FAYETTEVILLE -- With war still waged in Iraq, all in any endeavor should learn the lesson of prematurely declaring "Mission Accomplished."
So this Arkansas Razorbacks' mission won't be declared accomplished here.
Nevertheless, in the Razorbacks' mission to advance to a bowl game, beating South Carolina last Saturday comes as close at it gets to "Mission Accomplished" before the fact.
Just one win among the remaining three games, Saturday's 6:30 p.m. non-conference game versus Troy in Fayetteville and subsequent SEC Saturdays in Little Rock versus Mississippi State and Baton Rouge, La., versus LSU, allows the 5-4 Razorbacks to finish six-win bowl eligible, possibly pretty good bowl eligible, should they finish with a flourish.
That South Carolina, defeated 33-16 last Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, is among the five W's historically has the Hogs bowling come December or January.
Seven of the eight times Arkansas has played postseason since joining the Southeastern Conference, the Razorbacks beat South Carolina in their annual SEC game.
That significance, along with a whole bunch of other things, including Arkansas' poor performance in losing its then-most-recent SEC game Oct. 24 at Ole Miss, last week had Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino asserting the South Carolina game a "must win."
No point ignoring the elephant in the room. Beating South Carolina was a "must." Petrino's Razorbacks would have to overcome the must-win pressure, the Gamecocks' great defense, ranked third nationally against the pass, and mobile USC passing quarterback Stephen Garcia and his crew of tall, fast receivers.
Turns out, Petrino confessed, the Razorbacks mostly had to overcome their head coach.
The give to running back Ronnie Wingo off the fake punt, one of the few things that did work in the Hogs' 35-7 SEC loss to Alabama back on Sept. 26 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., didn't work against South Carolina. That second-quarter, fourth down, 2-yard loss handed South Carolina a 24-yard drive for its lone first-half touchdown and a 10-7 lead.
"The only bad thing on special teams," Petrino said, "was when I called a fake punt and we didn't convert it. That's all on me. I thought it was there and we didn't execute it. You know, that gave them seven points. The best thing about it is our guys kept their poise."
They also kept their poise when Garcia and Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery hit them with an 80-yard touchdown pass to start the second half.
Starting with the USC bad snap on that touchdown's voided PAT, it was all Arkansas all second half offensively, defensively and special teams.
Petrino kept catching the Gamecocks playing deep pass defense and so kept calling for quarterback Ryan Mallett to tight end D.J. Williams passes underneath. Mallett to Williams worked seven times for 137 yards. Overall Mallett completed 23-of-27 for 329 passing yards against the nation's No. 3 pass defense.
While officially netting just 76 rushing yards, the Hogs scored all four touchdowns on the ground. In the fourth quarter they pounded away with clock-consuming proficiency.
Defensively, the Hogs sacked Garcia twice, at least twice hurried passes, and got a "huge," Petrino said, end zone interception by backup cornerback Jerell Norton. Also, Norton netted a 38-yard punt return setting up the final touchdown down drive.
Arkansas' Willy Robinson coordinated defense held the Gamecocks to 53 yards rushing.
"We got beat by a better team today," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "They pretty much controlled the line of scrimmage. They just thoroughly beat us."
A big step towards Arkansas' bowl mission but not accomplished yet.