OXFORD • On a night that Ole Miss honored the military it showed almost no defense at all.
But Matt Corral was the leader the Rebels’ needed.
The sophomore quarterback set a school record with 513 passing yards, and the Rebels defeated South Carolina 59-42 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday night.
The back-breaker for the Gamecocks came when Corral passed 25 yards to Elijah Moore on a fourth-and-10 with 3 minutes, 40 seconds to play.
That put the Rebels ahead by three possessions 59-42.
It wasn’t always a pretty Ole Miss offense, but the Rebels often overcame penalties with big plays.
Corral was 28 for 32 with four touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception, and he scored on a 3-yard run.
He did fumble inside the 5 when hit from the blind side.
Even then he was able to get the Rebels in position for a short field goal and a 24-21 halftime lead after starting from the Rebels’ 38 with 44 seconds left.
As usual, Elijah Moore was on the receiving end of many of Corral’s big plays and had 13 catches for 225 yards.
Moore was wide-open behind the Gamecocks’ defense in the early minutes of the fourth quarter for a 91-yard touchdown. That play put him over 1,000 receiving yards for the season and gave Ole Miss a 45-42 lead.
“I just didn’t want to mess up that throw. The kid is special, man,” said Corral, who audibled on the play.
What Corral and Moore almost could not overcome was a defense that gave up six touchdowns in its first eight possessions and surrendered a 10-point lead in the second half.
After building a 31-21 lead with 10:34 left in the third the Gamecocks (2-5) scored back-to-back touchdowns to lead 35-31.
South Carolina running back Kevin Harris, the third-leading rusher in the SEC when the night began, had 243 yards on 25 carries and a school-record five rushing touchdowns.
Sometimes Harris’ runs were due to pre-snap motion and play-calling from the South Carolina’s I formation. Other times the Gamecocks just whipped the Rebels at the line of scrimmage.
“We did not play very good at all, and that was not easy to watch,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said. “Luckily we made some plays at the end and had a historic day offensively.”
South Carolina rushed for 318 yards, but when the Gamecocks felt the need to pass the Rebels had opportunities.
A third-down sack of Collin Hill by Lakia Henry and Ryder Anderson and consecutive incompletions on the Gamecocks’ next possession allowed Ole Miss to build a cushion late
Kiffin focused on his offense.
“You’re looking at amazing football over the last two games,” he said. “It was an awesome win against a quality opponent. Those are the most fun to win when you’re going back and forth. It was good to see our guys come back and make plays at the end of the game to win.”
There were six touchdowns and little defense in a first half that ended with the Rebels ahead by a field goal.
The only punt of the half came when South Carolina could not advance Corral’s fumble and punted from its goalline.
Ole Miss started its field goal drive from its 38 with 44 seconds left.
Corral said he doesn’t dwell on records but enjoys them just the same.
“The notoriety in school history, that’s cool to me really. God is good. It’s a blessing to be in this spot, to be around these people and the coaches that I have,” he said. “You can’t make this up. It just fell into my lap, and all I can do is thank God.”