It was a tale of two halves today in Knoxville. Tennessee came out ready to play, ripping off big gains and playing solid defense. But they couldn’t keep it up. The wheels fell off in the second half. Here’s how it played out.
Tennessee got on the scoreboard first today after the defense forced a quick three and out. John Kelly then immediately did this to South Carolina.
“Get off me.” - John Kelly pic.twitter.com/nFiR4HJyFY— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) October 14, 2017
The drive stalled after this run, but the Vols were able to get a field goal out of it to take a 3-0 lead.
The defense followed that up with another stop, forcing a punt. Then the Vols started really working the Gamecocks on the ground. Big chunks from Kelly and Ty Chandler had the Vols in business again. A stand from the South Carolina front and a big sack forced Tennessee to attempt another field goal, which Brent Cimaglia nailed.
The Tennessee lead was 6-0 after a quarter of play.
After that, you could feel a little shift. South Carolina started keying in on John Kelly and started to get some stops. They were able to add a field goal of their own early in the second quarter to bring the score to 6-3.
Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks had another drive going, but they were faced with a 4th and 1 at the Tennessee 43. He opted to go for it, but the Vols stood tall with five minutes left in the 1st half. That was a big moment for the Volunteers.
That stop allowed another scoring opportunity for Tennessee. Once again, they were in position to score a touchdown, but a rookie mistake from Jarrett Guarantano to not throw the ball away cost the Vols a shot at six. They settled again for a field goal, taking a 9-3 lead into the locker room at halftime.
For as badly as Tennessee dominated that half of football, a 9-3 lead felt a little empty.
Stagnant offense from both sides opened up the second half of play. The two sides traded punts, but then South Carolina was able to put together a 95 yard drive to tie things up at 9. The Gamecocks missed the extra point, which would have given them a lead.
After a decent start, the Tennessee offense hit the skids. Nothing was working. John Kelly had become a non-factor. The Vols went three and out again, giving South Carolina the football once again.
The Gamecocks settled in, ripping off chunk after chunk. The defense had played so well to that point, but they were worn down. South Carolina walked down the field, but the Vols finally got a stop at the three yard line. Carolina nailed the field goal attempt to take a 12-9 lead with about five minutes to play.
The Vols had plenty of time and the ball, but Guarantano took a big sack on third down, nearly fumbling the ball away. Tennessee was forced to punt.
South Carolina took over at midfield and picked up two first downs. The Tennessee rush defense was just too worn down. The Gamecocks got the ball down to around the 20 yard line before the drive stalled. They added a field goal to make it 15-9, giving Tennessee one last chance with 1:13 left.
Guarantano hit Marquez Callaway for 18 yards, then Brandon Johnson for a huge chunk. Suddenly, the Vols were in business. Guarantano hit Callaway two more times to get the ball to the five yard line.
After a pass interference call, it all came down to one play from the 2 yard line. Guarantano fired, but the pass was batted down. What a finish — only to have our hearts broken.
Here is the last play... pic.twitter.com/NOdAV9gfst— Brent Dougherty (@brentdougherty) October 14, 2017
Will Muschamp kept his undefeated record against Butch Jones and Tennessee, turning the pressure up to 11 on this coaching staff. As if that isn’t enough, it’s officially ‘Bama week.