FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Garnet care packages should start arriving at Toomer's Corner sometime today. Though 0-3 against Auburn over the last 14 months, Gamecock Nation suddenly embraces the Tigers.

South Carolina blew its big chance Saturday night in the Land of Opportunity. The No. 10 Gamecocks lost to No. 8 Arkansas, 44-28, at Razorback Stadium, and lost control of the SEC East title race.

"My high school teammate (fellow Calhoun County High School graduate Eric Mack) plays for Auburn," South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said. "So I cheer for them occasionally."

Yes, the Gamecocks had to come almost to the Oklahoma border to find out there is only so much a team can do with a second-team backfield and patched up offensive line.

Maybe Steve Spurrier should have seen it coming, should have taken risks earlier.

More Wildcat plays featuring Bruce Ellington.

More passes involving preseason All-America candidate Alshon Jeffery.

South Carolina finished with 207 yards of total offense.

Only three catches for 19 yards for Jeffery, the most under- utilized good player in college football.

Only two carries for 11 yards and two catches for 11 yards for Ellington, the most dynamic healthy player on the South Carolina roster.

"We just had a lot of crucial bad plays," Spurrier said. "Brandon Wilds on his fumble went the wrong way, off the left tackle instead of the right tackle.

"But we had a lot of good breaks as far as those guys dropping passes and so forth."

Texas Tech example

Maybe we should be amazed these roster-riddled Gamecocks are 7-2 overall and 5-2 in the SEC and still hoping.

It's definitely not over. Georgia (5-1 in the SEC with Kentucky left after Auburn) might lose to Auburn next week as South Carolina defeats Florida. Significantly stranger things have happened this year in a college football world in which Texas Tech whipped Oklahoma and then lost at home to Iowa State by 34 points.

But it seems like forever since the Gamecocks departed Athens, Ga., with a 45-42 victory and a bit of a swagger.

Minus injured Marcus Lattimore and/or dismissed Stephen Garcia, Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier and staff were fine with winning conservatively at Mississippi State and Tennessee.

They got away with holes in the offensive line widened with the loss of tackle Kyle Nunn (back injury), and smash-mouthed their way to a 14-3 win in Knoxville.

Five sacks

Initially, a similar approach worked in Fayetteville, thanks mostly to defensive end Devin Taylor's 48-yard interception return that gave South Carolina a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter.

Then Tyler Wilson and the Arkansas passing game got going, forcing South Carolina to keep up.

"We could not get the dang thing in the end zone," Spurrier said.

This was Big Game Lite, the "other" top 10 showdown, a long way from the spotlight of LSU-Alabama and far from George Rogers Boulevard.

Five sacks later, Connor Shaw has a concussion and it is very clear what must happen for South Carolina to repeat as SEC East champs: "War Eagle" chants better get loud in Columbia before or after the Gamecocks throw the garnet kitchen sink at Florida.