Spurrier: USC defense was sensational
"It was a wonderful victory for our team, our university, and all Gamecocks," Spurrier said following the Gamecocks' 16-10 victory over the Rebels. "Obviously it was a defensive struggle, and our defense was sensational. Our pass defense (held) their guy (Jevan Snead) to 8-of-22 for 109 yards."
While many figured this game would be a shootout, the Gamecocks were the only team able to establish a consistent attack, with five trips to the red-zone in the game. Despite an inability to consistently score touchdowns inside the 20 yard line, Spurrier said he was still pleased with the way his offense persevered.
"We had a lot of bad things happen, but our guys hung in there and kept fighting," stated Spurrier. "We did manage 16 points and 285 yards or so before the fourth quarter, and we were able to come away with the victory. We're happy and we have a long way to go, but we're excited to get the victory."
Despite an offense that sputtered for much of the second half, the defense consistently stopped the Rebel attack with the exception of Snead's touchdown pass to Markeith Summers. It was a history-setting night not only for the Gamecocks, but for Eric Norwood as well, who set the USC all-time sack record with two sacks in the game.
"Eric Norwood got the career sack record," said Spurrier. "He had pressure on the quarterback all night. He was all over the place. That's how you stop good passing games. We talked about Jevan being a good passer and an NFL quarterback, but when you get good pressure in his face it's hard to throw."
Safety Chris Culliver credited the defense with keeping quarterback Jevan Snead off his rhythm the entire night.
"Yeah, you could see that they were getting really frustrated as the game moved on," proclaimed Culliver. "They had (a) few holding calls and off-sides that really hurt them. Our defense was just relentless tonight, and we brought our best tonight."
Culliver also had positive words for his teammate, safety Darian Stewart, who made the game-winning play on the final fourth down attempt for Ole Miss.
"You know, he always plays like that," Culliver said of Stewart. "He really brings it like that every day in practice. All of us on defense like to go out there and hit. So yeah, that was a big play that we knew he was going to make."
After Cliff Matthews forced a fumble in the third quarter, the Gamecocks were able to turn a short field into 7 points, with Patrick DiMarco catching a touchdown pass on third down. DiMarco's touchdown proved to be the winning margin for the Gamecocks, and the senior fullback said that he was happy to contribute to Carolina history.
"It is huge, and it gives us a lot of confidence that we really need," said DiMarco. "We have had a new slogan since this year started, ‘New Carolina,' where we are going to finish off games. So tonight we proved that we can play with anyone in the nation. I'm proud of the entire team, and the entire organization for pulling this one out."
With an offense that was struggling in the second half, Spurrier said it was nice to be able to rely on a stingy defense to stick out the game and finish the job against Mississippi.
"To hold this team to 10 points is pretty good. One thing our offense did do, we lost one fumble. We only had one turnover. That was helpful."
Although the offense did not score a lot, Spurrier emphasized limiting mistakes as a big part of the game. But when it came down to it, it was Ellis Johnson and his gang that saved the day once again for these Gamecocks.
"Offensively we didn't score, but we were out there challenging, staying on the field and making some first downs," said Spurrier. "We went in a slump from the middle of the third to the rest of the game. We relied on our defense to win the game, simple as that."
- Wide receiver Tori Gurley had his 4th touchdown catch of the year called back in the second quarter, when the Gamecocks were cited for an ineligible receiver downfield.
- Ole Miss had an eight-game win streak snapped in this game, their longest streak since the 1971-72 seasons.
- The Rebels dropped their sixth straight SEC opener.
- Safety Darian Stewart said that he didn't think Snead was the best quarterback the Gamecocks had faced this year, instead choosing North Carolina State's Russell Wilson.
- Defensive tackle Travian Robertson suffered a sprained knee in the game and will be given an MRI tomorrow.
- Spurrier said that the team will receive flu shots tomorrow, and be given the weekend off before returning to practice on Monday.
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