KNOXVILLE — Tennessee beat South Carolina 41-21 on Saturday at Neyland Stadium to improve to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference.
South Carolina is 3-5, 2-4.
So many people — all Tennessee seniors — could qualify here, but nobody was quite as instrumental in the win as receiver Jauan Jennings. He started the game at quarterback, and while he didn't complete a pass, he did rush for 18 yards. But he was at his best catching passes, with a career-high 174 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including a 48-yard catch-and-run on which he broke multiple tackles along the way.
Tennessee set a season high in passing yards (351) despite having three players take snaps, with junior Jarrett Guarantano and redshirt freshman J.T. Shrout — regular quarterbacks — joining Jennings. Guarantano passed for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just 11 completions, and Shrout had 122 yards on seven completions and his first touchdown as a Volunteer.
The Vols scored the final 24 points of the game, but the start of that run came on a nice 19-yard touchdown pass from Guarantano to Jennings. Guarantano rolled to his right before lofting a perfectly placed ball into the end zone that Jennings ran under before absorbing a big hit. Guarantano was injured on the play, ending his day, but the Vols rode the wave of emotion from that point forward.
Daniel Bituli had a dominant day with 15 tackles, a quarterback hurry and a pass breakup, but the senior linebacker's most noticeable contribution was a blocked punt. The ball rolled 30 yards into the end zone, and he fell on it to put the Vols up 41-21 and seal the victory.
WHAT IT MEANS
Against all odds — using two backup quarterbacks, entering with a three-game losing streak against South Carolina and having never beaten Will Muschamp as a head coach — the Vols won. And they did so in convincing fashion. They were always going to be judged this season by how they did against teams such as the Gamecocks, who are more on their current level, and they're off to a good start heading into a manageable November slate as they try to reach bowl eligibility with little margin for error.