the chains. The third was his career-high 21st of the game with more than four minutes left in the quarter.

Sanders then ripped off a long run down to the 1, a gain of 45 yards, but a holding on Warren Thompson wiped it out.

He was exhausted on the run or might have scored, so in game AJ Green for a few plays and then Rashod Dubinion. At this point, it’s more of a methodical drive down the field, with several short runs and a short completion to Ketron Jackson Jr., his first catch of the season.

After a short completion to Haselwood and run by Jefferson, the Razorbacks have first-and-goal at the 10. Trey Knox had to limp off the field after the play, though. Jefferson carried it down to the 1 on first down. On second down, Sanders was met in the backfield for a 1-yard loss. That brings us to the end of the third quarter.

Today’s attendance was announced as 72,437.

14:55, 4Q – Arkansas 28, South Carolina 16

Jefferson took the snap and plowed into the end zone for a touchdown. He’s up to 57 yards on 17 carries. The penalty on Sanders’ long run might have helped Arkansas because it ended up being a 5-minute, 17-second drive.

14:06, 4Q – Arkansas 28, South Carolina 16

Sanders forced a fumble on South Carolina’s first play, but the Gamecocks recovered. On the next play, Latavious Brini knocked the ball out and this time, Hudson Clark was there to jump on it. Quick turnover gives Arkansas the ball at the South Carolina 41.

12:09, 4Q – Arkansas 35, South Carolina 16

Haselwood threw a South Carolina defender down on a first-down run. Then on third down, Rocket Sanders did an excellent job of staying up and getting just enough to move the chains.

After a reverse run by Landers, KJ Jefferson fired a touchdown pass to Warren Thompson. It was a 23-yard connection. Jefferson is now 18 of 21 passing (85.7%) for 162 yards and a touchdown, plus has 57 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

10:57, 4Q – Arkansas 35, South Carolina 16

Xavier Legette fielded Bates’ kick at least five yards deep in the end zone and still returns it out to the 31. Brini nearly got home for a second-down sack, but Rattler was able to throw it away. On third-and-10, he hit Wells for a 30-yard completion against Hudson Clark to move the chains.

South Carolina went deep again and this time, Khari Johnson is called for pass interference. He never turned around. That puts the Gamecocks on the 22. Two plays later, Rattler tried forcing a pass into the end zone and Dwight McGlothern came down with it for an interception.

7:39, 4Q – Arkansas 35, South Carolina 16

Ty’Kieast Crawford is at right tackle for Arkansas to start this drive.

AJ Green gets things going with an 8-yard run. He was hit after 4 or 5, but he was carried another 3 or 4 yards in a pile. He got the first down on the next run and Rashod Dubinion checked in. After a short run, the freshman did a great job making a guy miss and cutting back to gain about 4 yards. On his next run, though, he was stopped for no gain.

South Carolina used its second timeout to stop the clock at 7:47. Max Fletcher punted it away 37 yards to the SC24.

6:25, 4Q – Arkansas 35, South Carolina 24

The Gamecocks get a 64-yard gain on a completion with Hudson Clark in coverage. Clark had him by the leg, but Wells broke free to get down to the 12. Brini was shaken up on the play and replaced by Chavis again.

Another run got South Carolina down to the 1 and made it first-and-goal. On the next play, Juju McDowell was ruled to be stopped shy of the goal line, but the play is under review. It was over turned for a touchdown.

The Gamecocks went for two and got it on a pass to Brown. That makes it an 11-point game.

6:00, 4Q – Arkansas 42, South Carolina 24

South Carolina attempted an on-side kick and Bumper Pool not only fielded it, but ran it all the way down to the 9. On the first play, Jefferson took off for the corner of the end zone and was knocked out of bounds at the 1. South Carolina starting linebacker Brad Johnson was shaken up on the play.

It looked like Jefferson might have fumbled it through the end zone, but after a replay review, the call stood. It would have given South Carolina the ball at the 20 if he fumbled it through the end zone. On the next play, Green punches it in from the 1.

3:21, 4Q – Arkansas 42, South Carolina 30

A third illegal hands to the face penalty on Arkansas, this time by Jordan Domineck, helps South Carolina move the chains and then Ratter then had a couple of big passes to get it down to the 1, where Jaheim Bell scored on a 1-yard rush. This time, the Gamecocks’ two-point try fails.

1:39, 4Q – Arkansas 42, South Carolina 30

Pool recovers another onside kick attempt and this time immediately falls to the ground. After a couple of runs, South Carolina burns its final timeout with 2:33 left. The Hogs are facing third-and-6. Dubinion was stopped for no gain and Arkansas let the clock run down before calling a timeout with 1:45 left.

Fletcher’s punt was fair caught at the 10.

1:33, 4Q – Arkansas 44, South Carolina 30

On South Carolina’s first play, Domineck got in Rattler’s face and forced him to throw it away. It was called intentional grounding in the end zone, so the result is a safety. It is Arkansas’ first safety since 2015 against Toledo.

FINAL – Arkansas 44, South Carolina 30

On the ensuing kickoff, South Carolina finally recovers an onside attempt with 1:32 left. However, Rattler was sacked on back-to-back plays to close the game. There was apparently a fumble on the second one and Chris Paul Jr. returned it for a touchdown with no time on the clock. After review, it was ruled that Paul’s knee was on the ground, so Arkansas had to snap it once to run the final 6 seconds off the clock.

Final Stats

  • KJ Jefferson: 18 of 21, 162 yards, 1 TD; 19 carries, 67 yards, 1 TD
  • Rocket Sanders: 19 carries, 156 yards, 2 TD; 3 receptions, 30 yards
  • AJ Green: 9 carries, 43 yards, 1 TD
  • Rashod Dubinion: 8 carries, 15 yards 1 TD
  • Jadon Haselwood: 5 receptions, 30 yards; 2 carries, 5 yards
  • Matt Landers: 4 receptions, 45 yards
  • Warren Thompson: 3 receptions, 36 yards, 1 TD

Postgame Press Conferences

Pregame Tidbits — Arkansas vs South Carolina

South Carolina wide receiver Corey Rucker, an Arkansas State transfer, was a projected starter for the Gamecocks, but he’s going to miss the first few games of the season with an undisclosed injury.

After being limited throughout fall camp and missing the Cincinnati game with a pectoral injury, Marcus Henderson is dressed out and going through warmups. He appears to the be third-team center behind right guard Beaux Limmer based on which quarterbacks they were snapping to in pregame.

As expected, safety Jalen Catalon and nickel Myles Slusher were not spotted during pregame warmups. Latavious Brini and Jayden Johnson were announced as starters in the pregame introductions over the PA.

Defensive tackles Taurean Carter and Randall Dennis Jr. (a walk-on) are not dressed out, but are present. The only player not spotted by the media, other than Catalon and Slusher, was walk-on defensive lineman Logan Horst. Another walk-on, whose last name is Simpson, was also present and not dressed out. He is not listed on the roster.

South Carolina is without starting safety R.J. Roderick and backup nickel David Spaulding.

Simeon Blair filled in for Catalon as the Razorbacks’ fourth team captain at the coin toss.

Starting Lineup — Arkansas Football

QBKJ JeffersonDEZach Williams
RBRocket SandersDTIsaiah Nichols
TETrey KnoxDEEric Gregory
WRWarren ThompsonLBBumper Pool
WRJadon HaselwoodLBDrew Sanders
WRMatt LandersNBJayden Johnson
LTLuke JonesCBDwight McGlothern
LGBrady LathamSSimeon Blair
CRicky StrombergSKhari Johnson
RGBeaux LimmerSLatavious Brini
RTDalton WagnerCBHudson Clark

Know the Foe — South Carolina Football

To help you get prepared for Saturday’s matchup, we caught up with Gamecocks beat writer Collyn Taylor to preview the Arkansas vs South Carolina game:

How to Watch Arkansas vs South Carolina

Date: Saturday, Sept. 10

Location: Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.)

Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 11 a.m. CT (ESPN)

TV Announcers: Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Dan Orlovsky (analyst), Kris Budden (sideline reporter)

South Carolina’s Rankings: RV (AP) | RV (Coaches) | No. 32 (SP+) | No. 44 (FPI)

Arkansas’ Rankings: No. 16 (AP) | No. 17 (Coaches) | No. 11 (SP+) | No. 26 (FPI)

Odds/Betting Line: Arkansas, -8.5 | O/U 55.5 (FanDuel)


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