KNOXVILLE — Tennessee used its third different quarterback starter of the season Saturday afternoon against South Carolina.
But his best position was wide receiver.
Jauan Jennings caught seven passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns, and the defense shut down the Gamecocks in the second half as the Volunteers rolled to a 41-21 win in front of 87,397 at Neyland Stadium.
The win keeps the Vols' bowl hopes alive, as they improved to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference heading into next weekend's homecoming game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham (7-1).
The Vols stopped a three-game losing streak to South Carolina (3-5, 2-4) and secured the program's first win over the Gamecocks' Will Muschamp as a head coach after seven losses — four when he was at Florida.
Tennessee — which had a season-high 485 yards of total offense — won Saturday's game with three quarterbacks. Jennings was the first one behind center. He threw only one pass — a 33-yard completion to Marquez Callaway that was waved off due to center Brandon Kennedy being an ineligible player downfield. Jennings did rush for 18 yards and later had scoring receptions of 48 and 19 yards.
"Jauan has passion for the game," Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said. "He has passion for his teammates, and he has passion for the University of Tennessee. He shows it every single day. What you see on Saturdays is what we see on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He is consistent in the way he prepares and the way he practices. It shows up on Saturdays. I think sometimes that can be contagious, and you need guys like that. Jauan has that way about him."
Said outside linebacker Darrell Taylor: "Jauan went crazy. I was excited for him. On the (Vol Network) radio after the game, they asked me what I thought about the touchdown he scored when he broke all those tackles. I said, 'When he scored the second tackle, I knew he was gone.'"
Offensive lineman Trey Smith called Jennings a "dog." Safety Nigel Warrior said he "showed his butt off today."
"He showed out," Warrior added. "We needed that from him and from the rest of our team."
J.T. Shrout and Jarrett Guarantano split time at quarterback, combining for 351 yards on just 18 completions. Shrout was the first of those two to come in but was replaced by former starter Guarantano after a couple of series. The junior threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns but suffered a broken bone in his left (non-throwing) hand after tossing the 19-yard touchdown pass to Jennings that put the Vols up 24-21 with 8:16 to play in the third quarter.
Pruitt said on the Vol Network postgame broadcast that Guarantano was expected to have surgery Sunday.
Shrout, who threw for 122 yards, came back in and had his first career touchdown pass, a 55-yarder to Callaway to put Tennessee up 31-21.
Brent Cimaglia kicked a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and Daniel Bituli, who had a season-high 15 tackles in the win, blocked a punt that he recovered in the end zone for the game's final score.
The defense, which gave up a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage, forced a season-high six three-and-outs against the Gamecocks, who led 21-17 after consecutive touchdown drives to end the first half. In the second half the Vols held South Carolina to 168 yards of offense on 41 plays.
"Our guys executed at a little higher level in the second half," Pruitt said. "We made mistakes, some, in the first half. You've got to give those guys credit. They did some things, made some throws there, did a few things that we hadn't seen. Our guys responded.
"I felt like the fact that we held them from being able to run the football — they've been able to run the football. I don't know what the yardage was in the game, but they had run the football pretty well consistently against everybody. We kind of got them in some third-and-longs there, and we also stopped them in two third-and-shorts, maybe a third-and-short and a fourth-and-short there. Coach (Derrick) Ansley made some really good calls. Our players executed it and got off the field."
Warrior finished with 10 tackles. Freshman linebacker Henry To'o To'o had eight, and Deandre Johnson had a sack.
The Vols lost defensive lineman Darel Middleton to a targeting call in the first half, but he'll be available to play from the start against UAB. Offensive linemen Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright both went out in the first half with injuries, although Morris was able to return in the third quarter.
"We keep talking about finding a way to win, and we found a way to win tonight against a, at least to me, a really good football team," Pruitt said. "We look at their body of work in the first seven games. Forget the record: Look at who they have played and how they have played them. They have a really good football team, and we outplayed them tonight. That was good to see tonight. (It is) awesome in the locker room. Our team is really fired up, and I am happy for them."
"I feel like our players responded. We are to the point now that if we try to challenge them as coaches, they try to respond, and that is where you've got to be. That is why we have 'Coach' in front of our name. We have to be able to feel it, see it and all the things that it takes when it comes to reading people's body language — whatever it is.
"Our players responded. We won the fourth quarter, which was important. We won the second half. For the first time in a while — well, not in a while, we have been responding — but it showed even more this game in the second half as far as putting on more steam when things weren't going our way. Our guys responded and our guys believe that, which is probably more important."