FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — – Rocket Sanders ran for a career-high 156 yards and scored Arkansas’ first two touchdowns, and KJ Jefferson ran for a score and threw for another to lift the No. 16 Razorbacks past South Carolina 44-30 on Saturday.
Jefferson led Arkansas (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) on three scoring drives in the fourth quarter, never allowing South Carolina to rally.
He finished 18 of 21 for 162 yards passing and ran for 67 yards.
“I thought he played better today than he did last week. I thought he was more accurate,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “I thought he was in total control. … He pretty much can take over the game when he wants to.”
A 23-yard touchdown pass to Warren Thompson with 12:09 left in the fourth quarter provided the key score, giving Arkansas a 19-point edge. South Carolina had fumbled on its previous drive after Jefferson’s 2-yard touchdown run.
Arkansas scored on its first three possessions of the game, all of which went for 12 plays or more.
Sanders finished the first two and freshman Rashod Dubinion had his first career touchdown, giving Arkansas a 21-3 lead in the second quarter.
Sanders had his second straight 100-yard rushing game after getting the first of his career last week.
“I think he’s becoming an all-around back a little bit more,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “I thought he played really, really well. Two 100-yard days back-to-back is pretty good. He’s a better back than he was a year ago.”
Spencer Rattler was 23 of 38 with 361 yards passing for South Carolina (1-1, 0-1), though 173 of those came in the fourth quarter when the Gamecocks were chasing from way behind.
Rattler’s 62-yard touchdown pass to Antwane Wells Jr. in the third quarter pulled the Gamecocks within five. When he sought Wells in the end zone again in the fourth, he was intercepted by Dwight McGlothern.
Arkansas, which was seventh in FBS averaging 228 yards a game on the ground last year, ran for 300 against South Carolina.
“I was really proud of our offensive line. We asked them to kind of control the game and I felt like they did. I think the offensive line wore them down,” Pittman said.
The Gamecocks had an interception and lost two fumbles.
A BIG LOSS IN A BIG WIN
Pittman said after the game that preseason All-SEC safety Jalen Catalon would miss the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury. Catalon was lost midway through Arkansas’ win over Cincinnati last week.
Catalon was a Freshman All-American two seasons ago and made first-team All-SEC honors over the summer despite missing the back-half of the Razorbacks’ season last year because of a shoulder injury.
IT’S BEEN A WHILE
Arkansas’ win over South Carolina was the Razorbacks’ first since 2011. The teams had met only three times since before Saturday with the Gamecocks winning each.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks had moments, but consistency was lacking in coach Shane Beamer’s second year.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks’ defense held up well without two starters in the secondary, including former freshman All-America safety Jalen Catalon.
Arkansas likely won’t do any worse than staying put at No. 16 when the polls are released Sunday.
South Carolina: Hosts defending national champion Georgia in Week 3
Arkansas: Missouri State comes to town next week, lead by former Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino.