Butch Jones and Tennessee secured their second consecutive win over Steve Spurrier and South Carolina with a 45-42 overtime victory.
The game was back-and-forth throughout the first half, with five total touchdowns yet no leads larger than seven points. Cooper cracked things open with a rushing touchdown on a direct snap, but a couple of drives later, UT turned an interception into seven on a Pig Howard run. After the Vols went ahead in the second quarter, Steve Spurrier shook things up with a Cooper touchdown pass to Brandon Wilds on a trick play. With seven seconds to go in the half, Joshua Dobbs ran in a touchdown from 36 yards out to give Tennessee the lead at intermission.
South Carolina largely owned things in the second half but couldn't finish the deal. Wilds got another touchdown on a run, and Cooper completed the hat trick with a receiving touchdown shortly before the fourth quarter ended. An 85-yard catch-and-run for Cooper completed a 21-0 run for the Gamecocks, but Tennessee didn't quit. Dobbs found Jalen Hurd on a touchdown pass, but Carolina answered with a 70-yard touchdown run from Wilds. Dobbs ran in another touchdown with 1:50 to go, but—who else?—Cooper recovered the ensuing onside kick.
Tennessee had all of its timeouts left, though, and they used them after three straight stops. That sequence game UT the ball back at its own 15 with 1:23 to work with. A 31-yard completion from Dobbs to Howard through the faltering Gamecock defense started off the drive, and a nine-yard TD pass from Dobbs to Jason Croom finished it. Tennessee had to settle for a field goal in overtime, but its defense finally made a stand. Two sacks left South Carolina with 3rd-and-25, and Dylan Thompson had to throw it away on third down. Elliott Fry badly missed his 58-yard field goal attempt, and UT held on to win.
It felt like the sophomore Dobbs came of age in this one, going 23-for-40 with 301 yards (7.5 YPA) and two TDs versus only one pick. He also rushed 24 times for 166 yards (6.9 YPC) with three TDs, while Hurd had 21 carries for 125 yards (6 YPC). Howard hauled in nine passes for 109 yards. Thompson had 347 yards through the air, also with two TDs and a pick, but he was also sacked five times including twice in overtime. Cooper was nearly unstoppable with 11 catches for 223 yards, while Wilds racked up 143 yards on just eight carries on the ground.
The game is South Carolina's fifth SEC loss on the season, and it officially knocks the Gamecocks out of the East race. It also is the most since the team went 3-5 in SEC play in 2009. It also throws bowl eligibility in doubt, as Carolina will have to win either at resurgent Florida or at Clemson to reach 6-6 (assuming a win over South Alabama).
For Tennessee, a win over South Carolina represents a breakthrough for the second time in as many years. The defense looked a lot worse today than it has for most of the year, but the team weathered the storm and made a tremendous comeback at the end to win. Jones's program is in the process of learning to win, and a lot of young guys learned a lot tonight. UT can finally break through back into bowl season by winning at least two of its final three games, with the opponents being Kentucky, Missouri, and Vandy.