Coordinators -

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The pivotal opening Southeastern Conference game for the number 4-ranked Ole Miss didn't go according to plan for the Rebels, as the South Carolina Gamecocks took a 16-10 win in Columbia. Read what the Reb coordinators had to say about the contest inside.

The 16-10 Ole Miss loss to South Carolina in Columbia Thursday night wasn't what most imagined.

Many thought the game would be an offensive show. What it turned into was a defensive slugfest with neither team reaching 300 yards in total offense, to the chargrin of Rebel Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin.

"In a nutshell, we had too many third-and-longs. You can't play offense with third-and-longs and then not converting a couple of third-and-shorts," said a dejected Austin. "We could not get any continuity or rhythm going playing like that.

"We just weren't good enough today. They played great on defense and we have to get a lot better, a lot better. I was proud of the way we didn't give up and the way we dug in at the end, but in the final analysis, we have to play better and not put ourselves in those kinds of situations."

The Rebel offense only managed 248 yards, and a good chunk of that came in the fourth quarter, when the Rebs were trailing 16-3 and the coaches put Dexter McCluster at tailback and essentially put the game in his hamds. The Rebs had 130 yards in the fourth stanza and Dex acounted for 68 of those, all on the ground. 45 of the 130 came on a pass play for a score after Dexter drew the defense in with effective running.

"We just put him at tailback in a 20 personnel set to see if he could give us a spark and he did," Kent noted. "We left so much on the field in the first three quarters and didn't have the opportunities to do that earlier as much as we would have liked. He's not built to carry the ball 20 times every game, I don't know if we could keep him healthy, but we would have liked to have gotten him the ball more earlier if the situations had been different.

"If you are in second-and-medium and third-and-short, then everything opens up and we can move Dexter around to get him the ball. In third-and-long, you are just limited. We didn't do well, period."

Austin refused to single out any aspect of the offense for the troubles they encountered, even though USC had four QB sacks and applied pressure all night long.

"It takes everyone to make it work. We had some issues up front, some issues out wide, some penalty issues and some bad throws," he continued. "It was a combination of everything. Eric Norwood is a terrific player and he disrupted us some, but they had other players who caused us problems as well. We put ourselves in bad situations and paid for it."

QB Jevan Snead was just 7-21 for 107 yards and one TD on the night, the TD being 45 of those yards to Markeith Summers. Austin assessed Jevan's play, sort of.

"You can't put your quarterback in the situations I was talking about and expect him to dig you out of those holes. He could have made better decisions a couple of times, better throws a couple of times, but we also could have blocked better and not put ourselves in a hole as much as we did.

"It was still an across-the-board consistency issue. We had none. In terms of getting into a rhythm, it was a lot like the first two games. We have to improve across the board. The level of play we are putting out there right now will not get it done on this level. We found that out tonight, the hard way."

Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix's unit gave up one TD, after a turnover that created a short field to defend, and three field goals while allowing just 285 yards on the night in a hostile environment.

Coach Houston Nutt said it was a defensive effort good enough to win. What did Nix think?

"We're not where we need to be, but we are making some improvements. I think the kids showed a lot of character, on both sides of the ball, when not a lot was going right during one stretch," Nix stated. "I'm proud of them, everyone of them.

"The only play that got under my skin a little was the 69-yard pass play they had to open the second half when we didn't squeeze the coverage correctly and missed a tackle. Patrick Trahan made a terrific play to run the receiver down from behind and we held them to a field goal, but that was a poorly executed play on our part defensively."

From that point on, however, other than the aforementioned short field TD by the Gamecocks, the Rebel defense stoned USC, not allowing a first down in the fourth stanza.

"We dug in and played dominant defense in that last quarter. We were assignment-sound and we executed. Overall, it was a good game for four quarters, but it can always be better."

The number 4 ranking is now gone.

One of the longest win streaks in the nation is over.

So what do the coaches say to the players now?

"I told them we are a team and we stick together," said Nix. "Buckle back up. Compete, work harder, eliminate mistakes.

"We lost a game, but we have a lot of football to play and we are making strides on defense. It's no time to hang our heads now."

Some dreams may have been dashed in Columbia, but many remain.

How will the Rebels respond?

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