A sack/fumble by Vol quarterback Matt Simms set up a short-field drive for the first Gamecock TD and a pick-six interception by Tyler Bray produced the second. Both occurred in the first 3:20 of the quarter to give South Carolina a 24-10 lead. The Cocks picked up just six yards the rest of the period.
"The third quarter was great on defense," Vol head coach Derek Dooley said. "They gave up a touchdown after the turnover but then they had two big stops when we tied it up."
As happens almost every week, however, Tennessee's defense appeared to run out of gas in the fourth quarter. After allowing just 261 yards in the first three quarters, the Vols surrendered 174 in the final period, including a 70-yard touchdown play on a short toss over the middle to Alshon Jeffery.
"We got three guys corralling the guy, and nobody touches him," Dooley grumbled. "He just outruns our secondary, and we're out there grinding coffee trying to catch him.... We ought to eat it up but we don't. We gave up a 70-yard play."
Jeffery leads the SEC with an average of 7.0 catches per game, yet Tennessee held him without a catch for 47 minutes. The 70-yard TD play - his first touch of the game - came with 12:17 remaining.
"We did a really good job of taking him out of the game," Dooley said. "Really, the worst thing that should've happened on that play was (giving up) a first down for 12 yards. But that's what impact, game-changing players do."
Except for that one play Tennessee did a great job on Jeffery (3 catches, 87 yards) but it couldn't contain freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore. He gained 82 of his 184 total yards when Vol defenders were gassed in the fourth quarter.
"They hand the ball off to 21," Dooley said, "and he looks like Secretariat running through us."
NOT THIS TIME
To say Tennessee's defense starts slowly on the road would be putting it mildly. The Vols allowed LSU to score a touchdown on its opening possession Oct. 2 in Baton Rouge and let Georgia do the same a week later in Athens.
South Carolina appeared on the verge of becoming the third consecutive road foe to hit paydirt on its initial drive when it zoomed to the Vol 9-yard line in just six plays. Senior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz broke the streak, however, by intercepting a Stephen Garcia pass in the end zone for a touchback.
The interception was Reveiz's second of the season. He also had one at LSU in Game 5.
For the afternoon, South Carolina scored on just four of seven forays into the Red Zone. The Gamecocks converted on 7 of 13 third-down plays, however,and finished with 435 yards of total offense.
TWO NEW CORNERS
A week after surrendering 326 passing yards to Alabama, Tennessee opened the South Carolina game with two new starters at cornerback. Redshirt freshman Eric Gordon replaced sophomore Marsalis Teague at right corner and sophomore Prentiss Waggner replaced junior Art Evans at left corner.
Gordon finished with 6 tackles, all solos. Waggner, who started Tennessee's first seven games at strong safety, chipped in 5 solo stops.
The 6-foot-2 Waggner played cornerback during his days at Clinton (La.) High School and looked comfortable there on Saturday. His height helped limit 6-foot-4, 237-pound South Carolina superstar Alshon Jeffery to three receptions.
Weakside linebacker Herman Lathers seems to be picking up steam.
He recorded 10 tackles in Game 5 at LSU, 7 tackles in Game 6 at Georgia and a big sack in Game 7 vs. Alabama. The 6-0, 217-pound sophomore continued his roll Saturday at South Carolina, recording 6 solo stops, including 2 tackles for loss (1 a sack), an assist and a quarterback hurry.
Strongside linebacker LaMarcus Thompson also contributed 7 stops for the Vols.
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson had a big game with 6 stops, including 2 minus-yardage stops. One of the tackles for loss was his first sack as a Vol. He registered 5.5 sacks during two seasons at Southern Cal before transferring to Tennessee.