The first half was clearly a tale of two quarters. South Carolina Head Football Coach Steve Spurrier frequently said the ball bounced the Gamecock's way when referencing his team's success in 2005. The ball definitely did not bounce the Gamecock's way in the first quarter, as they struggled to overcome two early turnovers in the first seven and half minutes, spotting the Volunteers 14 points. But the Gamecocks came roaring back in the second quarter, scoring 10 points and playing solid on both sides of the ball with two key defensive stops, and headed to the locker-room trailing by only 14-10.
After a 17 yard interception that was returned by Tennessee linebacker Marvin Mitchell for a quick 7, South Carolina drove the ball decisively down the field on 10 plays, all but one of them running plays, only to have Syvelle Newton's second complete pass again be a completion to a Tennessee player, this time in the end zone. Ryan Carl deflected the ball at the line of scrimmage, and Jonathan Wade intercepted the ball, stopping the drive.
On Tennessee's first offensive drive, the Vols drove the ball down inside the ten. After two strong defensive downs, Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge threw the ball into coverage, and the ball bounced the Vols way, as senior receiver Bret Smith came down with it for a touchdown.
As expected, the traditional role reversal of the team's offensive styles continued in the first quarter, with normally run-oriented Tennessee struggling to run the ball, gaining only 4 yards. The Vols threw the ball effectively for 54 yards. Steve Spurrier's offenses have always been perceived as being pass happy, but the Gamecock's ground game was what has become their bread and butter this season, and they ran for 76 net yards in the first quarter, but passed for only 11 yards.
The second quarter immediately began better for the Gamecocks when kicker Ryan Succop stopped the bleeding with a 50 yard field goal with less than a minute gone in the quarter. The USC defense then stepped up and stopped the Vols on what initially appeared to be another strong drive.
South Carolina looked more like what people expect out of a Spurrier offense on the next drive, with Newton completing four out of five passes before hitting Mike West for an 18 yard touchdown .
The USC defense again stopped Ainge and the Vol offense, and then the Gamecocks ran out the last 1:53 on the clock in the half.
The home crowd of 82011 was loud and effective, especially when UT had the ball.
At halftime, Tennessee had 164 yards of offense, 99 of them through the air. USC had 177 total net yards, 93 on the ground and 84 through the air. Cory Boyd was the leading rusher with 60 yards gained on 10 attempts. Newton recovered nicely after the two interceptions, completing seven out ten passes for the half, including the touchdown pass to West.
Halftime: USC Battles Back to Make it Close
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