One singular emotion could be seen on the faces of the Gamecocks as they walked off the field Saturday afternoon – frustration.
After silencing the Razorback faithful on the opening play of the second half with an 80 yard score, South Carolina could not capitalize on the momentum. The third quarter spiraled away from the Gamecocks as Arkansas scored 16 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter en route to a 33-16 win.
“We’re really frustrated right now. We really killed ourselves,” said defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye. “Arkansas finished the game and we didn’t.”
“It’s very frustrating for the team,” said quarterback Stephen Garcia. “We’re not playing to where our capability is.”
“We’ve got to get better,” said center Garrett Anderson. “We’re not executing the way we’re supposed to.”
Despite the outcome, the Gamecocks showed flashes of success and were able to pick up yardage on Arkansas. Finishing off drives remained a problem for South Carolina as drives stalled out due to penalties, turnovers or execution.
“We felt like we could move the ball every series,” said Garcia. “We just killed ourselves. That’s another frustrating part – we’re hurting ourselves.”
Outside of two big plays, the Gamecock defense played well in the first half and limited the SEC’s top offense to 202 yards. The absence of four original starters (Travian Robertson, Rodney Paulk, Cliff Matthews and Chris Culliver) affected the squad in the second half.
“Physically, we couldn’t hold up once they got the running game going,” said assistant head coach Ellis Johnson. “We’ve reached a point depth wise where we’re always worried about that [wearing down].”
“Injuries impact the defense, impact the team period,” said Ajiboye. “The people that were out there – we just made mistakes and we got to deal with it on Monday. We’re just frustrated because we fell short.”
Garcia said the team believes execution is the key to turning things around.
“We’re definitely capable – we just need to execute,” he said. “I’ve got to get the guys more motivated and start moving faster in practice. We have to translate that onto the field.”
Two chances remain for the Gamecocks to halt the late season slide and finish the season strong. No. 1 Florida and archrival Clemson come to Williams-Brice Stadium this month.
“You have to play your best to beat a No. 1 team,” said Garcia. “We just have to go out there and do it this week. We have to go out there and play our game.”
“We’ve just got to turn it around and make plays,” said linebacker Eric Norwood. “We need to go out there and play ball.”