Danny Parker's thoughtsDown seven points with 85 yards to go with 83 seconds on the clock in the fourth quarter on the road in the Southeastern Conference.
For those of my generation, it sounds like the front of a "No Fear!" T-shirt.
Joshua Dobbs and his Tennessee teammates can proudly slide a shirt saying exactly all of that on after proving to their coaching staff, their university, their fans and those watching that fortitude was spelled with a capital "F" on this cool evening at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Life isn't always about simply getting to a bowl game or gaining commitments from Scout five-star prospects. Proper memories must be made and Team 118 created one Saturday night that it won't soon forget. Being both a beat reporter and recruiting analyst, it was a precious moment to see young men I've come to know for several years become so emotional.
Asked freshman defensive end Derek Barnett about his confidence level with the offense now. In veteran-like fashion, the Nashville native told me he's always had confident in his offense. Well, Mr. Barnett, that group took another quantum step forward here at W-BS with 645 yards, including 344 on the ground. Add in five touchdowns in six red-zone chances.
People suggested a divided locker room may be coming after Tennessee held Florida to 10 points in a loss and looked fantastic for much of the blowout at the hands of Ole Miss. If the Vols can play a complete game, it could really blow someone out down the stretch.
Averaging 55 yards per kickoff and missing field goals 45 yards-in can't happen. This team needs Aaron Medley to be consistently effective. Matt Darr can't shank punts on the road as the senior averaged just 32.7 per attempt.
Brian Randolph (14) and A.J. Johnson (10) combined for 24 tackles.
Pharoh Cooper (233 receiving yards, 30 passing yards, 23 rushing yards) is a man. Nothing more need be said.
For the first time in school history, South Carolina surpassed the 500-yard total for the fourth straight game, finishing with 625. Tennessee tied Missouri for the most wins (11) in NCAA history in overtime.
Offense — A
Special teams —C
Randy Moore's thoughts
When a team wins in thrilling fashion, as Tennessee did in Saturday’s 45-42 overtime defeat of South Carolina, the tendency is to get swept up in the moment and overlook the flaws. Fans can afford to do that. Being held to a higher standard, writers should not.
That said, I want to give the Vols an unofficial A+ for the heart they showed in rallying from a 42-28 deficit over the final 4:52 of regulation. South Carolina’s defense is putrid but for Tennessee’s offense to sandwich a 75-yard drive and an 85-yard drive around a three-and-out by the Vol defense was pretty amazing … especially considering how badly the stop unit was shredded up to that point.
Given how successful Josh Dobbs was on quarterback keepers against Alabama, I just knew South Carolina’s defense would key on him. I can only assume the Gamecocks did so but still couldn’t stop him. Dobbs finished with 24 carries for 166 rushing yards, setting a single-game record for a Vol quarterback. Three of his rushes produced touchdowns. He also completed 23 of 40 passes for 301 yards and two more TDs. He made one underthrow into double coverage that was intercepted. Otherwise, he was exceptional.
I predicted before the game that Dobbs’ mobility would help Vol running back Jalen Hurd put up some big numbers. It did. I lost count of how many tackles Hurd broke but he finished with 21 carries for 125 yards. He also found time to catch seven passes for 58 yards and a TD. Wideout Pig Howard was a difference-maker, as well, parlaying five receptions into 109 yards.
Now that I’m finished gushing about the positives, let’s take a look at the negatives.
Tennessee’s run defense couldn’t contain Brandon Wilds (8 carries, 143 yards) and its pass defense was utterly inept against Pharoh Cooper (11 catches, 233 yards). The stop unit would get an F except that it came through like a champion in overtime, recording back-to-back sacks that pushed the Gamecocks out of field-goal range.
Tennessee’s special teams also performed miserably in regulation only to come through in overtime. Freshman Aaron Medley calmly nailed what proved to be the game-winning 32-yard field goal in the extra period.
Prior to OT, Tennessee’s special-teams play couldn’t have been much worse. Medley missed field goals of 43 and 45 yards. Punter Matt Darr made a 26-yard pooch punt that was fielded at Carolina’s 22-yard line, then shanked an 18-yarder that gave the Gamecocks possession near midfield and would’ve cost the Big Orange three points except that USC's kicker missed a 37-yard field goal.
Tennessee won because it made some clutch plays in the final 5:00 of regulation and in overtime. Prior to that, the defense and special teams were abysmal, which you’ll see reflected in my grades.
Defense — D
Offense — B+
Special teams — D
Steven Peake's thoughts
A sixth loss appeared to be so imminent that I had just finished writing my take on this game. It was littered with negativity and frustration with a team that suddenly couldn’t get stops just when the offense started to put up points. Brandon Wilds had just zoomed past a Tennessee defense that only had 10 players on the field. It was the longest run of the season for the Gamecocks and the way it happened was just too fitting for how this season has gone for the Volunteers.
Joshua Dobbs and this Tennessee team that never gave up is the reason you are reading this version of IT’s Take. For Tennessee to march down the field for two touchdowns in two minutes is something fans will remember forever, especially the ones who stuck around for the very end.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the mental toughness of Aaron Medley. The freshman was 0 for 2 on the night and was attempting a go-ahead field goal in the swirling wind. The defense struggled all game long but looked like a completely different unit in overtime. Forcing South Carolina to try a nearly impossible 57-yard field goal to force a second OT.
To see Tennessee somehow pull this game out and South Carolina fall apart in the fourth quarter for the second time this season, was just remarkable. With 2:00 to play in the game, many fans were ready to call this season a failure but in just two minutes (and a few overtime possessions) all of the mistakes were forgiven. Adjustments were made by South Carolina in the second half but it didn’t completely shut down Tennessee’s offense. The Volunteers did that themselves.
To not get any points on the two drives to start the final 30 minutes seemed devastating to the Vols' chances of leaving to a win. Two missed field goal. Two missed opportunities to either build on the lead or take the lead. Pharaoh Cooper, a name Tennessee fans won’t soon forget, made it hurt with a 12-yard touchdown catch to give USC the lead. Justin Coleman had an interception but that’s not what he will remember. Instead memories of this game will include him tailing Cooper into his end zone.
A line used last week: Cooper somehow kept getting loose and torching the Tennessee defense. Once again it was the star wide receiver that broke down the Vols defense. How the Volunteers could not locate number 11 in Black is the most frustrating part of this game. Those problems will have to get fixed and we have every reason to believe they will. This is the best offense Tennessee will face the rest of the way and they now have two weeks to prepare and fans have two weeks to celebrate before the Vols play host to Kentucky.
Special teams —B-
Josh Woodward's thoughts
Where do I begin? Obviously a huge road win for Butch Jones and his team. They have a fight that you like to see. They will be a bowl team if they play like this the rest of the season.
Offensively, Joshua Dobbs is helping this offense with his mobility. The Tennessee offense didn’t give up a sack tonight. Dobbs' only big mistake was the interception in the red zone, but he didn’t see the safety coming over to help on the receiver who was wide open on the play. The mobile quarterback is helping every aspect of this offense; it opens up the run game more for Jalen Hurd. Hurd made a game saving fourth down catch and run with a fantastic spin move to get a first down and more importantly a touchdown on the play. The tight ends dropped a couple a passes, but also made some good catches. They were wide open in the middle for most of the game. I don’t see a team left on the schedule that can hold this team under 35 points.
Defensively, the Vols gave up a ton of yards and points, but when the game was on the line they pinned their ears back and got two sacks in a row. The defensive end play of Derek Barnett is unbelievable. He is playing at an All-SEC level. Pharoh Cooper torched the secondary most of the night, but Justin Coleman had a nice interception in the first half when he was in man coverage. The bye week couldn’t come at a better time for these kids to rest and get healed up.
Special teams had ups and downs. Matt Darr had an 18-yard punt, but later had a 50-yarder. The senior needs to be more consistent for his team. Aaron Medley missed two field goals with a swirling wind, but nailed the game-winner in overtime. Kickoff coverage was solid and nothing bad happened on kick return.
Overall gusty win for Tennessee on the road in hostile environment, plus they found their quarterback that can run this offense the way Butch Jones wants to.
Jalen Hurd post-game interview
Butch Jones post-game video
Kyler Kerbyson post-game interview