Scores

Final

South Carolina 31

(4-2, 1-2 SEC)

Ole Miss 24

(3-3, 1-2 SEC)

Coverage: GamePlan

2:00 PM ET, October 4, 2008

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, MS

1 2 3 4 T
SC 3 14 7 731
MISS 14 7 0 324

Top Performers

Passing: C. Smelley (SC) - 327 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: D. McCluster (MISS) - 8 CAR, 40 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: J. Barnes (SC) - 7 REC, 76 YDS, 2 TD

South Carolina's top-ranked defense holds off Ole Miss

Associated Press

OXFORD, Miss. -- Chris Smelley threw three touchdown passes, South Carolina's No. 1 defense held Mississippi to a field goal in the second half and the Gamecocks beat the Rebels 31-24 on Saturday.

Given the starting job over backup Stephen Garcia on Thursday, Smelley completed 22 of 31 passes for a career-high 327 yards and led an 11-play, 95-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter to put away Ole Miss, which stumbled a week after knocking off then-No. 4 Florida.

The Rebels (3-3, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) appeared to take control early, but a pair of fumbles helped the Gamecocks (4-2, 1-2) earn a critical win that kept them from exiting the SEC East race in early October.

Smelley, pulled early rom the UAB game last week by coach Steve Spurrier in favor of Garcia, made several strong throws in the game and only one big mistake, a third-quarter interception that didn't hurt South Carolina.

After Smelley hit Jason Barnes with a touchdown pass on third-and-goal from the 20 early in the second quarter, Gamecocks defensive lineman Nathan Peppers scooped up Jevan Snead's fumble and returned it 29 yards for a 14-point swing in exactly a minute that gave South Carolina a 17-14 lead.

Ole Miss answered to take a 21-14 halftime lead on a 24-yard pass from Snead to Brandon Bolden, but another fumble in the second half turned the game for the Gamecocks.

Chris Culliver forced Dexter McCluster to fumble at the South Carolina 6 midway through the third quarter. Emmanuel Cook returned the fumble to the 42. It was McCluster's second critical fumble near the opponent's goal line in the last three games. A similar play at the 1 helped Vanderbilt beat Ole Miss two weeks ago.

Smelley was especially sharp on the ensuing drive, converting a pair of first downs with quarterback sneaks, including fourth-and-inches at the Ole Miss 10. That set up the second of his two touchdown passes to Barnes, a 6-yarder that put the Gamecocks up 24-21.

After Ole Miss downed the ball at the 5 following a punt on the ensuing drive, Smelley and tailback Mike Davis marched South Carolina down the field. Davis rushed for 28 yards on the drive and Smelley hit 5 of 6 passes for 54 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Joe Hills.

The Gamecocks were the nation's top defense entering the game, allowing 105 yards passing and 221 total yards per game coming in. But the Rebels surpassed both marks by halftime. Snead completed 12 of 15 passes for 154 yards by the break and the team added another 78 yards rushing, including 29 yards and a 5-yard touchdown by McCluster out of the Wild Rebel formation.

In the second half, however, a Gamecocks defense led by Cook's 14 tackles held the Rebels to 129 yards and a field goal.

Fittingly, South Carolina finished off the Rebels with Carlos Thomas' drive-ending interception in the final minute.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Team Stat Comparison

 
SC
MISS
1st Downs2021
Total Yards405361
Passing327243
Rushing78118
Penalties7-542-20
3rd Down Conversions7-137-13
4th Down Conversions1-21-1
Turnovers13
Possession31:2128:39

Passing Leaders

South CarolinaC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Smelley22/3232710.231
Ole MissC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Snead21/322437.611

Rushing Leaders

South CarolinaCARYDSAVGTDLG
Davis19733.8016
Wallace5193.8011
Ole MissCARYDSAVGTDLG
McCluster8405.0112
Bolden10363.6014

Receiving Leaders

South CarolinaRECYDSAVGTDLG
Cook38829.3063
Barnes77610.9220
Ole MissRECYDSAVGTDLG
McCluster69916.5034
Hodge44711.8024

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERSCMISS
TD11:55Cordera Eason 8 Yd Run (Joshua Shene Kick) 07
FG06:46Ryan Succop 48 Yd 37
TD01:49Dexter Mccluster 5 Yd Run (Joshua Shene Kick) 314
SECOND QUARTERSCMISS
TD14:07Jason Barnes 20 Yd Pass From Chris Smelley (Ryan Succop Kick) 1014
TD13:07Nathan Pepper 29 Yd Fumble Return (Ryan Succop Kick) 1714
TD05:58Brandon Bolden 24 Yd Pass From Jevan Snead (Joshua Shene Kick) 1721
THIRD QUARTERSCMISS
TD01:51Jason Barnes 6 Yd Pass From Chris Smelley (Ryan Succop Kick) 2421
FOURTH QUARTERSCMISS
TD08:37Joe Hills 4 Yd Pass From Chris Smelley (Ryan Succop Kick) 3121
FG03:48Joshua Shene 37 Yd 3124