South Carolina 38, Tennessee 35: The Gamecocks Survive and Stay in the Club

Joe Robbins

The Gamecocks have overtaken Tennessee in the SEC East over the last few years. On Saturday, they reiterated that

Jadeveon Clowney and the South Carolina defense were having trouble getting much going. And now their backs were to the wall. The Gamecocks were leading 38-35, but the Volunteers had methodically driven 62 yards late in the fourth quarter to put themselves at the South Carolina 19.

That's when Clowney made his move and got into the backfield, knocking the ball out of Tyler Bray's hand. Shaq Wilson picked it up to apparently end the game. South Carolina did give it back to Tennessee one last time -- only to have Victor Hampton pick off Bray to end the threat completely.

Aside from the game-ending stretch, though, neither of these defenses did much to impress. The Gamecocks generated 515 yards of total offense to Tennessee's 472. Both quarterbacks had stellar days -- Bray was 27-of-43 for 368 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Connor Shaw answered that by going 22-of-32 for 356 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. There's a case to be made that Tennessee was responsible for both of those -- the Vols have a powerful offense but have struggled on defense all year.

For Derek Dooley, it was a microcosm of his tenure at Tennessee and an indicator of why it might end after this season. The Vols have now lost to every team in the SEC East's Big Three, a club of which Tennessee was a charter member but to which the Vols no longer belong. Tennessee has lost four straight games and don't have a marquee game left on the schedule. Even if the Vols win out and end up 7-5 -- something that's not assured -- the reaction in Knoxville would be more of a shrug than a celebration.

Meanwhile, South Carolina ends its two-game skid and gets back on the right path, though the injury to Marcus Lattimore has to be a cause for concern. The only difficult games left on the slate are Arkansas (always a tough out for the Gamecocks) and a trip to Clemson. And the team heads into the bye on a winning note. It's not going to save South Carolina's SEC East hopes. But it's going to give them a chance to remain in the select group that Tennessee fans would like to rejoin.

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