KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee pulled out a close victory on Saturday when it survived South Carolina's last-minute drive.
Here are the key moments, players and numbers from Tennessee's second straight SEC win.
With its reliable ground game struggling to churn out yards, Tennessee had to turn to its passing game to prevail, and Von Pearson came up with some big plays when the Vols needed them. The receiver finished with 121 yards — the most by a Vol since Justin Hunter (141 yards) and Mychal Rivera (129) against Missouri in 2012 — on eight catches with one touchdown. Tennessee had a 100-yard receiver for a second straight game.
In the first quarter, Tennessee outgained South Carolina 98-33 in rushing yards. When the clock hit zeroes, that advantage was 153-152 for the Vols. Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara got off to a strong start running the ball, but the running lanes closed up as the game went on and the Vols didn't run quarterback Josh Dobbs. Tennessee did snap its six-game string of allowing a 100-yard rusher, as Brandon Wilds finished with 79 yards.
Tennessee cruised to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter, and the game looked like it would be a rout. The Gamecocks traveled 10 yards on their opening two possessions, while Tennessee rolled up 142 yards on its first two drives. Dobbs fumbled on the first play of the third possession, and though the Gamecocks missed a field goal on the ensuing series, it set the tone that the Vols would struggle to put the game away.
South Carolina tight end Jerell Adams made a great play, but Tennessee cornerback Malik Foreman made an even better one to seal the game. Adams broke a tackle after catching the ball over the middle and rumbled inside Tennessee's 20-yard line, but Foreman came up from behind him to punch the ball out of his grasp. Jalen Reeves-Maybin pounced on the loose ball with 32 seconds left to preserve Tennessee's survival.
WHAT IT MEANS
Tennessee's hopes of finishing the regular season with five straight wins remains intact, though the Vols found the path to victory much more treacherous than they did in routing Kentucky by 31 last week. The Vols get a breather against one-win North Texas on homecoming before closing out at Missouri and against Vanderbilt at home. Tennessee is glad to get a win, but some questions need to be answered after this escape.
BY THE NUMBERS
11: The past four meetings between Tennessee and South Carolina have been decided by a total of 11 points. Jadeveon Clowney's sack preserved a 38-35 win in Columbia in 2012, the Vols kicked the winning field on the final play of a 23-21 win in 2013 and won 45-42 in overtime last season after rallying from 14 down in the final five minutes. It came down to the final minute again on Saturday.
142: Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs was excellent on third down on Saturday. He completed nine of 12 passes for 142 yards, and those completions went for seven first downs and a touchdown to Alvin Kamara on a screen pass. Many came in the second half. The Vols were 9-of-18 on third down for the game despite averaging 7.6 yards to go per third down.
17: Though they were facing the SEC's worst run defense, the Vols ran the ball for only 17 yards in the second half. Tennessee entered the game second in the conference at 214.1 yards per game and got off to a great start with 98 rushing yards in the first quarter. Tennessee fnished with 55 in the final three quarters in a disappointing effort.
20-2-2: That is Tennessee's record against South Carolina when the Gamecocks are coached by someone other than Steve Spurrier. The former Duke and Florida coach was 5-5 against the Vols as South Carolina's coach, though Tennessee won their final two meetings with the Ol' Ball Coach. Spurrier abruptly retired last month after South Carolina's 2-4 start.
3: South Carolina had the ball three times inside Tennessee's 30-yard in the first half and produced only three points. Elliott Fry missed a 46-yard field goal after a Josh Dobbs fumble gave the Gamecocks the ball at the 30. A second trip ended on fourth down after a head-scratching decision to run up the middle. Fry hit from 43 yards on the third visit inside the 30.
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