OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics/WTVA) - Senior quarterback Jordan Ta’amu eclipsed 3,000 career passing yards and junior running back Scottie Phillips ran for three touchdowns, but Ole Miss football fell to South Carolina, 48-44, Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Ta’amu finished 31-for-46 on the day with 379 yards in the air and 66 on the ground, while rookie Elijah Moore (129 yards) set the Ole Miss freshman single-game reception record with 11.
Junior A.J. Brown eclipsed the 100-yard mark with 115 yards and six catches. Phillips rushed 21 times for 141 yards in addition to his three scores on the stat sheet.
South Carolina (5-3, 4-3 SEC) put points on the board before the offense even took the field. Sophomore Luke Logan attempted to kick away from the Gamecocks’ dangerous returner, Deebo Samuel. The ball ultimately bounced to Samuel anyway, and he returned it all the way back to put the Gamecocks up 7-0.
Ole Miss (5-4, 1-4 SEC) responded with a field-goal drive, establishing the run early on its first possession. Phillips notched a 26-yard rush on the drive, while Ta’amu ran for an 11-yard gain. The Rebels’ signal caller also hit Moore twice on the first drive to spark a tremendous day for the rookie in his first career start.
The Gamecock offense found success early. Quarterback Jake Bentley (22-for-32, 363 yards, two touchdowns) connected with Ty’Son Williams on a 50-yard gain, and two plays later, Williams punched in a 2-yard score to make it a 14-3 game.
The Rebels were moving the ball well on their following drive, traversing inside the South Carolina 10-yard line. However, a missed connection between Ta’amu and Phillips on a swing pass went down as a fumble was recovered by the Gamecocks. South Carolina turned the turnover into three points to make it a 17-3 advantage.
The Ole Miss offense answered back. Ta’amu hit Moore for gains of 23 and 10 on consecutive plays to fuel the drive, and Phillips punctuated it with a 9-yard rushing score to make it 17-10. The Rebel defense then made its first stop of the afternoon as a Keidron Smith pass breakup halted the Gamecocks shy of midfield.
After the punt, it was more of the Ta’amu-Moore connection. The freshman receiver pulled down receptions of 26 and 21 yards, and senior DaMarkus Lodge added a 17-yard catch to set up a 26-yard Logan field goal.
South Carolina quickly responded with a 75-yard touchdown strike on a spectacular catch by Gamecock receiver Bryan Edwards (team-high 109 yards). Ole Miss came back with big plays of its own, though. A.J. Brown pulled down a 46-yard reception, and Ta’amu bolted past the Gamecock defense for a 17-yard touchdown to make it a 24-20 game.
The Ole Miss defense bent but didn’t break on the following drive, stopping South Carolina at the 6-yard line and forcing a field goal to make it 27-20. With 2:01 left on the clock before halftime, Ole Miss had no trouble tying it up. Phillips was the man of the drive, rushing for 37 yards early in the series before punching in the 1-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal with just 10 seconds left before the half, knotting the game at 27-27.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair, beginning with a Logan 31-yard field goal, giving Ole Miss their first lead of the game at 30-27.
South Carolina responded quickly with a 5-yard touchdown catch from Josh Vann over the middle.
Neither team would score on their next possession, including a Gamecock three-and-out. Ole Miss would regain the lead at 37-34 with a misdirection play and two-yard rushing touchdown by Phillips.
The Rebels extended its lead to 44-34 on its following drive, capped off by an Isaiah Woullard 1-yard rush.
Samuel set up South Carolina nicely on the following drive with a 38-yard kick return. A.J. Turner found the end zone with a 3-yard rush, narrowing the gap to 44-41 Ole Miss.
After three scoreless combined possessions, South Carolina executed the go-ahead drive. Mon Denson (102 yards, 12 rushes) set up the Gamecocks with a 69-yard rush on the first play of the drive. Quarterback Bentley ended the drive with a 4-yard rush pushing USC ahead, 48-44.
Ole Miss ran into its third straight three-and-out, but had one final chance thanks to a Mohamed Sanogo sack on third down. Sanogo led Ole Miss with 11 tackles and the sack.
Incompletions to Brown and senior Floyd Allen ended the game at midfield.
Ole Miss returns to action next Saturday, Nov. 10 at Texas A&M, with the time and network to be announced.