COLUMBIA, S.C. – While disappointed in an offense that found no rhythm until late in the game, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt praised a defense that gave his team a chance to win Thursday night.
The Rebels gained only 248 yards in a 16-10 loss to South Carolina but gave up just 285 yards.
Cornerback Cassius Vaughn, demoted after the Memphis game, regained his starting position and responded with six tackles and three pass break-ups.
The Rebels also got strong play from backup end Emmanuel Stephens, who had four tackles, a half sack, a tackle for a loss, a forced fumble and a pressure.
“Our defense played their hearts out. When you hold them to 16 points you’re supposed to win that game,” Nutt said. “I was proud of how hard they fought. They played extremely well.”
The Rebels got pressure against Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia in the first quarter and weakened him with a blow to the ribs.
South Carolina’s second possession ended at the Ole Miss 27 after 5 minutes, 6 seconds of clock time when Stephens hit Garcia, forced a fumble, and Ted Laurent recovered.
The Gamecocks held the ball for 12:18 in the second quarter but produced only two field goals. They were 4-for-8 on third-down conversions in the second quarter.
Garcia bought some time with short drops and roll-outs and was protected in the pocket enough to complete a 24-yard pass to Tori Gurley en route to the Gamecocks’ first field goal.
Also in the second quarter Garcia had success throwing to open spaces when the Rebels were bringing pressure.
Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix didn’t believe South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s familiarity with Nix, for whom Nix coached from 2005-2007, was a factor. Nix credited Garcia for making plays.
“No, I think the quarterback just made a play. We called a couple of pressures, and they converted. The quarterback found a weak spot in the zone or man and made the throw,” Nix said.
South Carolina penetrated the Ole Miss 5-yard line twice in the second quarter, but each time penalties forced the Gamecocks back, and they settled for field goals of 26 and 20 yards.
Garcia was just 4-for-12 in the second half, but he got the Gamecocks across the goalline. Carolina started at the Ole Miss 25 after Jevan Snead was sacked and fumbled. On third-and-goal from the 2 Garcia found fullback Patrick DiMarco releasing off the right side for the touchdown.
With the Gamecocks’ No. 2 quarterback home with the flu, Garcia finished 16-for-34 for 220 yards. He was sacked four times.
South Carolina rushed for 65 yards, averaging 1.9 yards per carry.
“We did some good things,” Nix said. “We missed some tackles, one on a long run for sure where we had the guy in the backfield and let him get out. You can’t do that. A good defense makes those tackles and gets off the field. It comes down to blocking and tackling and playing your assignments. They were a little better than us.”
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