If this was Butch Jones’ last stand, he did not go out in a blaze of glory.
The game came down to the final possession, in which Tennessee had three opportunities to score from inside the five. They did not.
South Carolina was helped by a solid rushing effort. As a team, the Gamecocks rushed for 194 yards on 40 carries. A.J. Turner starred with 86 yards on 14 carries, finding the end zone on a 20-yard scamper. Ty’Son Williams complemented Turner’s effort with 47 yards on 11 attempts. Rico Dowdle had 19 on four and Jake Bentley had 24 on six.
Bentley also threw for 129 yards on 24 attempts. Like Jarret Guarantano, Bentley couldn’t find the end zone through the air, so Turner’s TD proved to be vital in the decision.
Parker White’s contributions shouldn’t go unnoticed either. South Carolina’s placekicker was 3-for-3 on field goals, one coming on a 47-yarder.
Tennessee’s offensive woes were highlighted once again. And for some reason, John Kelly was not the star. Kelly had 58 rushing yards on 16 carries, but he certainly could’ve been deserving of more.
They did not opt to run with him on their final red zone possession. Instead, Guarantano threw three passes. None of which were on the mark. South Carolina did their job in bottling him and the rest of the Vol rushers up for much of the second half. But the decision to not run with him was certainly less than stellar.
The loss puts Tennessee at 3-3 on the season, and the schedule doesn’t get much easier for them. Next week, they’ll have to travel to Tuscaloosa to face the Alabama Crimson Tide. They’ll have to travel to Lexington thereafter and still have LSU later on this year. Winning the SEC East is a huge longshot. With the way things have gone, Butch’s seat has undeniably gotten hotter now.
South Carolina, on the other hand, is looking great. They’re one win away from bowl eligibility now with their shiny 5-2 record. Eight wins is not out of the question at all with games looming against Vanderbilt, Florida and Wofford. Clemson and Georgia are on the schedule as well, but an eight-win season would absolutely be a step in the right direction. The Gamecocks made a significant step towards making that happen now after Saturday’s W.