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Nov. 1, 2003

Box Score?|? Photo Gallery

AP Sports Writer

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi offense is playing championship caliber football. The defense still needs work if the Rebels hope to win the SEC West for the first time.

Eli Manning threw for 391 yards and three first-half touchdowns and No. 20 Mississippi withstood a late 28-point outburst to beat South Carolina 43-40 Saturday.

The Rebels (7-2) remained in first place in the West and improved to 5-0 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time since 1963 – the last time Ole Miss took the league title.

The Rebels’ next two games are against Auburn and LSU, their two closest competitors in the West. They know three quarters of good football won’t be enough against the Tigers – either of them.

“I think it was a wake-up call that we needed,” defensive tackle Jesse Mitchell. “To let ourselves know we’ve got to work and get better, because things like this can happen.”

The Rebels took a 43-14 lead in the third quarter before South Carolina (5-4, 2-4) scored touchdowns on four straight possessions.

“I was trying to figure out what was going on. What we needed to do?” said Rebels running back Tremaine Turner, who ran for two touchdowns.

Dondrial Pinkins led South Carolina, going 14-for-32 for a career-high 298 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Pinkins, from his own end zone, went deep down the right sideline to a wide-open Matthew Thomas for a 98-yard touchdown pass that made it 43-33 with 6:08 left in the game.

Then Pinkins found Noah Whiteside in the back of the end zone for a 20-yard TD pass to make it 43-40 with 1:40 left.

Finally, Ole Miss ran the clock out before the Gamecocks could get another chance.

After a terrible start, the Ole Miss defense made great strides during October. The Rebels allowed 52 points while going 4-0.


Noah Whiteside makes a touchdown catch over Mississippi’s Von Hutchins (5) in the fourth quarter.



The first game of November looked a lot like September for a defense that came in ranked 116th against the pass.

“This is happening too much for this to be an accident,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Chuck Driesbach said.

South Carolina coach Lou Holtz didn’t want to give his team too much credit for not quitting.

“You’re supposed to play hard when you’re down,” he said. “I’m proud that they hung in there – that I am.”

Manning finished 30-for-42 with an interception. Chris Collins had 10 catches for 125 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns.

Turner ran for a career-high 117 yards on 25 carries in his busiest game of the season.

His 10-yard TD around the left side with 7:40 left in the third quarter, made it 36-14.

And when Brandon Jacobs ran in from 7 yards out three minutes later, the Rebels appeared to be cruising.

But Pinkins and the Gamecocks made Ole Miss sweat out its fifth straight victory.

Not until Manning sneaked for a first down on third-and-inches with about a minute left could the Rebels finally celebrate.

“It all worked out in the end,” Turner said. “We found a way to win.”

The Gamecocks kept up with the SEC’s highest scoring offense early on as Pinkins matched Manning TD pass for TD pass. They each threw two in the first quarter.

“Eli Manning and the Rebels were moving the ball well and putting points on the board,” Pinkins said. “We knew we had to get moving and put points on the board. We knew we could get things going, it just turned out to be too late.”

A bad call by the officials seemed to derail the Gamecocks.

The Rebels were credited with a safety when Pinkins was called for intentional grounding in the end zone early in the second quarter.

There was one problem. Pinkins was at least a yard in front of the end zone when he let go of the ball under duress. He did land behind the goal line.

The play gave the Rebels a 23-14 Rebels lead.

Holtz said he didn’t realize Pinkins wasn’t in the end zone. He was complaining because he thought there was a receiver in the area and no grounding should have been called.

Manning capped a 260-yard first half with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Kerry Johnson, who ran over a defender to get into the end zone and make it 30-14 right before the break.

“Our offense is confident in what we’ve been able to do,” Manning said. “We’ve had to do it different ways. We now know we can win a game by scoring only 17 or by scoring 43.”