The forecast for Knoxville Saturday was for rain. And rain it did, as in passes thrown by Tennessee quarterbacks over and through a besieged Gamecock secondary. That passing attack and a staunch defense propelled the Vols to a 41-21 win over the Gamecocks, their first ever win over Will Muschamp in his eight games as a head coach at USC and Florida. The Vols also broke a three game losing streak in the series. The Gamecocks fall to 3-5 overall, 2-4, and now will have to win three of their final four games to become bowl eligible, and that means they’ll have to defeat either Texas A&M on the road or Clemson at home to achieve that, assuming they win their home games against Vanderbilt and Appalachian State.
Here’s my postgame Periscope recap from Neyland Stadium:
Here’s some key points on why the Gamecocks lost to the Vols
- Tennessee came in with the 101st ranked passing attack in the country. Jarrett Guarantano and TJ Shrout, subbing for injured starter Brian Maurer, combined for 351 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. Tennessee’s receivers found little resistance from the Gamecocks secondary and big holes in the middle of the field, and they took advantage of that.
- The Vols thrived on the big play to receivers Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway. Jennings caught 7 passes for 174 yards including touchdowns of 48 and 19 yards. Callaway had 3 catches for 102 yards with a 55 yard touchdown catch.
- Two breakdowns in the punt game led to 14 points. Joseph Charlton boomed a second quarter punt 55 yards only to out kick his coverage and see Callaway take it to the house for 55 yards. And early in the fourth quarter, with the Gamecocks down 13, Daniel Bituli recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown that put the game on ice.
- The Gamecocks got away from their offensive balance in the second half. In building their first half lead, they had 21 runs and 19 passes. But they had only 5 rushes in quarter three and 9 for the second half. Tavien Feaster had 80 yards on 19 carries.
- Ryan Hillinski finished with 319 passing yards but he was only 28-51 including six straight incompletions to end the game. He fired a bullet to Shi Smith on the game’s first play that went for a 75 yard score, but his longest completion after that was 19 yards. And he was sacked 3 times. The Gamecock defense did not sack the Tennessee quarterbacks.
- FINAL STATS
Here’s what the Gamecocks had to say after the game