COLUMBIA, S.C. — Another Arkansas loss and another game after which the Razorbacks are left looking at their own mistakes as the reasons why.
Turnovers and penalties snuffed Razorbacks drives Saturday in a 38-20 loss to No. 12 South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“They didn’t make any mistakes, compared to us. In the first half, we had a chance; we just stubbed our toe, made mistakes,” Arkansas head coach John L. Smith said.
On the first drive of the game, Arkansas was moving the ball well against South Carolina. But a holding call on first down at the Arkansas 46 left the Razorbacks facing long yardage to keep the drive going. On a third-and-17, quarterback Tyler Wilson hit Cobi Hamilton for a 40-yard gain to the South Carolina 21.
But the Razorbacks were whistled for an illegal formation, the drive stalled and Arkansas punted two plays later.
“That was completely my fault, I didn’t completely listen to the play call,” Hamilton said. “I was on the line. The tight end was on the line; I was supposed to be off.”
Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino was more succinct.
“Yeah, it was (frustrating),” Petrino said. “Just frickin’ line up right.”
After the punt, South Carolina moved 77 yards on 10 plays and took an early 7-0 lead. The TD itself came on an Arkansas mistake as a blown coverage left tight end Jerrell Adams open in the middle of the field.
After the teams traded punts, Arkansas began driving again. Starting at their own 31, the Razorbacks quickly moved to the South Carolina 5, where they needed just 1 yard for a first-and-goal. Dennis Johnson was wrapped up by linebacker DeVonte Holloman. As Johnson was being spun to the turf, he reached the ball out over his head — trying to reach past the first-down marker — and fumbled.
“I think he was trying to reach out and get the first down, but you’ve got to hold onto the ball,” Petrino said. “He probably would have had the first down actually if he hadn’t fumbled, so that was an effort thing, but you just can’t have that happen.”
Smith said the game began to turn South Carolina’s way on the fumble.
“You’re playing a good football team like this you’ve got to get it in. That would have made the complexion of the first half totally different,” Smith said. “We shoot ourselves in the foot, we make these mistakes and the entire complexion of the game changes if we score there.”
Arkansas later came up short on two more red-zone chances.
Trailing 14-7 late in the second quarter, Arkansas drove to the South Carolina 3. After a Johnson run that gained nothing and two Wilson incompletions, Zach Hocker kicked a 20-yard field goal that pulled Arkansas to within four at 14-10.
Trailing 31-10 In the third quarter, another Arkansas drive stalled inside the South Carolina 10.Hocker kicked another chip-shot field goal with 5:48 left in the third quarter.
“You got a lot of ballgame left, I felt like getting something positive. I felt like getting a positive thing, like getting some points on the board at that point, was important for us,” Smith said. “Driving down there and you don’t get it at all … I don’t know, I just wanted something positive. Plus, there was a lot of game left.”
Not scoring from within the red zone has been a season-long problem for Arkansas. The Razorbacks were 111th in the nation with a 71-percent red zone scoring percentage. But of their 43 trips inside the 20, the Arkansas offense has managed just 22 touchdowns.
“We’ve moved the ball all year. It’s so frustrating,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to get points. We feel like we can move it against anybody. It’s not the issue. It’s putting it in the end zone.”
Wilson also continued to struggle in the third quarter, which has been the offense’s weakest this season. The Greenwood native was just 33-of-61 passing for 452 yards with two TDs and three interceptions prior to South Carolina. Against the Gamecocks, Wilson was 5 of 9 for 37 yards and one interception, which was returned 69 yards for a touchdown that gave South Carolina a 31-10 lead early in the second half.