Rebs Fall

A lack of third down conversions told the tale in fourth-ranked Ole Miss' 16-10 loss to South Carolina Thursday night in Columbia. The Rebels were 1-of-5 in the first half, and if you thought things couldn't get worse in the second half, think again. The Rebels were 0-of-8 after intermission.

That won't win many games on the Southeastern Conference road. And it didn't in this one as the nation watched via ESPN as USC's defense had its way much of the contest.

The Rebels had a chance to win the game late, trailing by six points and getting the ball back 61 yards out. But the South Carolina defense stood tall one more time and stopped the Rebs, allowing the Gamecocks to beat a top five ranked team for the first time in 28 years.

The Gamecocks shot themselves in the foot with penalties in the first half or a 6-3 lead at the break might have been greater.

But based on those miscues and also the Rebels' defensive play, which for the most part was superb, the Gamecocks weren't able to do anything but convert two first-half field goals.

Ole Miss had excellent opportunities in the first half to be ahead or at least set a tone.

The Rebels appeared to score a touchdown on a beautiful run around right end of 59 yards by Brandon Bolden, but it was called back for holding.

Later Marshay Green had clear sailing on a punt return - except for a last-player-standing tackle. A shoestring stop, not normally one that would have halted the talented and elusive Green, by USC punter Spencer Lanning kept Green out of the end zone.

The game was tied 3-3 at that point, and the Rebels needed something positive to happen in a hostile environment. On that same possession, the Rebs were at the 25-yard line in USC territory on fourth and 3 when Joshua Shene lined up to kick a 42-yarder.

But the fake was on, as holder Justin Sparks flipped it to Derrick Davis, who had open field in front of him for a first down, at least, and maybe more. But he stumbled and fell short of the sticks, and that epitomized the night for the Rebels.

Ole Miss had taken a 3-0 lead on a 42-yard Shene field goal with 10 seconds to go in the first quarter.

USC got both its field goals in the second quarter, a 27-yarder by Lanning early and a last play of the first half 20-yarder as time expired for the three-point halftime lead.

The Rebels had but 71 yards total offense in the opening half to 181 yards for the Gamecocks.

USC went up 9-3 with another Lanning field goal, this time 30 yards, early in the third period. The Gamecocks made it 16-3 on a 2-yard catch by Patrick DiMarco from Stephen Garcia with 6:57 to go in the third. The Gamecocks had a short field for this one as its defense once again came through, forcing a Jevan Snead fumble and giving USC the football at the Rebel 25.

The Rebels appeared doomed to come back, especially the way the offense was performing, until Snead hit a wide-open Markeith Summers over the middle for a 45-yard touchdown pass with 9:47 left in the game. Shene's point after made it 16-10.

The Rebels then stopped the Gamecocks and got the ball back. But on fourth down in their own territory with 6:28 left, the Rebs punted. Once again they stopped USC and got the ball back via a punt, and that's when the final drive began at their own 39 with 4:03 to go.

Shortly afterward with first down at the 32-yard line in USC territory, the Rebels began to back up. And on fourth and 19, Snead threw into double coverage for Shay Hodge and the pass was incomplete.

"We played good defense but we stopped ourselves too many times on offense," said Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt. "We had numerous opportunities, and that was frustrating. Dexter (McCluster) gave us a lift at the end, but we didn't get it done."

"It was a pretty ugly win, but a win and we'll take it every time," Gamecock quarterback Garcia said.

"We thought we could beat them. Thought it was a toss-up game," USC Coach Steve Spurrier said. "But the way it turned out, the way our defense played, 16 points was enough."

South Carolina had 15 first downs to 14 for Ole Miss. The Rebels had 139 yards rushing to 65 for USC.

Ole Miss had 107 yards passing to 220 for USC.

Total offense was 248 for the Rebels and 285 for the Gamecocks.

Turnovers were dead even at one fumble lost apiece.

Snead had thrown at least two touchdown passes in each of his past eight games. He finished this game 7-of-21 for 107 yards.

Garcia was 16-of-34 for 220 yards and a touchdown.

McCluster had 85 yards on 15 carries to lead Ole Miss on the ground. Kenny Miles paced the USC rushing attack with 13 carries for 52 yards.

USC defensive specialist Eric Norwood ended the Rebels' first drive with his school-record 27th sack. He had 10 tackles on the night.

Kendrick Lewis led Ole Miss with eight tackles, while Cassius Vaughn, Johnny Brown, Jonathan Cornell, and Allen Walker had six each.

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