Garcia, Smelley switch it up as South Carolina beats Arkansas

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Steve Spurrier shuffled things up again Saturday, alternating quarterbacks Stephen Garcia and Chris Smelley most of the way in South Carolina's 34-21 victory over Arkansas.

The Gamecocks (7-3, 4-3) have won four of their past five Southeastern Conference games since starting 0-2 in the league, snapped a two-game losing streak to Arkansas (4-6, 1-5) and put themselves in position for a New Year's Day bowl game.

And they did it through one of the South Carolina coach's quirkiest trademarks.

The former Heisman Trophy winner is known for being tough on quarterbacks. Only a short time after freshman Garcia threw two touchdowns to bring South Carolina its first home win over Tennessee in 16 years last week, Spurrier complained that Garcia wasn't ready to run the offense.

Spurrier kept everyone guessing about the quarterbacks this week, only saying he planned to play both. No one figured he meant every other snap.

Smelley got first chance, overthrowing receiver Jason Barnes. Then Garcia entered and hit Kenny McKinley with a 30-yard pass to the Arkansas 14. After Smelley was incomplete on the next play, Garcia rushed past the Razorbacks for a touchdown.

Spurrier kept up the pattern much of the opening period: Smelley, a sophomore, would start the sequence, with Garcia coming in every other play.

The two shared time in leading a drive that ended with Ryan Succop's 54-yard field goal -- missing the senior's career mark by a yard.

It was Smelley who found tight end Jared Cook for a 66-yard touchdown pass and a 17-7 lead.

It's far from the first time Spurrier's gone through such QB issues. The most famous coming the season after Florida's national title in 1996, when Spurrier rotated Gator passers Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise. The result? A satisfying 32-29 victory over rival Florida State.

Down 20-7, Arkansas got back into it with a 15-play, 8 minute drive that ended with Casey Dick's 4-yard TD throw to Mitchell Bailey.

Dick had the Razorbacks driving again moments later when defensive end Jordin Lindsey stretched up to snag the interception and take it 40 yards to the Arkansas 15.

On Garcia's play, he lofted a pretty pass into the waiting hands of McKinley to put the Gamecocks up 27-14.

Smelley was more productive at 9 of 19 for 148 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Garcia was 4 of 11 for 71 yards and an interception for South Carolina's lone turnover.

McKinley had seven catches for 130 yards and, with 2,602 yards, surpassed Sterling Sharpe as the school's career yardage leader.

South Carolina was run over by Arkansas and its backfield stars of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones the past two years. McFadden had one of last season's top performances, rushing for 321 yards in Arkansas' 48-36 win over the Gamecocks.

But with McFadden and Jones both gone to the NFL, South Carolina's SEC-leading defense bottled up Arkansas.

Dick had three interceptions and Arkansas was sacked six times. The Razorbacks rushed for 54 yards.

It didn't help when Michael Smith, the SEC leader at 123 yards a game, left with a shoulder injury right before halftime. He had just 25 yards on seven carries.

The Razorbacks, who upended 19th-ranked Tulsa a week ago, have lost six of their past eight games in coach Bobby Petrino's first season.

Arkansas tried an onside kick in the final minutes after drawing within 34-21 and players from both sides threw punches. Gamecock safety Chris Culliver, a starter, was ejected.


ESPN Fan Shop Powered By

  • Nike Men's Arkansas Razorbacks Cardinal Football Icon Legend T-ShirtShop

  • Under Armour Youth South Carolina Gamecocks White #28 Replica Football JerseyPrice: $44.99 Shop