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Gamecocks pull Top 5 surprise, beat Ole Miss 16-10

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[September 25, 2009]  COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Steve Spurrier could learn to enjoy winning like this. South Carolina's head ball coach pulled off one of the biggest wins in school history, watching his defense shut down No. 4 Mississippi and star passer Jevan Snead in a 16-10 victory Thursday night.

Spurrier came to the campus in November 2004, ready to light up scoreboards and blast through the Southeastern Conference the way he did for 12 stellar seasons at Florida. Instead, he's watched his defense grit out South Carolina's most significant victories since then.

"Obviously, it was a defensive struggle, and our defense was sensational," Spurrier said with a grin.

With sophomore Stephen Garcia at quarterback, a couple of key freshmen in the backfield and few reliable options at receiver, Spurrier could have to gameplan around his defenders for quite some time.

And why not, particularly with rising stars in linebacker Eric Norwood and defensive end Cliff Matthews.

Norwood set South Carolina's sack record on Ole Miss' first series, wrapping Snead up from the blind side. He added another sack in the second half, and got a piece of a punt that negated what looked like it might be a roughing penalty.


Matthews caught up to Snead on the Rebels' final drive, safety Darian Stewart knocked down Snead's fourth-down pass with 1:20 left to save the game.

"All of us on defense like to go out there and hit," Gamecocks safety Chris Culliver said. "So yeah, that was a big play that we knew he was going to make."

Ole Miss (2-1, 0-1) became the latest victim of what's been a weekly slew of top-5 upsets.

Like No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 5 Oklahoma State and No. 3 Southern Cal the first three weeks, the Rebels will have to regroup and regain their focus.

That might be difficult since the spotlight glows so infrequently in Oxford. The Rebels hadn't been ranked this high since Archie Manning was their star quarterback in 1970.

They were on one of Sports Illustrated's preview covers and Snead was a confident junior who even earned Spurrier's vote -- at least before he changed it to Florida's Tim Tebow after a summertime SEC witchhunt -- for first team preseason quarterback.

But Ole Miss, which had averaged more than 48 points and 424 yards its first two games, managed 10 points and 248 yards against South Carolina. Snead lost his streak of eight straight games -- matching the Rebels' win streak coming in -- with two TD passes or more.

"We got ourselves into bad situations. We did that all throughout the night," he said. "We really hurt ourselves and we continued to do it all throughout the game, into the last series. It's tough."

The Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1) had been 1-31 against top-5 foes, but left Williams-Brice Stadium with the biggest win of Spurrier's five seasons. Spencer Lanning kicked three field goals and fullback Patrick DiMarco a key 2-yard TD catch for the Gamecocks.

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"It was good to get a win when everybody watches," Spurrier said. "It was good for all Gamecocks."

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 might been probably the biggest win here in forever," Garcia said. "I don't know the whole tradition here, but it's the biggest win since I've been here by far."

Snead 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 cut the deficit to 16-10.

South Carolina's defense had to come through after that because the offense, which controlled things much of the first three quarters, went three-and-out its final four drives.

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 4. Matthews followed with his sack of Snead before Stewart preserved the win by batting down the final pass.

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

Along with field goals of 26, 20 and 30 yards, Lanning also made a touchdown-saving tackle on Marshay Green that earned the kicker a game ball and Spurrier's praise.

"Up top, they said, 'Oh, he's gone,'" Spurrier said of Green's punt return. "Somehow, Lanning got him. Saved seven points."

[Associated Press; By PETE IACOBELLI]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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