COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 17 Arkansas showed South Carolina what a Southeastern Conference title contender should look like.
Ryan Mallett threw for 303 yards, Knile Davis tied a career high with three touchdowns and the Razorbacks (7-2, 4-2 SEC) handed 18th-ranked South Carolina its worst home loss in five years, 41-20, on Saturday night.
Despite the hammering, the Gamecocks (6-3, 4-3 SEC) get a shot at the Eastern Division and their first spot in the league title game against Florida at The Swamp next Saturday night.
The surging Razorbacks? They're two games behind undefeated Auburn and needing a miracle to reach the top of the SEC West.
"Can't do nothing about it, we're from Arkansas, man," Mallett said. "If we played in the East, it'd be a different story I guess."
The SEC West is 15-2 against the East this season.
The Razorbacks scored on four of their five first-half possessions to lead 24-10 at the break, held Gamecocks star runner Marcus Lattimore to 30 yards and gained 140 yards rushing on the SEC's top defense against the run.
"We were just clicking on all cylinders," said Davis, who had 110 yards, including scoring runs of 2, 21 and 1 yard.
The Gamecocks hadn't been beaten this badly at Williams-Brice Stadium since a 37-14 win by Alabama in coach Steve Spurrier's debut season of 2005.
"We didn't have much tonight," Spurrier said. "The way we played, you wonder how we won six games already this year."
To make it seven, South Carolina will have to win at Florida where it's 0-12.
"The only thing we can do now is regroup, and try to improve and give ourselves a chance to win next week," Spurrier said.
Arkansas brought the country's second-best air attack and the league's top passer in Mallett into Williams-Brice. The Razorbacks were missing injured receiver Greg Childs, out for the season with a knee injury, but it didn't slow down Mallett. He got things started with a 4-yard TD pass to Cobi Hamilton, who moved into Childs' spot and caught seven passes for 111 yards.
Then it was Davis' turn. The sophomore continually eluded defenders and tied his career high for touchdowns set last month against Ole Miss.
And kicker Zach Hocker hit a career-long 51 yard field goal, the Razorbacks longest since 1992.
Spurrier said when Mallett saw the way Gamecocks defensive backs played the past month — this was the fourth time in five games they allowed 300 passing yards — he'd lick his chops.
South Carolina's head ball coach wasn't too far off.
Mallett wasted little time torching the Gamecocks secondary. He went 3 of 4 for 50 yards on the Razorbacks opening drive, ending with Hamilton's touchdown.
In the second quarter, Mallett launched a 57-yard throw to a falling Jarius Wright — he easily got behind cornerback C.C. Whitlock — to set up Davis' first rushing TD from 2 yards out.
When the Gamecocks didn't come close on a fake punt try after snapping to upback Dalton Wilson, Mallett and the 'Hogs were at it again. Mallett used passes of 6 yards to Hamilton and 11 yards to tight end D.J. Williams to set up a 21-yard scoring run along the sidelines by Davis for a 24-7 lead.
"It's not easy now. We're a good football team," Mallett said. "I think people overlook us. We lost to, what, two number one teams?"
The Razorbacks defeats were to then top-ranked Alabama and current No. 3 Auburn.
Mallett said Davis' punch from the backfield enhances Arkansas' offense.
"We got the pass when we wanted, we got the run when we wanted," Davis added. "We had a good flow today."
It didn't help that South Carolina's defense played without starting cornerback Chris Culliver, who hurt his shoulder last week against Tennessee and is out for the year. Spurrier had hoped his secondary would show more fire in disrupting receivers, but it didn't happen in the opening half as Mallett had 213 yards passing by the break.
(This version CORRECTS No. 17 Arkansas 41, No. 18 South Carolina 20; New approach. Corrects to South Carolina's most lopsided home loss since Alabama in 2005)