KNOXVILLE -- Derek Dooley took another risk on special teams, and the impact went neither for nor against Tennessee's second-year coach.
The Volunteers tried unsuccessfully for an onside kick to start the second half and gave the ball to South Carolina in UT territory. The Gamecocks drove to UT's 32 on a keeper by quarterback Connor Shaw, but a personal-foul penalty on offensive lineman Terrence Campbell pushed South Carolina back.
Three plays later, UT cornerback Prentiss Waggner broke on a short pass, broke it up and tipped it to himself. His interception return to the South Carolina two was wasted when Justin Worley's pass was intercepted by South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger.
"We thought we had a chance at it, and we did. We just didn't execute the kick," Dooley said. "It was there. We executed it perfectly Thursday [in practice]. We just kicked it a little hard. Just trying to get something, get something going there. It didn't work."
Dooley has shown a tendency for gutsy calls on special teams. Michael Palardy perfectly executed an onside kick to himself against Cincinnati earlier this season and threw a first-down pass on a fake punt against Alabama last week. The Vols successfully faked two punts last season.
Dooley said the Vols had "a ton of guys banged up" after consecutive games against top-ranked LSU and second-ranked Alabama, two of the nation's most physical teams. UT officially ended up with one temporary casualty.
Freshman linebacker Curt Maggitt did not play Saturday night after missing most of practice last week with a calf injury. Sophomore Dontavis Sapp, a 6-foot-2, 219-pound converted safety, played in Maggitt's place.
Junior college transfer Maurice Couch started in place of Daniel Hood at nose tackle. Hood was limited during practice last week with a shoulder injury, but the redshirt sophomore did play.
With South Carolina in its three-receiver set to start the game, Byron Moore officially got the start as the Vols' nickel back, a position he took over before last week's game at Alabama. The junior college transfer had just one tackle, which came on special teams, in UT's first six games. Eric Gordon entered the game as the nickel back in the second quarter.
They were the first career starts for Moore and Couch, who was shaken up briefly in the third quarter before returning.
All to Poole
Tauren Poole got all 18 of the Vols' tailback carries Saturday night. Marlin Lane did play and had a 6-yard reception, but he was limited because of an injury. The Vols ran for just 35 yards on 21 carries, and Poole had 38 yards.
Starting strong safety Brent Brewer left the game in the middle of third quarter with an apparent leg injury after trying to make a tackle on South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery. He was replaced by Wilks.
Brewer, who has had a quieter year than the Vols hoped entering the season, had five tackles and half a sack before leaving the game for good. Dooley said after the game he wasn't sure the extent of the injury.
The fourth-down incompletion that effectively ended the game with a little more than six minutes left was a choice in which Dooley weighed the odds. The Vols needed two scores down 11, but it would have been a 44-yard field-goal try for Palardy, who had one from 47 in the first quarter partially blocked by Stephon Gilmore. UT needed 1 yard for a first down.
"I just felt like it was so short and the field goal was long," Dooley said. "Mike didn't hit a good one [earlier]. If it had been fourth-and-8 or 7, I would have kicked a field goal. I probably should have kicked it, but if he misses it we lose."
The Vols continue to use both Palardy and Matt Darr on punts, as the two were officially bracketed as the starter leading up to Saturday night. Palardy, who handles UT's place-kicking, made the first three punts Saturday night. Darr, the redshirt freshman who didn't punt once against Alabama last week, did the last one of the first half.
This and that
Converted tailback Rajion Neal made his first career start as the receiver opposite Da'Rick Rogers on the game's first play. ... With his New York Jets in a bye week, coach Rex Ryan was on the sideline Saturday night on a college visit with his son, a junior who plays football for a New Jersey high school. ... UT women's basketball coach Pat Summitt gave South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier a signed basketball when the Gamecocks arrived at Neyland Stadium a couple of hours before kickoff. ... Representatives from the Liberty and Outback bowls were in attendance. ... UT's captains for the game were starting left tackle Dallas Thomas, reserve safety and special-teamer Wilks and senior reserve linebacker and former walk-on Shane Reveiz.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...