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Sept. 24, 2009

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BLOG: Redemption Song

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)–Mississippi wasn’t ready for the Top 5–or South Carolina’s defense.

Star passer Jevan Snead was hounded all game and the fourth-ranked Rebels never got in gear, losing to South Carolina 16-10 Thursday night.

South Carolina (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) 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 a key 2-yard TD catch for the Gamecocks.

Ole Miss (2-1, 0-1) 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 Rebels began the day with their highest ranking in nearly four decades. But they lost their SEC opener for the sixth straight season–and will likely drop down the polls once the new rankings come out.

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.

Snead came into the season with a Tim Tebow-like buzz–Spurrier even voted him preseason first-team SEC quarterback before changing to Tebow.

Snead, though, flopped in front a national audience eager to see what the Rebels were made of.

The Ole Miss senior 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 Gamecock 32 with 2:55 to play. Then coach Houston 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 yards.

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

Snead had thrown at least two TD passes in each of his past eight games. He finished this game 7 of 21 for 107 yards.

Right from the start, Snead and the Rebels looked tight. They had only four drives in the opening half, three that ended without a first down.

Eric Norwood ended the Rebels’ first drive with his school-record 27th sack.

Snead passed for just 30 yards as the Rebels were outgained by South Carolina 181-71 in the first 30 minutes.

Bolden appeared to get things going with a 59-yard touchdown run. A holding penalty, however, brought that back and the Rebels eventually settled for their only points of the half on Joshua Shene’s 42-yard field goal.

Mississippi came close to scoring just once more, but instead of another field goal, Nutt went with a fake. Holder Justin Sparks’ pass to Derrick Davis came up 2 yards shy of a first down.

The Gamecocks had more plays and more yardage. They, too, though had trouble finding the end zone.

Stephen Garcia fumbled away one drive after a sack on Ole Miss 16 in the first quarter. An illegal shift on the Rebels’ 4 led to Lanning’s first field goal.

Freshman receiver Tori Gurley caught Garcia’s pass and took it in for a 12-yard score right before halftime. But South Carolina was flagged for an ineligible receiver downfield. Lanning converted a 20-yard field goal to put the Gamecocks ahead 6-3 at the break.