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October 12, 2013

Five key plays

South Carolina defeated Arkansas 52-7 Saturday, and here are five key plays from the Gamecock victory.

Welcome to Fayetteville, Mr. Davis

South Carolina fans know how good Mike Davis is, but he still does something every game that makes viewers say, "Wow!" Davis introduced himself to Arkansas in the first quarter. He already had a touchdown run in the game when he made that play. On fourth-and-1 from their own 38, the Gamecocks lined up in the shotgun. Davis took a handoff from Connor Shaw and was met at the line of scrimmage. He kept his legs moving and bulled forward, carrying Razorbacks for 7 yards. Davis' startling physical domination set the tone for the game as the Gamecocks turned an early 7-0 deficit into a rout.

Holloman stuffs Collins

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After a red zone turnover snuffed out a South Carolina scoring opportunity, the defense needed to get a stop to prevent Arkansas from getting back into the game. On third-and-1, quarterback Brandon Allen got his foot tangled up with an offensive lineman. That threw off the timing on the handoff to Kiero Small. T.J. Holloman met Small in the hole, wrapped him up, and dropped him for no gain. It was the sort of play that the South Carolina defense has not made very often this season, but Holloman got the ball back for his offense.

Fake punt fools no one

On fourth-and-3 from midfield, Arkansas tried a fake punt. Punter Sam Irwin-Hill rolled right and tried to pass, but the Gamecocks sniffed out the play. The receivers were covered, and Irwin-Hill was pressured. He threw incomplete along the sideline and the Gamecocks took over. With just 2:30 left in the half, the field position was significant. Had Arkansas punted, the Gamecocks probably would have started inside the 20 instead of at midfield. South Carolina scored a touchdown with 13 seconds left in the half, but they may not have had the opportunity without the good field position.

Shaw to Byrd

The Gamecocks exorcized a few demons against the Razorbacks. One was the sluggish second halves that have plagued them this season. On the first drive of the third quarter, Shaw made sure there would be no letup. After a great pass on third down earned a new set of downs, Shaw went for the kill. He hit Damiere Byrd in stride for 45-yard touchdown strike and a 31-7 lead.

Legree stays with the play

Arkansas nearly answered the Byrd touchdown, but Jimmy Legree made a huge play. Wide receiver Keon Hatcher took the handoff on an end around and broke a Victor Hampton tackle to get into the open field. Legree didn't quit on the play and chased down Hatcher. He wrapped up Hatcher with a physical tackle and knocked the ball loose. Chaz Elder recovered the fumble and the rout was on. Officials reviewed the play, but it appeared the ball was already coming out when Hatcher's knee hit the ground. It was one of three turnovers forced by the Gamecocks Saturday after forcing just seven all season.

Bonus key play

Down 8, Georgia took over at its 24. A missed PAT on Missouri's last touchdown meant that it was still a one possession game and there was plenty of time left for Aaron Murray. Murray looked right, avoided the pressure and threw. He either didn't see Randy Ponder on underneath coverage or couldn't get enough air on the pass, and Ponder picked it off. The Tigers went on to score another touchdown to seal the win, and throwing the SEC East race into disarray. South Carolina needed Georgia to lose twice, and they got the first one. Meanwhile, Missouri would be the favorite to take the East, but starting quarterback James Franklin left the game with an injury to his throwing shoulder, and if he misses any time Missouri could be vulnerable.

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