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October 12, 2013

Extra points: Circus Clowney

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - A look at some notes and tidbits surrounding Saturday's USC-Arkansas game.

End of a rivalry? Today's game marks the final time South Carolina and Arkansas will meet as permanent SEC cross-division opponents, though it hasn't been a particularly fruitful or meaningful rivalry for South Carolina. The two teams were paired up by virtue of their both joining the SEC before the 1992 season. The first meeting was hosted in Columbia, when Arkansas - a week after losing to The Citadel, nonetheless - blew out the Gamecocks 45-7 for their first SEC win. It turned out to be the widest margin of victory of the series yet, but it didn't get much better from there for South Carolina.

The Gamecocks won just eight of the 21 meetings entering Saturday, never beat an Arkansas team that finished with a winning record, gave up 542 rushing yards to the Razorbacks in a 2007 blowout loss South Carolina fans won't soon forget, and haven't won in Arkansas since 2005 - when Blake Mitchell's 42-yard third-quarter touchdown to Kenny McKinley secured the 14-10 victory. South Carolina can end the series on a positive note with a win today, but it's unlikely Gamecock fans will lament the loss of the annual matchup. South Carolina's new permanent cross-division opponent beginning in 2014 will be Texas A&M, while Arkansas will pick up Missouri.

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Circus Clowney. The spectacle revolving around junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's career continued Saturday, this time centering on something as normally unimportant as a bus ride. The All-American started against at Arkansas, despite reports by ESPN's College Gameday reported that he did not ride the team bus to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

After debate at the Gameday desk on the subject, it became clear that Clowney rode the bus with the team, warmed up with the team, and was going to play. Gameday host Chris Fowler issued an on-air apology for spreading the misinformation. Widespread uncertainty and the swarm of misinformation led to the term "Clowney" trending on Twitter less than an hour before kickoff.

King Tutchdown. Freshman wideout Pharoh Cooper got the start as South Carolina's starting kick and punt returner. Cooper played well in multiple positions against Kentucky last week, while Bruce Ellington fumbled twice as the kick returner and Victor Hampton returned two punts for no gain.

New-look secondary. South Carolina defensive backs coach Grady Brown said Tuesday that he would shift around the secondary against Arkansas to figure out which four players deserve to be on the field. That was evidenced on the first play from scrimmage Saturday, as TJ Gurley, Rico McWilliams and Chaz Elder started. For Elder and McWilliams, it was the first start of their collegiate careers. The back seven for the first drive also included Will linebacker Marcquis Roberts, Mike linebacker T.J. Holloman, Spur linebacker Sharrod Golightly and cornerback Jimmy Legree.

Captains. South Carolina's captains for the game were Connor Shaw, Jimmy Legree, Ronald Patrick and Chaz Sutton. Arkansas was represented by Chris Smith, Robert Thomas, Kiero Small and Travis Swanson.

Starting Stadnik. Redshirt freshman center Clayton Stadnik got the start Saturday. Cody Waldrop did not dress for the game, leaving freshman Alan Knott of Tyrone, Ga., as the team's backup center.

The League. Scouts from the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams came to watch the game.

Going bowling. Two representatives from Florida Citrus Sports attended the game.

Not your typical SEC crowd. Maybe it was because of the 11:21 a.m. local time kickoff or Arkansas' three straight losses entering the game, but the home fans failed to provide any home-field advantage for the Razorbacks Saturday. Plenty of the 72,000 seats in Donald W. Reynolds' Razorback Stadium went unfilled, even with a top-15 opponent coming to town. Several sections of the upper deck went entirely vacant, and many fans didn't enter the stadium until after the kickoff.

The fans were more than happy to get loud for the marching band, chanting "Woo! Pig! Sooie!" enthusiastically whenever they could, but Razorback Stadium was often golf-course quiet when South Carolina had the ball. The Arkansas faithful didn't seem interested in getting loud even on a few instances when the Gamecocks had entered the end zone, making the fans appear more like spectators than participants at a major college sporting event.

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