Sanders helps No. 16 Arkansas rocket past South Carolina

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Darren McFadden and Felix Jones make for some serious company. Rocket Sanders can now say he’s there with those all-time Arkansas running backs.

The Razorbacks’ sophomore running back ran for a career-high 156 yards and two touchdowns in helping the No. 16 Razorbacks beat South Carolina 44-30 on Saturday.

Sanders joined McFadden, twice a Heisman Trophy finalist, and Jones, the player with the sixth-most yards rushing in school history, as the only three Arkansas players to run for 150 yards and two scores against the Gamecocks.

“Um, that’s good,” Sanders said after the game. He half-chuckled his next sentence.

“Of course I want to be better than those guys.”

Sanders ran for 578 yards and five touchdowns in his first season last year. With returning starter Dominique Johnson still sidelined recovering from a knee injury suffered in the Outback Bowl, Sanders has taken nearly all of the first-team reps. The result has been a 2-0 start for his team and him becoming the first Razorbacks player since 2019 with back-to-back 100-yard games.

Sanders scored the first two touchdowns of the game as Arkansas (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) found the end zone on each of its first three possessions against South Carolina and opened a 21-3 lead. The Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1) responded with two straight scores at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second to pull within 21-16.

Sanders wouldn’t score again as KJ Jefferson was the keystone for a bulk of the Razorbacks’ second-half touchdowns, but he ran for 95 of his 156 yards in the final 30 minutes.

Arkansas ran for 295 yards, and AJ Green and Rashod Dubinion also chipped in touchdowns.

“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.

Jefferson led a 14-play, 59-yard drive capped with his own 2-yard rushing touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter to move Arkansas back ahead by two scores. South Carolina lost a fumble on its next possession and Jefferson added a touchdown pass to Warren Thompson in response, ultimately putting the Gamecocks too far behind to rally.

Spencer Rattler tried. The Oklahoma transfer threw for 371 yards and a touchdown on 23 of 38 passing with a touchdown for South Carolina, but was intercepted in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter by Dwight McGlothern. The Gamecocks had three turnovers.

Jefferson was 18 of 21 passing for 162 yards and a touchdown. He ran for another 67 yards and the score on 19 carries.

“I thought he played better today than he did last week. I thought he was more accurate,” Pittman said. “I thought he was in total control. … He pretty much can take over the game when he wants to.”

Johnson is expected to return in Week 3 against Missouri State. He might find himself short on carries as Sanders’ development has put the sophomore in high company.

“I think he’s becoming an all-around back a little bit more,” 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.”


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.


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, but missed the back-half of the Razorbacks’ season last year because of a shoulder injury.


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.


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, lea by former Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino.

Georgia extends contract for AD Josh Brooks, plans two new football practice fields

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ATHENS, Ga. – On the heels of a second straight national football championship, Georgia has rewarded athletic director Josh Brooks a contract extension that ties him to the Bulldogs through at least 2029.

The athletic association board, wrapping up its annual spring meeting Friday at a resort on Lake Oconee, also announced plans for a new track and field facility that will free up space for two more football practice fields.

Brooks’ new contract will increase his salary to $1.025 million a year, with annual raises of $100,000.

The 42-year-old Brooks, who took over the athletic department in 2021 after Greg McGarity retired, called the Georgia job “a dream for me” and said he hopes to spend the rest of his career in Athens.

“I am extremely grateful,” Brooks said. “I got into this business 20-plus years ago as a student equipment manager. My first job at Louisiana-Monroe was making $20,000 a year in football operations.”

The Georgia board approved a fiscal 2024 budget of $175.2 million, a nearly 8% increase from the most recent budget of $162.2 million and the sign of a prosperous program that is flush with money after its success on the gridiron.

The school received approval to move forward with its preliminary plans for a new track and field facility, which will be built across the street from the complex hosting the soccer and and softball teams.

The current track stadium is located adjacent to the Butts-Mehre athletic facility, which hosts the practice fields and training facilities for the football program.

Georgia lost a chunk of its outdoor fields when it built a new indoor practice facility. After the new track and field stadium is completed, the current space will be converted to two full-length, grass football practice fields at the request of coach Kirby Smart.

“He wants to find efficient ways to practice, and there is a lot of truth to the issues we’ve had with our current practice fields,” Brooks said. “There is a lot of strain on our turf facilities staff to keep that field in great shape when half the day it is getting shade, so that has been a challenge as well. For our football program, it is better to practice on grass fields than (artificial) turf, so to be able to have two side-by-side grass fields is huge. It makes for a much more efficient practice.”

The new track and field complex, which will continue to be named Spec Towns Track, will also include an indoor facility, the first of its kind in the state of Georgia.

Iowa AD Gary Barta announces retirement after 17 years at Big Ten school

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa athletic director Gary Barta will retire on August 1 after 17 years at the university, the school announced Friday.

Barta, 59, is one of the longest-tenured athletic directors in a Power Five conference. He was hired by Iowa in 2006 after being the AD at Wyoming.

An interim director will be announced next week, Iowa said.

In September, Iowa hired former Ball State athletic director Beth Goetz to be deputy director of athletics and chief operating officer, putting her in position to possibly succeed Barta.

“It has been an absolute privilege and honor to serve in this role the past 17 years,” Barta said in a statement. “This decision didn’t come suddenly, nor did it come without significant thought, discussion, and prayer.”

“That said, I’m confident this is the right time for me and for my family.”

Iowa won four NCAA national team titles and 27 Big Ten team titles during Barta’s tenure. The women’s basketball team is coming off an appearance in the national championship game and the wrestling team is coming off a second-place finish at the NCAA championships.

Barta served as the chairman of the College Football Playoff committee in 2020 and 2021.

He faced heavy criticism over more than $11 million in settlements for lawsuits in recent years alleging racial and sexual discrimination within the athletic department.

Lawsuits filed by former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum and associate athletics director Jane Meyer led to a $6.5 million payout.

Iowa had to pay $400,000 as part of a Title IX lawsuit brought by athletes after it cut four sports in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the agreement, Iowa reinstated the women’s swimming and diving program and add another women’s sport.

Iowa added women’s wrestling, the first among Power Five schools to compete this year.

A lawsuit brought by former football players alleging racial discrimination within the program was settled for $4.2 million last March, which prompted state auditor Rob Sand to call for Barta’s ouster.

“Gary Barta’s departure is a long time coming given the four different lawsuits for discrimination that cost Iowa more than $11 million,” Sand posted on Twitter.

The university did not allow taxpayer money to be used for the settlement with the former players.

Barta led Iowa through $380 million of facility upgrades, including renovation of Kinnick Stadium, the construction of a new football facility, a basketball practice facility and a training center for the wrestling teams.

Under Barta, Iowa has had just one head football coach (Kirk Ferentz), women’s basketball coach (Lisa Bluder) and wrestling coach (Tom Brands). All were in place when he arrived.

Barta has also come under scrutiny for allowing Ferentz to employee his son, Brian Ferentz, as offensive coordinator. To comply with the university’s nepotism policy, Brian Ferentz reports to Barta.