Rally falls short; Mitchell regains starting job
Published on 11/05/06BY CHARLES BENNETTThe Post and Courier
COLUMBIA — In the end, it was simply another game against another ranked team — and another close loss.
South Carolina backup quarterback Blake Mitchell came off the bench in the second half to lead a comeback that came up
short against 12th-ranked Arkansas, and the Razorbacks slipped out of town with a 26-20 victory Saturday night at Williams-Brice
Stadium, handing the Gamecocks their fourth loss to a ranked team this season and the third by a touchdown or less.
"Well, you guys watched it," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. "I tell you, Blake Mitchell played as good a half
of football, except for one throw, of about any quarterback I think I've ever had. For us to beat them, he had to play perfect
and he didn't play perfect. He had one bad throw."
The one bad throw was intercepted by Darius Vinnett, giving Arkansas the ball at its 34-yard line with 5:05 to play and
a 26-20 lead.
South Carolina (5-4, 3-4) never got another chance. The Razorbacks (8-1, 5-0) were able to convert twice on third-down
plays and run out the clock.
"It's frustrating," said USC cornerback Fred
Bennett. "We just couldn't stop them when we had to."
Arkansas rolled up 495 yards in total offense with tailback Darren McFadden rushing 25 times for a career-high 219 yards.
The Razorbacks led 23-6 at the half and 26-6 early in the third quarterback before Mitchell replaced Syvelle Newton at
quarterback and brought the Gamecocks back.
Mitchell, who completed 15 of 21 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, led the Gamecocks on touchdown
drives of 92 and 99 yards.
"Those two drives in the second half were the two of the greatest exhibitions of throw and catch I've seen as a coach,"
said Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring.
Sidney Rice finished with seven receptions for 126 yards and a 10-yard touchdown catch. Kenny McKinley had seven receptions
for 87 yards and a 13-yard touchdown reception.
Mitchell began the season as South Carolina's starter but was replaced by Newton after South Carolina's 18-0 loss to Georgia
on Sept. 9, the second game of the season.
"I always stayed prepared and practiced hard in case I ever got the chance to get back in there," Mitchell said. "I felt
great when I went in there. I just made one crucial mistake."
Spurrier said Mitchell will start for the Gamecocks next week against Florida.
"We'll let Blake play," Spurrier said. "He earned it with the way he played tonight."
The Gamecocks came into the game mindful that they would have to stop the Razorbacks from making big plays, but it didn't
seem to make any difference. Arkansas made them anyway.
The Razorbacks led 23-6 at the half, scoring on runs of 43 and 14 yards by McFadden, a blocked punt by Desmond Williams
that South Carolina's Lanard Stafford covered in the end zone for a safety, and a 50-yard touchdown pass from Casey Dick to
Marcus Monk with two seconds to play in the half.
The pass from Dick to Monk, a desperation heave into double coverage with time winding down in the half, was a nice piece
of luck for the Razorbacks and a bad break for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina defensive backs Fred Bennett and Stoney Woodson both had a hand on the pass before it wound up in the hands
of Monk for the score.
McFadden's 14-yard run for a score also was timely for the Razorbacks, coming on a third-and-goal play.
South Carolina's only first-half points came on field goals of 35 and 37 yards by Ryan Succop.
"We don't do the little things quite right," Spurrier said. "That's why we're losers."
Reach Charles Bennett at email@example.com.
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