Baseball is the “game of inches.” Football, a land-acquisition struggle, is more of a game of acres.
But South Carolina’s 16-10 victory over No. 4 Mississippi tonight did hinge on a couple inches.
It always hard to say that one or two plays made or broke a game — especially if you are talking about the second quarter — but in this case, it’s true.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the first half and the score deadlocked at 3-3, Ole Miss punt returner Marshay Green expertly knifed through the heart of the Gamecock coverage team. He only had one man to beat. But that last man, South Carolina punter Spencer Lanning, somehow got a hold of Green’s Nikes in the open field and saved the day.
Instead of a breaking the game open via a 67-yard touchdown return, the Rebels set up shop at the USC 31-yard line. Predictably, Mississippi, which had moved the chains on only one of its drives to that point in the contest, wasn’t able to earn a first down.
On fourth-and-three from the Gamecock 24-yard line, the Rebels ran a fake field goal with holder Justin Sparks shoveling a pass to Derrick Davis. The play was blocked perfectly at the point of attack, but South Carolina defensive back Akeem Auguste hustled over from the backside and barely got a finger on Davis’ shoestrings, causing him to topple a few inches shy of the first down.
With all due respect for Gamecock linebacker Eric Norwood and quarterback Stephen Garcia, if not for either of those close-calls on special teams, the Rebels get the spark they desperately needed and are able to escape Williams-Brice Stadium, leaving South Carolina still winless over Top 5 opposition in Columbia.