Rapid Reaction: Matt Corral leads Ole Miss to offensive shootout victory over South Carolina
Defense was optional in this one, and for much of the game, some of the best players on the field were so wide open, the nearest defender wasn’t in the picture on the television broadcast.
That was the case for Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore who was wide open for a 91-yard touchdown as Ole Miss took a three-point lead with 12:02 to play. By that point, the teams had topped 1,000 yards of total offense. QB Matt Corral topped 500 yards passing with four touchdowns as Ole Miss rolled to a 59-42 victory over South Carolina.
It’s the third straight game that South Carolina has given up big numbers. The Gamecocks gave up 52 points to LSU, 48 to Texas A&M and 59 to Ole Miss.
South Carolina and Ole Miss came into Saturday as 2-4 teams looking for traction following lackluster performances in recent weeks. Their offenses certainly did, but their defenses may have more questions than ever.
Like the Gamecocks have done multiple times this season, they got off to a great start on their opening drive and marched down the field with ease. Then Ole Miss responded with a touchdown of Corral to Dontario Drummond, the Rebels got an interception by AJ Finley on a bad pass by Collin Hill, and Corral cashed in with another touchdown.
Aside from that interception, the first half was a back-and-forth shootout where each team responded with a big play to answer the opponent.
One of the guys right in the middle of it was South Carolina RB Kevin Harris, who topped 200 rushing yards by the time he scored his fourth touchdown of the game late in the third quarter. But just after Harris scored his fourth TD, Corral hit Braylon Sanders on a 57-yard pass, then Jerrion Ealy slashed in from 12 yards out to score on the next play.
— chip (@chip49923165) November 15, 2020
Harris scored on touchdown runs of 46, 1, 1, 44 and 12 yards. Harris rushed the ball 21 times for 211 yards and four touchdowns in just the first three quarters of action against Ole Miss, a school record at South Carolina. Harris was far from done as he added a fifth score, and by then had 22 carries for 223 yards.
In a bit of foreshadowing to start the game, the Rebels began 2-for-2 on fourth down, including a fourth and eight play where Corral found Elijah Moore for a 23-yard pass. Corral had a strong start, with a 13-for-15 beginning for 131 yards and two TDs by midway through the second quarter.
South Carolina opened the quarterback job this week as Hill struggled in losses to LSU and Texas A&M. But he won the battle with Ryan Hilinski, and the only incompletion on his first eight passes on Saturday was the interception.
The end of the first half was a potential game-changing sequence. Ole Miss got a field goal as time expires, but only after a sequence of three plays went against the Gamecocks. It all made coach Will Muschamp irate as he barked at the officials when one second remained on the clock.
After Ole Miss RB Snoop Conner was whistled out of bounds with one second remaining, the Rebels tacked on the field goal. But that came only after two plays earlier when Corral appeared to be sacked before he released a pass, but instead the play was ruled incomplete and the clock stopped at 18 seconds.
Corral then found Conner for a 27-yard pass as he ran down the sideline and eventually got out of bounds at the South Carolina 5-yard line. On the play before that, South Carolina’s Jammie Robinson was flagged for pass interference on a play involving Ole Miss WR Kenny Yeboah.
Ole Miss didn’t punt in the first half, and averaged 7.7 yards per play, but the Gamecocks only punted once and averaged 8.2 yards per play.
Also in the first half, South Carolina DB Israel Mukuamu was injured and left the game. After halftime, he was in sweat pants on the sideline.
— TJ (@TJOxley1) November 15, 2020
With a long list of defensive problems, fourth down was especially troubling for South Carolina, which entered the game tops in the SEC in fourth down stops. But Ole Miss was 4-for-4 on fourth down by the time the Rebels extended their lead to 31-21 early in the third quarter.