The Tennessee Volunteers (3-5) have witnessed its fair share of embarrassing streaks over the past decade, but one of the oddest ones is the seven-game losing streak to Will Muschamp that dates back to 2011.
Well, the Vols finally broke that streak on Saturday against the South Carolina Gamecocks (3-5) with a 41-21 win.
Good performances by Jarrett Guarantano, JT Shrout, Jauan Jennings, Darrell Taylor, and others helped the Vols get over the hump, while increasing the chances of making it to a bowl game.
South Carolina didn’t waste any time putting points on the board, as Ryan Hilinski found Shi Smith over the middle for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. It was a perfectly placed pass that hit Smith right in stride, which allowed him to outrun the Tennessee secondary en route to the end zone.
Jennings began the game at quarterback for the Vols and picked up 11 yards on a read option to give the Vols a first down. Marquez Callaway would’ve had an amazing 33-yard catch from Jennings on the next play, but Brandon Kennedy was called as an ineligible receiver, which negated the play.
The Vols swapped it up between Jennings and freshman Shrout, but eventually had to punt the ball away. South Carolina would take over at its own 19, looking to put more points on the board.
Tennessee’s defense didn’t allow that to happen. The Gamecocks went three-and-out and the Vols regained possession at their own 35.
Shrout hit Jennings on a 3rd-and-4 for a 12-yard gain that took the Vols into Gamecock territory. The Vols then ran the ball on the next four plays, gaining 19 yards, but they were left with another third down. Pressure from Gamecock defender D.J. Wonnum forced Shrout to throw the ball away, but Brent Cimaglia nailed his 46-yard field goal attempt and the Vols now trailed, 7-3, with 7:19 left in the first quarter.
South Carolina was hit with another three-and-out on its next drive. Instead of Shrout at quarterback on the next drive, Jeremy Pruitt decided to have Guarantano come in the game.
Tennessee faced a 3rd-and-11 early in the drive, but a Jim Chaney got clever and called a draw that worked perfectly and achieved the conversion. Guarantano made some really nice throws of his own - including a 26-yard completion to Jennings on 3rd-and-11 - and was able to take the Vols inside the South Carolina 10.
Guarantano and co. was able to get to the one-yard line, but South Carolina held strong on 3rd-and-goal, leaving the Vols with a decision to make.
Pruitt decided to go for it, but good coverage forced Guarantano to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone and the nine-minute drive ended with zero points. What made things worse was the fact that the Vols’ starting left tackle Wanya Morris, was hurt and seen heading into the locker room as South Carolina took the field.
The Gamecocks fought their way out of a major hole as Tavien Feaster rumbled 12 yards for a first down on 3rd-and-11 from his own 2. Taylor bailed his team out with a sack a few plays later, leaving South Carolina in a punting situation.
What was thought to be a change of possession turned into a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown from Callaway. He split the middle of South Carolina’s coverage unit and raced into the checkerboard-covered end zone. Cimaglia hit the PAT and the Vols led, 10-7.
Hilinski led the Gamecock offense into Tennessee territory, but Shawn Shamburger made a nice stop on 3rd-and-4 to force another punt.
Guarantano and the offense would begin the next drive at the UT8, but penalties led to a three-and-out. Tennessee’s poor field position led to great field position for South Carolina, evidenced by the fact that the next drive would begin at the UT44.
A 16-yard completion from Hilinski to Kyle Markway put the ball at UT17. Darel Middleton was flagged for targeting on the next play, but Pruitt thought it was a questionable call and basically lost his composure and was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which put the ball at the UT4. South Carolina was able to punch it in on 3rd-and-goal from inside the UT1, but a replay review determined that Feaster’s knee - and the ball - was in fact down short of the goal line. It didn’t matter, however, as Mon Denson banged his way into the end zone. Parker White hit the PAT and the Gamecocks led, 14-10 with 3:16 left in the first half.
Jennings wouldn’t let his team go quietly into halftime, though. He literally put the offense on his back and gained all 75 yards on two catches and drug defenders into the end zone. He probably broke about 6 combined tackles on both plays, sending Neyland Stadium into a frenzy.
Jauan Jennings would not be denied!!!— James O'Saile (@OSaile_) October 26, 2019
TOUCHDOWN TENNESSEE pic.twitter.com/rLSLCSxPmd
It was the fastest touchdown drive of the season and it gave the Vols a 17-14 lead with 2:34 to go in the first half.
It turned out that would be plenty of time for the Gamecocks to get into scoring position. It took eight plays for Hilinski and co. to get into the red zone, but the defense stiffened up and forced them into a 3rd-and-11 from the UT18. Brian Edward’s fourth reception of the game - a Sportscenter Top-10 play - converted the down and gave his team the ball inside the UT1.
It took two tries, but Feaster was able to punch it in and give the Gamecocks a 21-17 lead heading into halftime.
The big plays continued into the second half. Right off the bat, Guarantano found Callaway deep for a 48-yard reception down to the SC27. Tennessee couldn’t do much afterward and had to settle for a 39-yard field goal attempt from Cimaglia. It wasn’t even close. The kick sailed to the right and completely missed the uprights, leaving the Vols with the no points.
Tennessee’s defense held South Carolina to a punt and was given good field position at the SC48. Josh Palmer made an outstanding 22-yard catch on the left side line to take the Vols down to the SC26 on 2nd-and-10. Guarantano then found Jennings in the end zone on 3rd-and-14 for a 19-yard touchdown reception to put the Vols back up, 23-21. Cimaglia shook of whatever demons made him miss the last field goal attempt and hit the PAT to put the Vols up, 24-21.
Guarantano was seen running off the field and into the locker room after the touchdown with what looked like a wrist injury. This led to the combination of Shrout and Jennings back at the position for the next drive.
And the combination worked perfectly, especially in regards to Shrout. He found a wide-open Callaway off play-action for a 55-yard touchdown to put the Vols up 30-21. The PAT was good and the Vols led, 31-21, with 5:07 to go in the third quarter.
It was another three-and-out for the Gamecocks - the third consecutive one of the second half - and the Vols’ offense was given an opportunity to put more points on the board.
To the chagrin of the coaching staff and the fans, the offense couldn’t get it done and had to punt after a three-and-out.
A nice catch-and-run from Smith took South Carolina into Tennessee territory. Left at the UT36 and facing a 4th-and-2, Will Muschamp decided to go for it due to field position and down-and-distance. Taylor was able to knock down Hilinski’s pass at the line of scrimmage and the Vols took over at their own 36 as the third quarter came to a close.
Shrout hit Jennings with another deep ball, this time a 37-yarder, to move the Vols into the red zone. Jennings now had seven receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns and there was still 13:53 left in the game. The catch also moved him past Jayson Swain for sixth all-time in receptions.
The Gamecock defense held tough. It would be up to Cimaglia to hit a 31-yard field goal to push the lead to 13. He was able to do so and the Vols were now up, 34-21 with 12:21 to go.
Tennessee’s special teams came through - well, Daniel Bituli did - on the Gamecocks’ next punt as he blocked it and returned it for a touchdown to put the Vols up, 41-21, with 11:41 left in the game.
The good times halted for a moment when Darrell Taylor went down with what looked like a knee injury after one of his teammates rolled into his leg. He was able to walk off the field, but would likely be done for the remainder of the game.
But even without Taylor, the defense still hung around and finished off South Carolina by denying any type of score on the final drive of the game.
Tennessee would go on to win, 41-21, while simultaneously breaking the Muschamp Curse.
The Vols will host the UAB Blazers next Saturday, November 2. Kickoff is set for 7PM EST.