(24) So. Carolina 27, Arkansas 7 -- Final

Friday, October 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Arkansas (4-2) at So. Carolina (6-1)
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Even Lou Holtz is amazed at how far South Carolina has come in two years.

The 24th-ranked Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) were the country's biggest losers coming into the season with 21 straight defeats. But they're going to a bowl game after Saturday's 27-7 victory over Arkansas.

``I can't account for it,'' Holtz said. ``It's almost like a miracle.''

Holtz has made a Hall-of-Fame career of miracles, turning broken programs into bowl teams by his second year.

He did it at five other struggling schools. He won with the limited resources at William & Mary, turned North Carolina State on to football in the mid-1970s and beat Oklahoma in a famous Orange Bowl game without three of his best players as part of his Arkansas run. He broke through the Big Ten powers to succeed at Minnesota and brought the championship glow back to Notre Dame at the last place Holtz ever expected to coach.

Holtz's job at South Carolina could outshine them all.

``This is what we dreamed about,'' said South Carolina receiver Jermale Kelly, a senior who caught one of Phil Petty's two touchdown passes. ``We've waited a long time for this. We couldn't be sure it was going to happen.''

But then everything is possible with Holtz.

``I'm beginning to think we're a little bit better than I or my players thought,'' Holtz said. ``They have a lot of self-confidence. But let's not put them in the Hall of Fame yet.''

The Gamecocks put this one away with Petty's passing and a defense that held Arkansas (4-2, 1-2) to 89 yards in the first half.

It'll be South Carolina's first bowl trip in six years and the first in five for Holtz, whose final team at Notre Dame in 1996 passed up a bowl despite an 8-3 record.

Petty and Brian Scott took care of South Carolina's first scoring drive, hooking up on three passes, the last for 23 yards into the right corner of the end zone past defender Orlando Green.

Petty kept it going on the Gamecocks' next possession, hitting Scott for 18 yards, Carlos Spikes for 25 and Jermale Kelly on a 13-yard TD pass and a 13-0 lead.

Petty completed his first eight throws to spark an offense that gained only 14 yards rushing in the first half. He was 12-of-21 for 170 yards.

Arkansas, which easily beat the Gamecocks 48-14 a year ago, had no answers for Holtz's revived team, which has only lost at Alabama this season.

Backup tailback Fred Talley returned for the first time in three weeks for Arkansas, but gained only 27 yards on 10 first-half carries.

Quarterback Robby Hampton was constantly pressured and run over by South Carolina. He was sacked for consecutive 10-yard losses on one second-quarter drive, then was intercepted in Gamecocks territory just before halftime.

An Arkansas mistake helped the Gamecocks wrap things up in the third quarter. Richard Smith mishandled a punt that was recovered by South Carolina's Rachiem Monroe at the Razorbacks 37. Three plays later, Andrew Pinnock scored on a 13-yard run.

``They're doing better defensively this year,'' Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. ``They're getting interceptions and fumbles they didn't get last year. Offensively, Phil Petty understands the offense much better.''

Derek Watson's 68-yard TD run put the Gamecocks up 27-0. Watson, who was Holtz's first major recruit for the Gamecocks, finished with 136 yards, his fourth 100-yard game this season.

``I thought if I went to Tennessee they were going to win no matter who was there,'' Watson said. ``Coming here, I thought I'd have a chance to be part of something special.''

Holtz promised to yank the Williams-Brice goal posts out himself if South Carolina won, but he passed up the chance after shaking hands with Nutt.

``I looked at those suckers again and I looked at my arms,'' the skin-and-bones Holtz said. ``I thought I might be out there all day.

It's about the only promise Holtz hasn't kept in his two years here.

He pledged to rebuild them as he did at William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota and Notre Dame before. It was hard to believe him while the Gamecocks suffered loss after loss last season.

Now, the Gamecocks can look for even more. South Carolina is tied for the SEC East lead with Florida. It goes to Vanderbilt next week before finishing its conference schedule with Tennessee and Florida.

``It is a tough road ahead,'' Holtz said. ``But I told my players we're not in the driver's seat, but at least we're in the car.''

Quarter 1st2nd 3rd4thFinal
So. Carolina01314027

TeamScore TimeSummaryRunning Score
So.Carolina13:48 2ndQBrian Scott 23 yd rec from Phil Petty(kick good)USC 7-0
So.Carolina7:27 2ndQJermale Kelly 16 yd rec from Phil Petty(kick failed)USC 13-0
So.Carolina8:21 3rdQAndrew Pinnock 13 yd run(kick good)USC 20-0
So.Carolina3:33 2ndQDerek Watson 68 yd run(kick good)USC 27-0
Arkansas9:25 4thQBrandon Holmes 9 yd run(kick good)USC 27-7


RUSHING_Arkansas, Holmes 17-58, Talley 15-46, Snowden 1-7, Stinson 1-0, McBride 1-(minus 5), Hampton 6-(minus 6). South Carolina, Watson 17-136, Pinnock 4-26, Kimrey 3-23, Smith 1-0, Team 1-(minus 1), Petty 2-(minus 5), Alexander 3-(minus 5).

PASSING_Arkansas, Hampton 12-25-1-72, Clark 7-12-1-79, McBride 0-0-0-0. South Carolina, Petty 12-21-1-170.

RECEIVING_Arkansas, Williams 8-69, Snowden 4-30, Hamilton 2-17, Smith 2-15, Talley 1-8, Holmes 1-7, Daily 1-5. South Carolina, Scott 4-86, Spikes 3-39, Adkisson 2-17, Kelly 2-16, Brewer 1-12.