Cedric Houston led the ground attack with career-highs of 108 yards on 30 carries despite wearing a cast on his left hand. Houston's workload was increased when starting tailback Jabari Davis left the game with a rib injury. Before his departure, Davis rumbled for 86 yards in 10 carries and set up Tennessee?s first touchdown with a 62-yard gallop.
Tennessee finished the game with 416 total yards in 78 plays for an average of 5.3 yards per snap. The Vols also controlled the football for 38:02 of the contest compared to South Carolina's 21:58.
Playing with a fractured collarbone and a sprained ankle, quarterback Casey Clausen connected on 17-of-23 passes for 175 yards, including a two-yard toss to C.J. Fayton that gave the Vols a 6-3 lead in the first quarter. Clausen scored Tennessee?s last touchdown in the fourth period with a six-yard run on fourth down and one.
"He's an unbelievable tough guy," Fulmer said of his junior signal caller during an interview broadcast by the Vol Network. "He hit 17-of-23, ran the offense flawlessly and made some big-time passes. It (ankle) would have had to been broken to keep him out of there."
Clausen missed the first series of the second half while having his ankle re-taped, but returned on the next series to relieve James Banks and direct the Vols to victory.
While the offense was finding its personality as a power running team with a precision passing attack, the defense was continuing the solid play that has characterized its season.
South Carolina was limited 229 total yards in the contest and only connected on 5-of-19 passes for 45 yards. Both Gamecock scores were set up by fumbles deep in Tennessee territory. The first occurred on Mark Jones fumble on a punt that set South Carolina up at the UT 16. The Gamecocks settled for a 26-yard field goal after being stonewalled by Tennessee?s stop troops.
In the fourth quarter, true freshman Gerald Riggs had the ball stripped by an S.C. defender at the UT 17. Five plays later, the Gamecocks turned that miscue into a two-yard touchdown run by Thez Robinson.
In addition to bottling up South Carolina's misdirection offense, UT?s secondary picked off three passes to give the Vols a crucial plus-one turnover ratio in the contest. Rashad Baker, Willie Miles and Jabari Greer each intercepted a Gamecock aerial. Greer's pick ended South Carolina's final drive of the game.
Leaning on its tried-and-true power rushing tradition, Tennessee shook off a two-game losing streak while extending its winning string over South Carolina to 10 straight.
"Coach (Randy) Sanders challenged us to step up and get some push up front," said Tennessee center Scott Wells. "The 90-yard drive was huge. It got us a crucial score and eventually won the game for us."
In addition to the injuries to Clausen and Davis, the Vols also lost starting fullback Troy Flemming to a hip pointer and Baker to a shoulder injury. The status of all UT's injured will be determined next week after further evaluation.
Obviously the Vols, who have been hard hit with injuries throughout the 2002 campaign, need as many healthy hands as possible with No. 1 Miami coming to Knoxville next Saturday.
Tennessee also needs to work out problems in the kicking game that resulted in two missed extra points. But the hard-earned victory over South Carolina should go a long way to soothing pains as well as disgruntled Big Orange fans.
"It's a great opportunity for our football team," Fulmer said of the upcoming Miami game. "Today's win was a big one for our football program. We stuck together and that shows you something about this football team."