This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly column written by RTI columnist Lexie Little
Spooky season creeps to a close this week with Halloween on Thursday. But phantom memories will haunt the South Carolina Gamecocks long after a scary loss to Tennessee, 41-21, in Knoxville on Saturday. The Vols, lifeless early in the season with losses to Georgia State and BYU, came back to life in the second half and terrorized a Carolina team that took down then-No. 3 Georgia earlier this month.
Tennessee’s seniors did not let nightmares of other Will Muschamp teams faze them. Wide receiver Jauan Jennings, who scored two touchdowns for the Vols, averaged 24.9 yards per catch for a total of 174 yards on seven receptions. Marquez Callaway took a punt return 65 yards to the checkerboards and picked up 102 receiving yards and a score through the air. Linebacker Daniel Bituli earned 15 total tackles and blocked a punt for a touchdown. And Darrell Taylor sacked South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski twice.
Behind the seniors, the Vols overwhelmed “Scare-olina” as they have before during the last week of October. Take a look back at previous Halloween thrills in “This Week in UT Sports History.”
Oct. 31, 2009
One decade ago, Tennessee’s current offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney, orchestrated a 31-13 win against Steve Spurrier’s No. 21 South Carolina team from the same position in Neyland Stadium. Chaney served as Tennessee’s OC under head coach Lane Kiffin, who notoriously spent only one season with the Vols.
Tennessee treated fans to a win after a notable trick. When the Vols emerged from the tunnel and ran through the T, they donned not the orange jerseys in which they had warmed up, but black jerseys, wearing that color for the first time since 1921. Team captains Eric Berry and Montario Hardesty led the campaign for Halloween jerseys, black with orange numbers to celebrate the holiday.
Hardesty rushed for two touchdowns in the rainy game and totaled his third 100-yard game of his career. He picked up 121 yards on the ground.
“The guys up front got moving on the ball and opening up seams,” Hardesty said of his offensive line. “It was a rainy day, so all my coach was preaching was to take one cut and go.”
The weather made the ball slippery, especially for South Carolina. The Gamecocks fumbled on their first two drives, setting up early scores for Tennessee. The Vols’ offense protected the football, committing no turnovers in the match-up.
The home crowd of 96,263 stayed until 11:14 p.m. that night through light rain and wind to cheer for the men in orange and black against longtime rival Steve Spurrier in the first year post-Phillip Fulmer. Spurrier’s visor didn’t stay on for long.
“We fumbled the ball. We didn’t plan on that, didn’t plan on a lot of the things we did out there,” Spurrier said. “…We just lost the ball.”
The Gamecocks lost the ball, and ultimately, the game.
That season, Tennessee earned a record of 7-6 with notable wins against Georgia (45-19) and an overtime win against Kentucky in Lexington (30-24). Kiffin left Tennessee unexpectedly at the end of the season to take the head coaching job at the University of Southern California. At Tennessee, Kiffin coached alongside his father, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, Chaney, and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, who is now leading the No. 1 LSU Tigers on an undefeated campaign.
Oct. 31, 1953
The stadium near hallowed Hill in Tennessee remained quiet on Halloween in 1953. The Vols traveled to a different hill, Chapel Hill, where they defeated North Carolina 20-6. The Tar Heels’ woes seemingly set a precedent for Tennessee’s Halloween foes: two fumbles led to Tennessee touchdowns, just like the other Carolina’s would 56 years later.
UNC fumbled four times in the match-up. The Vols turned the ball over on two interceptions, but that did not stop the offense from scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter to earn the win.
“The first half of the game was as one-sided in favor of Carolina as was the second half for Tennessee, statistically,” The Rocky Mount Telegram reporter Clarence Lane wrote. “But the Tar Heels just could not push the ball across for a score until near the end of the game, after Tennessee already had run up a comfortable lead.”
North Carolina failed to score until only five minutes remained in the game on a 1-yard crash into the end zone. Tennessee tailback Jim Wade led the charge for the Vols, passing for 21 yards on the first play of the second half before two carries toward the end zone. Wade led the Vols in passing and rushing in 1953, his junior season. He lettered all four years at UT, posting notable numbers against Southeastern Conference foes like 153 rushing yards in a shutout against Alabama, 20-0, in 1952.
In 1953, the Vols tied with Alabama in a scoreless game before routing Louisville, 59-6, in Knoxville. Tennessee followed the North Carolina win with a 32-14 win against LSU for Homecoming. Having gone 8-1-1 a season prior, the 1953 Vols disappointed fans with a 6-4-1 season. Gen. Robert Neyland retired after the 1952 season, and the Vols struggled to find a rhythm under new head coach Harvey Robinson.
Robinson, a North Carolina native, played quarterback at Tennessee from 1931-32. Neyland brought him on as an assistant in 1946. He served as head coach for only two seasons, earning a record of 10-10-1 before going to Florida as an assistant. He would return to Tennessee in 1960 when he resumed his former assistant position coaching the backfield under Bowden Wyatt.
Just as the 1953 Vols defeated LSU on Homecoming, the 2019 Tennessee squad looks to come up with another win against UAB to welcome home alumni and fans. The game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.