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Archive for Saturday, November 5, 2011

No. 8 Arkansas eyes fast start vs No. 10 S. Carolina

November 5, 2011

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— Bobby Petrino allowed his superstitious side to show a little this week.

The Arkansas coach, facing questions about his team’s first-half woes, put an end to the line of questioning before it could get started.

It was Petrino’s best attempt at a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — one brought on by the fact the Razorbacks have been outscored 87-59 in the first half of their last four games.

Arkansas (7-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) has made up for its recent slow starts by outscoring teams 82-17 in the second half of its last four games — all wins. However, the No. 8 Razorbacks can’t expect to keep living on the edge and surviving in the SEC.

Their latest challenge comes when No. 10 South Carolina (7-1, 5-1) comes to town today for only the second matchup of top-10 teams in Fayetteville since 1979. The Gamecocks have the No. 3 defense in the SEC, behind only powers Alabama and LSU, and — much to Arkansas’ dislike — they haven’t been outscored in the second half in any game this season.

Still, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is well aware of the Razorbacks’ passing attack, tops in the SEC, and their propensity for comebacks. It’s an easy trend for the coach to recognize, given that the Gamecocks have three fourth-quarter comeback wins of their own this season.

“If you get ahead of them, that doesn’t mean anything,” Spurrier said. “They’re such a good passing team and they believe they can come back and win the game. It will probably be a down-to-the-wire ball game, as most of ours are.”

South Carolina has won three in a row since a 16-13 loss to Auburn but has scored only 14 points in each of its last two games. The Gamecocks have struggled to find their rhythm in the passing game in each of those games, with sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw filling in following the dismissal of former quarterback Stephen Garcia on Oct. 11.

Making matters more difficult was the season-ending knee injury suffered by running back Marcus Lattimore against Mississippi State. Freshman Brandon Wilds stepped in last week in a 14-3 win over Tennessee, finishing with 137 yards on 28 carries.

Spurrier is counting on a similar performance against an Arkansas defense that is 10th in the SEC in allowing 188.1 yards per game on the ground.

A win against the Razorbacks would move the Gamecocks one step closer to a second straight appearance in the SEC championship game.

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