Columbia, S.C. Another week, another Top 5 tumble.
This time, it was fourth-ranked Mississippi caught by surprise, beaten 16-10 by South Carolina on Thursday night.
“I’m glad it’s over with so everyone can just stop talking about it,” Rebels offensive lineman Bradley Sowell said.
Sowell or his teammates won’t have to worry about that. All he’ll hear the next few days is how far down the Rebels (2-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) might slide when the new rankings arrive.
And it’ll bring up the same sick feeling felt by No. 3 Oklahoma after losing to BYU in week one, or No. 5 Oklahoma State after a loss to Houston on Sept. 12, or, just a week ago, by No. 3 Southern Cal after getting upset at Washington.
The Rebels entered with their highest ranking since Archie Manning was quarterback in 1970. They left with their eight-game losing streak gone, along with any sense they could challenge for the national title.
“I never did sense that we were feeling a lot of pressure,” coach Houston Nutt said. “Now it is what it is. You’ve lost your first conference game. You’ve got to work hard and win the next conference game.”
That’ll could be difficult unless Jevan Snead and the offense perk up. They entered averaging 48 points and 424 yards a game its first two weeks, but except for a fourth-quarter stretch, couldn’t solve South Carolina’s defense.
The Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1) had been 1-31 all-time against Top 5 foes, but left Williams-Brice Stadium with the biggest win of coach Steve Spurrier’s five seasons.
Spencer Lanning kicked three field goals and fullback Patrick DiMarco had a key two-yard TD catch for the Gamecocks.
“It was good to get a win when everybody watches,” Spurrier said. “It was good for all Gamecocks.”
Ole Miss had one last chance at a go-ahead TD that would’ve extended its eight-game winning streak. But Snead was sacked by Cliff Matthews, then had a fourth-down pass knocked away by Darian Stewart.
The Gamecocks jumped around when the game ended, celebrating a victory these players had never enjoyed before at their own stadium. South Carolina’s lone top-5 win came at North Carolina in 1981.
“It was a pretty ugly win, but a win and we’ll take it every time,” Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia said.
Snead came into the season with a Tim Tebow-like buzz.
Snead, though, flopped in front a national audience eager to see what the Rebels were made of.
The Ole Miss junior missed six straight throws during one stretch and only once came through with a critical play. His 45-yard TD pass to Markeith Summers with under 10 minutes left in the game that cut it to 16-10.
South Carolina’s defense had to come through after that because the offense, which controlled things for much of the first three quarters went three-and-out on its final four possessions.
Snead’s 11-yard pass to Pat Patterson brought Ole Miss to the Gamecocks 32 with 2:55 to play. Then Nutt tried to outfox South Carolina.
A carry by Brandon Bolden out of the “Wild Rebel” package went for a yard. A double reverse to Dexter McCluster lost four yards.
Matthews followed with his sack of Snead before Stewart preserved the win by batting down the final pass.