Editor's note: We're pleased to share this eyewitness report from HoginAiken, who attended Saturday's glorious game in person. He has many great observations to share...big thanks to him for taking the time to write this up. Enjoy!
I’m a Uof A graduate who lives in SC and works for the University. I have taken advantage of my employee perks and have held season tickets for 6 of the past 8 years, mainly sitting with my cousin and extended family members. I miss seeing the Hogs when playing on TV, but I’d prefer a live SEC game to a TV game any day. South Carolina has earned a place in my heart and I root for them in all but one game a year. Every other year, the congenial fans in my section tolerate my Arkansas fandom and kindly call me a "turncoat". But I cheer enthusiastically and fanatically for my Razorbacks. Following the gamecocks has led to a true appreciation for a passionate and beleaguered fan base. Imagine that, by the end of his tenure at Arkansas, Houston (spit) Nutt had earned more Bowl victories for Arkansas than South Carolina had achieved in their ENTIRE history. And yet, up until this year, 80,000+ showed up for every home game.
It was cold – at least for SC.
In Fayetteville you get used to chilly evening games but not in Columbia, SC. I know the fans were unprepared and uncomfortable in the cold. Their fans, in a combination of discomfort and frustration, were streaming out after the dueling interceptions and resulting Arkansas touchdown in the 3rd quarter.
Hog fans were there but in much fewer numbers than other visiting SEC teams. This makes sense. The distance is just too far for most Razorback fans to travel. I made the trip from South Carolina to Fayetteville to witness DMac’s supercrushing of Carolina back in, what was it, 2007? My family members and I who made the trip will never take another road trip together again after driving 14 hours from Fayetteville to SC on the Sunday after. It plain sucked. This is too bad because I think the rivalry would be much improved if the teams could figure out a way to travel to each other’s stadiums in a timely and affordable fashion.
The Hog fans present were wonderful and, outside of one truly jeering and rude fellow, were passionate yet neighborly. Believe me when I say that I have witnessed the behavior of many visiting SEC fanbases to Williams Brice when the visitor blew out the ‘Cocks. The big three of the east (Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida) were horrid but were exceeded only by LSU’s nut-bar crazies in rude and vile taunting behavior. Alabama’s fans, which showed up in great number this year, were either gracious from habit or humbled by defeat. It was the South Carolina fans, by the way, that shook their hands on the way out and wished the ‘Bama fans success - and hoped for a rematch in Atlanta.
It was a Fumble. Period. End of Discussion.
Davis versus Lattimore
I’ve spent this season awed by the downhill and bruising running quality of Marcus Lattimore. He runs down the middle, gets hit after a short gain, and then drives the pile for an extra 3 yards. It is awesome. Well, Arkansas’ defense shut him down prior to his injury (and USC really didn’t utilize him afterward)and I was seriously impressed by that. But I was even more impressed by Knile Davis and his speed. He has a true breakaway burst when running to the outside or once he clears the line, and he was running away from a very speedy USC secondary last night. Is he DMac fast? No. But he is close. This speed was not evident to me when I saw him on TV the last few weeks, but I was seriously impressed by him last night.
Alshon Jeffery’s one-handed grab happened right in front of my and the Arkansas fans sections. It was utterly beautiful. I heard an Arkansas fan, after he made the catch, utter a massive "Oh-OH How the hell do you defend against THAT?". But it was Cobi Hamilton and DJ Williams who quietly outperformed the SC star receiver last night. Hamilton won with speed against a depleted secondary – How awesome was it to see that 1st quarter completion after USC utterly failed on their 1st long bomb on blown coverage? But - and I don’t know how well this came across on TV- DJ tore up their line backing corps on the short middle routes. ESPN is reporting that he had 5 receptions for 67 yards. Especially in the 1st half, it seemed like more. DJ deserves a lot of credit for Cobi’s and for Knile’s successes last night because every time they succeeded, there was DJ attracting a whole lot of attention. He got 11 – 15 yards every time they ignored him.
Defensive line credit: both against the run and against the pass + Garcia keepers
I’ve already mentioned how well the d-line blocked up the middle when USC ran the ball, but the defensive ends were fast and brutal from the outside on the passing plays. That South Carlina O-Line was getting run over and beat up every play. It didn’t show in sacks and interceptions as much as I noticed that, when pressured, Steven Garcia threw short a lot. And he threw short when he was feeling the pressure of the pocket collapsing on both side of him. Likewise, our D got burned in the 1st quarter by a Garcia option keeper for 20 or so yards. They tried it again late in the 1st half and the D had already adjusted, stopping him for little gain. Serious credit to the D-Line for keeping the USC passing game from getting into rhythm.
I didn’t have a good view of Jerico Nelson’s hit on USC backup QB Connor Shaw. The USC fans, in a mood to complain about something vocally, were incensed. I understand that the hit was late but that the injury to his ribs was likely due to the fact that Shaw stood up at the end up the play and was unprepared for the contact. Here is what I did see. After the personal foul call, Nelson came to the Arkansas sideline and a very fired up Bobby Petrino pounded him on the helmet and shoulder pads and celebrated the violent hit with Nelson. I doubt that Petrino realized that the hit caused an injury or could see that the hit happened out of bounds. I understand that coaches and players alike must be passionate and intense as the game is played. But the celebration of a called personal foul on a particularly violent hit by a head coach struck me as classless. This is the first time I’ve see Bobby live on a sideline and I’m usually fine with his intensity. But I was embarrassed to be an Arkansas fan at that moment.
This comes at the expense of an Arkansas player, and for that I apologize, but the moment was priceless. The homecoming halftime show went way long for USC. This was mainly due to the presentation of National Championship rings to their Baseball team. (A USC fan, already pessimistic on the gamecocks, commented that we were already hearing the loudest cheers of the second half!) So, with the band, and baseball team still on the field, the Razorbacks came out from under the stadium and headed toward their sideline. I looked at the clock and there were less than 3 minutes left in the halftime period. The Hogs players stayed in the north endzone and off the field as they made their way toward their sideline. I don’t know if they knew the circumstances, but they were being very respectful. As they approached midfield of their own sideline, men in blue jackets started standing in the players’ way and telling them to stop. I was incredulous too. I mean, ok, let the halftime go long, but you can’t hold the visiting teams’ players from the center of their very own sideline right?
So a player or two started going around the blue-jacketed rude guys. What the Razorback players and I didn’t know was that, at that very moment, the USC band was finishing their fight song in celebration of a National Championship. The coup de grace of the song? Massive fireworks mortars launched from a small platform located in the middle of the Razorback sideline. Those suckers went off just as the Arkansas players were rounding those blue-jacketed guys who, it turns out, were trying to keep the Arkansas player safe. I was 34 rows up in the stands and was taken aback by the scale of the fireworks. There were Arkansas players who not only stopped in their tracks, but were hitting the ground in total fear. I didn’t catch their numbers, but I’m guessing that they needed to change their underwear after the incident. 20 feet closer and the story could have been tragic, but it wasn’t, and therefore funny as hell!
Too many. Too frustrating. Too blatant. Took a lot of fun out of the second half(6 or 7 at least – two for 15 yards).
More than once my South Carolina section-mates stated, in disgust. "Who here is really surprised? It’s South Carolina. It’s November. Any questions?" – or similar comments. I saw this in a comment thread here as well. It’s no wonder they are frustrated.
Elsewhere in a thread I saw a comment that the USC stadium was surprisingly empty and that they wondered if the ticket license was at fault. I can confirm that USC sold something like 10,000 less season tickets this year. Likewise Clemson (spit) had the same trouble. I know that I discontinued my season tickets last year when they we going to charge me an extra $290 a year for my pair of tickets. I can also tell you that USC athletics truly does not care. They brought in many millions more dollars than ever and are willing to pay the price of distancing themselves from loyal fans (Especially the ones who bought the lower priced upper deck seats, you know - blue collar everyday working folks who can no longer afford the prices.). Contributing to the loss in sales is the ESPN TV package, which pretty much guarantees that fans can pay much less for a cable/satellite package and see ALL of the SEC games from the comfort of their couches. My Cousin, who had blue lips by the middle of the 3rd quarter said so himself.
Thanks again to HoginAiken for the report.