After going 5-7 each of the past two seasons, South Carolina should be one of the last SEC teams capable of overlooking an opponent.
Yet, one week after improving to 4-1 with a 20-3 victory at Alabama and moving into the national polls at No. 25, the Gamecocks did just that in losing 31-28 at home to an Ole Miss team that, until then, had been struggling.
"Of course some teams are going to get comfortable with some of the teams that you've got to play, that you think you can beat them," wide receiver Troy Williamson said. "That's one thing we can't do no more, no matter who we play."
The Gamecocks (4-2, 2-2 SEC) failed to focus on Ole Miss and it showed from the start. Favored by 16 1/2 points, the Gamecocks fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter, and trailed 21-14 at halftime.
South Carolina finally asserted itself and took a 28-24 lead on a 17-yard run by tailback Demetris Summers with 12:28 left in the game. But, as had been the case throughout the game, the Gamecocks dropped their guard.
First, tailback Daccus Turman gained only 1 yard on third-and-2, forcing South Carolina to punt. That gave the Rebels one more chance from their 27-yard line with 2:31 left. Ole Miss quarterback Ethan Flatt moved the Rebels to the South Carolina 29 with three completions. On fourth down from the 29, cornerback Fred Bennett was beaten by Ole Miss wide receiver Bill Flowers for a 29-yard touchdown, despite South Carolina's four-deep zone coverage.
"They threw up a prayer in the fourth quarter and it got answered," said Rick Minter, South Carolina defensive coordinator. "That's all you can say about that one."
The finish stunned South Carolina's players.
"We thought we had it wrapped up," quarterback Syvelle Newton said, "but in a football game, you never can say you've got a game wrapped up."
NOTES, QUOTES GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Syvelle Newton -- With starter Dondrial Pinkins sidelined by a shoulder injury, Newton made his second start of the season. He struggled early in the game but finished with 356 yards of offense and two touchdowns -- a 33-yard pass and a 38-yard run.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WRs Noah Whiteside and Troy Williamson -- Williamson has been a big-play receiver all season, but this time Whiteside joined him. Together, they caught eight passes for 183 yards. Williamson caught a 33-yard touchdown.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a loss. We can't do nothing about it. It's not like we can play the game tomorrow. Try to keep on trucking." -- WR Troy Williamson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The offense and defense both came back from poor first-half performances to play much better throughout most of the second half.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: The Gamecocks had no business overlooking Ole Miss and playing so poorly in the first half or assuming victory late in the game. If the Gamecocks fall short of their goals this season, they'll look back on this game as a lost opportunity.
ROSTER REPORT: The Gamecocks got some valuable offensive help from their reserves, including third-team quarterback Blake Mitchell. With Pinkins out and Newton struggling early, South Carolina coach Lou Holtz decided to play Mitchell and the rest of the second-team offense. The new offense proceeded to drive 67 yards in five plays, capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell to tight end Andy Boyd for the Gamecocks' first touchdown. Mitchell completed all three of his passes for 58 yards on the drive. Mitchell returned on the next series and threw two incompletions. Holtz then put Newton back in the game.