• Scouts from the Cardinals, Ravens, Texans, Patriots, Saints, Giants and Bucs are in attendance here at Williams-Brice Stadium.
• Reps from the Taxslayer, Outback, Citrus and Belk Bowls are here.
• In somewhat of an odd pre-game scene, several UT players including A.J. Johnson, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Jakob Johnson were out on the field in warm-ups without their shirts on.
• As expected, South Carolina is out in all black uniforms with white helmets. The Vols are in the Storm Trooper (all white) look.
• Justin Worley is not on the field dressed. Joshua Dobbs is still expected to start and took the first-team reps. Nathan Peterman will back him up, Mike Wegzyn will be the No. 3 and Patrick Ashford, also the holder, will be the emergency No. 4.
• Based on the pre-game warm-ups, the starting offensive line will be (L to R) Kyler Kerbyson, Marcus Jackson, Mack Crowder, Jashon Robertson and Jacob Gilliam. Only 10 linemen made the strip. Brett Kendrick, Thomas Edwards, Dylan Wiesman, Marques Pair and Austin Sanders are the others (no Dontavius Blair).
• LaDarrell McNeil and Emmanuel Moseley worked with the starters on defense.
1st Quarter (Tied 7-7):
Both teams stalled on their opening drives. UT started (L to R) Kyler Kerbyson, Marcus Jackson, Mack Crowder, Jashon Robertson and Jacob Gilliam on the offensive line. As expected, Josh Dobbs was the starting QB and he had a few inaccurate throws early. South Carolina struck first on their second possession of the game. A 34-yard catch and run by running back Mike Davis brought the Gamecocks into UT territory. Pharoh Cooper took it from there. He caught a 15-yard pass and then lined up in the wildcat three straight times, taking the third snap untouched into the end zone to give SC the early 7-0 lead. The Vols responded with a nice drive, but it came up short. A nice catch by Von Pearson set the Vols up inside the red zone, but even after making it all the way to the 1, Jalen Hurd was stuffed twice, turning the ball back over. But the Vols got the ball right back when Justin Coleman intercepted an errant Dylan Thompson pass on the first play of the next drive. The Vols again got it back in the red zone, and this time capitalized. Hurd lined up in the Thundering Hurd wildcat look, pitched it to Pig Howard, who went all the way back to the 11, but found the corner for the TD.
2nd Quarter (UT leads 21-14): The Vols took the lead in the second quarter after a nice 80-yard drive. The Vols mixed in several nice third-down conversions, including a rocket of a throw from Dobbs to Howard that moved UT into scoring territory. Several nice runs got the Vols closer and Dobbs finished the job with a 7-yard touchdown run after a fake to Hurd. South Carolina answered. Steve Spurrier dialed up a brilliant call where Pharoh Cooper lined up at the wildcat, faked the run to the right side and Brandon Wilds slipped out of the backfield. Cooper then hit Wilds for a 30-yard touchdown. After SC threatened to re-take the lead, kicker Elliott Fry snapped a streak of 12 straight made field goals and UT got the ball back with under two minutes to go. Dobbs executed the two-minute drill perfectly, capping it off with a 36-yard run on 4th and 3 to give the Vols the 21-14 edge at the break. Dobbs goes into halftime with 217 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. He hasn’t made all the routine throws, but the offense continues to look more dynamic with him at the helm. The Vols have mixed in the Thundering Hurd look, have used a ton of motion and have been tough to predict with the ball. Cooper is the biggest concern for the Vols on defense. He’s hurt the Vols running, passing and receiving. UT will get the ball to start the second half.
3rd Quarter (SC leads 28-21): UT squandered a chance to take some control of the game early in the half. Dobbs had a run/pass option and had Ryan Jenkins, who has barely seen the field this year, behind the defense, but underthrew him on second down. The Vols settled for a field-goal attempt, which Aaron Medley barely missed with a swirling wind working against him. SC capitalized on the end, again utilizing running back Mike Davis and Cooper to move the ball with relative ease down the field. Back-up running back Brandon Wilds took a 6-yard touchdown run in to tie it at 21 with just over 9:00 left in the third. Tennessee made it back into SC territory the following drive. Then Butch Jones made a critical call that could come back to hurt the Vols. He sent Aaron Medley out for a 45-yard field goal on 4th and 1. Medley, who was fighting some winds (though it had died down some), pushed it and SC took back over. The Gamecocks marched down the field and found Cooper yet again for another touchdown to build a 28-21 lead at the end of the quarter.
4th Quarter (42-42): Pharoh Cooper continued to kill the Vols early. He toasted Justin Coleman for an 85-yard touchdown early in the quarter to extend SC’s lead to 14. Tennessee had a chance to answer, but a nice drive on the ground ended when Dobbs lofted a pass into heavy coverage near the goal line that was picked off. UT’s defense got a stop and this time the Vols were able to punch it in. On 4th and about 6, Dobbs hit Hurd on a middle screen, Hurd broke multiple tackles and took it in for a nice touchdown to pull it back within a touchdown. South Carolina stuck what looked to be the dagger in the next drive. Dylan Thompson converted a 3rd and 18 on the ground and then Brandon Wilds took the next play 70 yards for a TD and the score that put SC up 42-28. The Vols refused to quit, however. Dobbs engineered a 75-yard drive to get it back to one touchdown with just under 2:00 left. The Vols went with the onside kick, didn’t recover it, but got the quick stop. Dobbs then engineered a miraculous last-minute drive, capped off by a pass to a wide-open Jason Croom in the end zone to tie it with :09 remaining.
OT: The Vols got the ball first in OT, got one first down and had to settle for a short field goal by Medley. The Vols got two sacks in the first two plays of SC’s drive, forced an incomplete pass on third down and Elliott Fry’s 57-yard field goal was deflected and fell well short to seal UT’s victory. Huge win for the Vols.
More postgame coverage coming shortly.