Arkansas eyes turnaround against No. 14 Gamecocks
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Travis Swanson has seen what it’s like when a team loses its confidence, most notably last year when Arkansas’ season collapsed under the wake of fallout from the Bobby Petrino scandal.
The Razorbacks center refuses to believe this is one of those seasons.
Arkansas will have its next chance to prove Swanson correct when it hosts No. 14 South Carolina (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) today.
The Razorbacks (3-3, 0-2) enter on a three-game losing streak, including a 30-10 loss at Florida last week. They are eager to show this isn’t the same team as last year, when Arkansas finished 4-8 under interim coach John L. Smith.
“I think the attitude of the team overall is good,” Swanson said. “That’s something that you can really tell. It’s so different than last year; everyone has a good outlook on each week.”
First-year Arkansas coach Bret Bielema appeared to have his new team on the right path through the first three weeks. However, the Razorbacks have since lost to Rutgers, Texas A&M and Florida, leaving Bielema one loss short of matching his longest losing streak as a head coach.
Bielema lost four in a row during the 2008 season while at Wisconsin, though that team rebounded to win its final three regular-season games and reach a bowl game.
With games left against South Carolina, Alabama and LSU, just to name a few in a slate full of SEC games, Arkansas’ chances of reaching a bowl game have taken a serious hit in the last three weeks.
Just don’t expect the Razorbacks, who senior fullback Kiero Small said have “seen it all” after last season, to look at it that way.
“We had such a bad taste in our mouth last year from losing that we’re not trying to get on the same path again,” quarterback Brandon Allen said. “We’ve had a few games in a row that we’ve lost, but we’re trying to turn that around right away, and that’s not something we’re taking lightly. We’re really trying to get that reversed and get that first win in the SEC.”
Five things to watch as Arkansas tries to avoid a four-game losing streak and South Carolina looks to stay in the SEC championship race:
NO CLOWNING AROUND: South Carolina All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney caused a bit of a stir while missing last week’s win over Kentucky with a strained muscle near his ribcage. With any miscommunication with coach Steve Spurrier in the past, the 6-foot-6, 274-pound Clowney practiced two days in a row this week and is expected to return to start against the Razorbacks.
ROAD WOES: The Gamecocks have a 14-game winning streak at home, but they’re about to start a stretch of three straight games on the road. Games at Tennessee and Missouri follow the trip to Arkansas. Of South Carolina’s five overall losses since 2011, four have come on the road, including a loss against the Razorbacks in 2011. The Gamecocks haven’t won at Arkansas since 2005, Spurrier’s first season at the school. “We’ve lost the last three at Arkansas,” Spurrier said. “We know that.”
BATTERED RAZORBACKS: The Razorbacks lost their third straight game last week at Florida, losing starting cornerback Will Hines with a broken arm in the process. The loss could be a staggering blow for Arkansas, which has allowed its last three opponents to complete 63 percent of their passes for an average of 282 yards per game. South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, meanwhile, was 17 of 20 for 262 yards last week against Kentucky, showing no ill effects from a shoulder injury he suffered the week before.
END OF AN ERA: Arkansas and South Carolina both joined the SEC in 1992, and the two schools have met each year since as annual cross-division rivals. After another round of expansion last year, and an evolving schedule moving forward, Saturday will mark the last time the Razorbacks and Gamecocks are scheduled to meet annually. Arkansas holds a 13-8 edge in the series dating back to a 45-7 win when the schools met for the first time in 1992.
ALLEN’S BOUNCEBACK?: Allen has performed well at times in his first season as the starter for Arkansas, but last week wasn’t one of those times. After a 17-of-41 performance against the Gators, the sophomore has now completed just 49.6 percent (60 of 121) of his passes, though he has thrown for eight touchdowns compared to four interceptions. Allen was hit often, and hit hard, by Florida, and his teammates still believe in his ability.
“Anytime a guy can sit there and take that many hits, you have total confidence in him,” Small said.
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