In a cool, rainy evening in Knoxville, the Tennessee Volunteers stormed out to an early lead on mistakes made by the South Carolina Gamecocks and never looked back. This will be a game that haunts South Carolina for a long time, as their four turnovers were the leading factor in their loss to the Vols, as Tennessee scored three touchdowns in the first half on drives immediately following turnovers, then iced the game with a field goal on a drive after the fourth turnover.
If the turnovers are set aside, the teams were roughly equal on the field. South Carolina outgained Tennessee by the modest margin of 365 yards to 341 yards, although much of that was due to the catch-up offense they were forced to employ for most of the contest. Both quarterbacks threw for 50% completion rates on the day, but Stephen Garcia's day ended with 25 completions on 50 attempts for 300 yards, one touchdown and one interception; Jonathan Crompton threw 12 completions on only 24 attempts for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Crompton did not throw an interception this evening. Meanwhile, the one interception fro Garcia came at the hands of Greg King - yet another freshman Vol who is finding ways to make major contributions on the field of play.
Rather than live and die by the pass, Tennessee was afforded the luxury of running a balanced offense, gaining 199 of their yards on the ground behind Montario Hardesty's 23 carry, 121 yard day with two touchdowns.
But all in all, it was a game that felt like it was under Tennessee's control from start to finish. Despite the advantage in total yardage from South Carolina, the defense proved to be very difficult to score on; the Gamecocks managed only one trip into the red zone and scored a field goal for their efforts. And the one touchdown they did manage to score was the first touchdown scored on the Tennessee defense since very early in the fourth quarter against Auburn - nearly 12 full quarters' worth of football. There was room in the defense to bend, but not to break, which was all the Vols needed to send the Gamecock faithful on their long trek back to South Carolina a little earlier than they had hoped.
A few notes:
- Austin Johnson scored an early touchdown on a beautiful play fake. The fullback led up the middle as if blocking, then ran right by the linebackers and both safeties before Crompton hit him in perfect stride with a rain-soaked pass.
- Alshon Jeffery, the topic of a newfound feud between Vols and 'Cocks fans, had a nice day of 4 receptions for 54 yards, but had a couple of drops early on when the rain was heaviest. (Side note: both fanbases spent a considerable amount of time yelling 'gas-pumping' comments toward each other, indicating that this tiff isn't going anywhere for a while.)
- LaMarcus Thompson and Savion Frazier were injured in the second half, potentially depleting an injury-stricken linebackers corps even further. At one point in the game, the VolTron showed a tribute video to Nick Reveiz which was met with loud applause and support.
- Field Goal Kicking still needs work. Here's hoping that Daniel Lincoln gets his quad in shape very soon. We'll need some good place kicking against Ole Miss, if nothing else.
- Gerald Williams and Dan Williams each recorded a sack against South Carolina in the second half.
- Garcia threw the ball well away from Eric Berry. It almost seemed like they were intentionally avoided the risk of becoming a footnote in the NCAA record book. But hey, whatever shuts down a receiver.
- Janzen Jackson hits. Hard. This is becoming routine to say, but the guy can lay a lick. If he does move to cornerback next year (which will depend on the players that come in), he's going to be a serious threat on a corner blitz.