COLUMBIA, S.C. - The University of Tennessee football team avoided another stunning second-half collapse today at Williams-Brice Stadium but ultimately lost, 38-24, to 17th-ranked South Carolina.
South Carolina's two biggest offensive stars - sophomore wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore - made big plays in the fourth quarter that spoiled the Volunteers' upset bid.
Jeffery's 70-yard catch-and-run game the Gamecocks the lead two plays after UT tied the score early in the fourth quarter, and a few big Lattimore runs set up a 1-yard sneak from junior quarterback Stephen Garcia to make it 38-24 with 3:28 left.
UT freshman quarterback Tyler Bray rallied the Volunteers from a two-score deficit early in the third quarter, when the Gamecocks broke open a 10-10 halftime tie with two touchdowns off of two turnovers.
Bray overcame an interception returned for a touchdown early in the third quarter quarter to fire a 30-yard score to senior wide receiver Denarius Moore later in the period, cutting the score to 24-17.
The Vols converted a fourth-and-long one play before Moore's touchdown. Senior punter Chad Cunningham ran 25 yards down the sideline, and the Vols were given 15 more yards after a late hit penalty.
Bray connected on another big play to Moore later in the third, and senior wide receiver Gerald Jones capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown. Freshman Michael Palardy's extra point tied the score at 24 with 13: 17 left.
Bray replaced junior starter Matt Simms, who lost a fumble inside his own 30-yard line less than a minute into the third quarter. South Carolina capitalized on that turnover, too, as Garcia sneaked in from 1 yard less than two minutes later.
Simms threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Luke Stocker, and Palardy's extra point tied the score at 10with 3:17 left in the first half.
Palardy's 39-yard field goal gave the Volunteers an early 3-0 lead, and a 40-yarder from South Carolina's Spencer Lanning tied the score with 13:33 left in the second quarter.
The Gamecocks took their first lead with 6:40 left in the half on a 1-yard plunge from Lattimore.
Both teams turned the ball over in the red zone in the first half. UT senior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz intercepted Garcia in the end zone to halt the game's first possession, and Simms lost a fumble in the second quarter after a blind-side sack from Gamecocks senior defensive end Cliff Matthews.
Lattimore had 90 yards on 16 carries in the first half, but UT's depth-depleted defensive backfield surprisingly contained Jeffery - who caught just one pass in the first 30 minutes.