South Carolina 27, Tennessee 24
What Happened: Just when it seemed like Tennessee was about to pull off something big on the road, South Carolina came roaring back. The Vols got up 21-9 early on the third on a 14-yard touchdown run from Carlin Fils-Aime – and helped by two Jarrett Guarnatano touchdown passes, but the Gamecocks got hot.
Rico Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams each ran for short scores to tie it at 24 going into the fourth, and Parker White capped off a drive with a 25-yard field goal to give USC the lead for good. The Vols had their chances late, but the Gamecocks came up with two late stops to hang on.
What Mattered: South Carolina QB Jake Bentley was fine – hitting 11-of-16 passes for 152 yards and a score with a pick – but it was the running game that took over. Dowdle tore off 140 yards on just 13 carries, and Williams provided a little help with 34 yards to share the work.
– Guarantano was fine. He completed 27-of-39 passes for 207 yard and two touchdowns, but when the O needed a scoring drive late, he wasn’t able to come through. Give the Gamecock defense some credit for coming up large on a few key third down plays after struggling earlier. Tennessee was stopped on both of its fourth down tries.
– The Vols held the ball for over 38 minutes, and they got off to a great start, but the running game wasn’t quite there to grind things down. It was effective – running for 144 yards averaging 4.2 yards per carry – but it wasn’t explosive.
Thoughts: The Gamecocks are struggling to make things easy, but they were able to be on the right side of a close game after losing to Texas A&M by three. They might be out of the SEC title chase, but they’re grinding along at home. Now the slate get nasty with three of the last four games on the road.
They needed this. They have UT Chattanooga on the schedule, but they still need one more win, and they’re going to have to get it on the road against Ole Miss, Florida, or Clemson.
– The Vols are now effectively done in the bowl hunt. Had they pulled this off, they’d have been in with the schedule ahead. Now they have to win three of their last four games against Charlotte, Kentucky, Missouri and at Vanderbilt.
Okay, so they’re starting to play well enough to do it, but they have to be able to close – or put together a full 60 minutes each week.