No. 8 Tennessee needed Casey Clausen's 4-yard touchdown pass to James Banks in overtime Saturday night for a 23-20 win over South Carolina.
The Vols (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) struggled throughout their first game since winning 24-10 at Florida last week. Despite the victory, Tennessee kept its emotions at bay and focused immediately on the Gamecocks (3-2, 0-2).
"I don't think any (of the players) had said we had arrived or anything," Tennessee defensive end Constantin Ritzmann said. "Florida's a good team, but South Carolina is good too."
South Carolina got the ball first in overtime and got a break when pass interference was called against Tennessee. The Gamecocks were then penalized twice and had an incomplete pass to push them to third-and-17. A pass to Demetris Summers was short of the first down, and Daniel Weaver made a 24-yard field goal.
Tennessee gave the ball to Cedric Houston four straight times for 21 yards to start its overtime possession. Then on third-and-3, Clausen threw a fade to Banks, who caught the winning score.
"If he threw it and I didn't catch it we could still go for three points. Fortunately, I caught it," Banks said.
Summers, a freshman, provided nearly all the offense the Gamecocks needed, running for 158 yards in 27 carries, but recent history indicated this would be a close game.
South Carolina moved to 0-12 at Neyland Stadium and has dropped 11 straight to Tennessee. The Gamecocks had lost the previous three games in the series by an average of six points.
South Carolina tied it at 17 on Weaver's 37-yard field goal in the third quarter. Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz jumped on the sidelines in celebration because Weaver was 1-of-5 on field goals coming into the game and had to win back his job this week.
Neither team could score in the fourth quarter.
"In the second half, our defense had an excellent game, never letting them in field-goal range," Holtz said. "The TD in overtime was a disappointment."
Tennessee struggled in nearly every way possible.
"We didn't play our best. Nothing was really consistent for us except punting," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.
For that reason, punter Dustin Colquitt was the Vols' highlight and received a game ball for his performance.
He had seven punts for an average of 51.7 yards and stuck four kicks inside the 20. One punt traveled 63 yards, bounced and rolled out of bounds at the 2.
South Carolina trailed by three at halftime but was having its way on offense.
Tennessee's defense came into the game leading the SEC with 53 yards rushing allowed per game, but the Gamecocks had 157 yards on the ground in the first half.
The Vols had trouble tackling Summers, who had 115 yards by halftime and became the first Gamecocks freshman to have back-to-back 100-yard rushing games since Thomas Dendy in 1982. Summers had 161 yards last week against UAB.
"I was concerned before the game and really concerned as the game went on (about Summers)," Fulmer said. "We didn't tackle well and he would always find a place to come out."
When South Carolina couldn't move on the ground, it went to the air.
The Gamecocks tied it at 14 early in the second quarter after Daccus Turman tried to punch it in from 1 yard out and was stopped three straight times. On fourth down, Tennessee expected another run, but Dondrial Pinkins threw to Hart Turner wide open in the end zone.
Tennessee led three times in the game but could never take control.
Nor could the Vols have much success running the ball, finishing with 117 yards, 100 fewer than South Carolina. Tennessee came in averaging 212 yards on the ground.
The Vols grabbed the momentum early when Marvin Mitchell blocked South Carolina's punt and Derek Tinsley recovered it at the 10 about two minutes into the game.
C.J. Fayton caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Clausen two plays later for a 7-0 lead.
South Carolina came back with a touchdown when Turman bulled in a 1-yard touchdown to finish a 10-play drive in which South Carolina had only one pass and ran for 68 of the 72 yards covered on the possession.
Clausen's passing kept Tennessee ahead.
The Vols went up 14-7 with 4:40 left in the first quarter on Cedric Houston's 3-yard touchdown run. Clausen completed three passes on the drive, including a 30-yard pass to Tony Brown down the middle.
Clausen finished 13-of-22 for 149 yards.
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