The Tennessee Football program suffered its fifth straight loss in SEC play, falling 38-35 to the South Carolina Gamecocks. This marks the third straight year the Vols have opened 0-5 in the SEC.
Before 2010, the last time UT opened SEC play 0-5, was in 1977.
The South Carolina Gamecocks can celebrate snapping their two game loss streak now. Just three short weeks ago, this team looked like they had a legitimate shot at an SEC—and possibly a national—title.
Now, they must temper their win celebration over Tennessee. The win comes with the realization their best offensive player may be lost for remainder of the year.
Marcus Lattimore was carried off the field shortly before halftime. He appeared to have suffered another serious knee injury—this time to his right knee—after being tackled by a UT defender on a short gain. Later, news came that Lattimore had been transferred to the hospital for additional treatment.
In a scene seldom witnessed in sports, the University of Tennessee defensive players on the field at the time of the injury, came over to wish Lattimore well as he lay being treated on the field.
They were quickly joined by the majority of both benches, and all received a warm applause from the Carolina fans.
Though definitive word has yet to be received, it seems very likely that the injury Lattimore suffered was serious. How it will affect him the rest of this year—or for his career—was still unknown at the time of this writing.
Unlike last week versus Alabama, the Vols were very competitive in this game.
The Tennessee offensive line was out-standing in this game.
South Carolina has the premiere pass rusher in college football in Jadeveon Clowney. Until the final 1:30 of the game, he was not a real factor.
The Vols had 472 total yards of offense for the game. They ran for an average of 3.4 yards per rush—91 yards on 27 runs—and had 23 first downs.
Tennessee quarterback, Tyler Bray was 27-of-43 for 368 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Freshman receiver Alton (Pig) Howard also completed one pass for 13 yards and a touchdown.
Bray was hurried only a few times. In most situations he had all the time he needed to find his receivers and deliver the ball.
The Tennessee defense. Once again, they gave up over 500 total yards (515). And the 38 points scored by the Gamecocks is near the UT average of 42 to SEC teams this year.
Still, the defense did make more stops than against Alabama. They did get the ball back for the offense enough to allow them to get back in the game. They even got it back enough for the Vols to catch up from deficits of 21-7, 28-14 and 35-21.
A definite improvement over the Alabama game. Comparable to the Mississippi State and Georgia games. Though they gave up some huge plays and made the opposing quarterbacks look like Heisman candidates, they did get the ball back late.
Which leads us to-
The heart-breaking way the Vols lost. Let me set it up.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Vols scored on the 13 yard pass from Alton Howard to Tight End Micah Rivera, to trim the score to 35-28, Gamecocks, with 14:55 to play.
About four minutes later, South Carolina had a first and goal at the Tennessee seven yard line. For the first time in the game, one team held the other to a field goal try.
Adam Yates connected on the 36 yard field goal after a UT sack ended Coach Steve Spurrier's hopes of going for a touchdown. With 10:00 to go, it was South Carolina 38, UT 28.
With 8:35 to play, Bray hit Zack Rogers with his third touchdown catch of the game and it was 38-35, Gamecocks. Carolina's next possession ended with 4:46 to play, when they punted UT down to their own 19 yard line.
Nine plays later, the Vols had the ball at the South Carolina 19, first and 10, with about 1:10 to play. On the verge of winning or at least tying the game, it happened.
For the first and only time all day, the best pass rusher in college football, Jadeveon Clowney, beat Volunteer Sophomore Tackle Antonio Richardson around the corner.
Clowney slapped the ball out of Bray's hand just as it got cocked to throw to an open receiver in the end zone. Fumble. Recovery, South Carolina.
Three plays and timeouts later, UT got the ball back inside their 20. On the second play, Bray was intercepted, end of game.