Yesterday was a fun one. Even with the SEC officiating being the same garbage they gave us last week, the Vols put together a complete games from all sides of the ball. They not only ended the Muschamp Curse, but they cancelled for good with the 41-21 route of Coach Muschamp and the Gamecocks.
Tennessee deferred the the ball giving South Carolina the ball first and they wasted no time. Ryan Hilinski found Shi Smith over the middle for a 75-yard SC touchdown for an early 7-0 lead. After so much talk about who starts at QB, Jauan Jennings took the reigns to start the game. He took it into his own hands gaining 11 for the first down, then Shrout came out and took over. After exchanging punts with one another, Tennessee drove the ball enough to get Brent Cimaglia in position for a 46-yard field goal cutting the SC lead to 7-3. The Vols then forced a quick 3-and-out to get the ball right back. The offense then went on a 77-yard march that seemed like it would end in 7 point. A turnover on downs gave the Gamecocks the ball back on their own 1 yard line. The Vols defense didn’t give, forcing another punt. This time, Marquez Callaway took the return 65-yards to the house putting the Vols on top 10-7.
While the second quarter opened up with trading punts again, you could feel the energy in Neyland. South Carolina started driving the ball and then got a little help with a questionable targeting call on Darel Middleton helped move the ball further down the field. Then after a justifiable argument, Coach Pruitt got himself and unsportsmanlike penalty to put the ball on the UT 4 yard line. The Vols defense almost had them stuffed on 4th & 1 but SC were able to get the 7 points making it a 14-10 game. Tennessee responded quickly as it only took 2 plays to find the endzone. Guarantano found Jauan Jennings on a 27-yard pass and then a 48-yard pass for the TD to retake the lead 17-14. The defense stepped up again and almost had SC stopped on the one but the Gamecocks took the lead 21-17 going into the half.
The Vols came out and seemed to have put together a drive, they just barely missed a 39-yard field goal. As we saw through the first half, the defense stepped up to the plate forcing another 3-and-out (for -11 yards might I add). The offense took advantage of their next opportunity. After a clear face mask flag was missed and it seemed like things were trying to go against us, Jennings and Guarantano made a statement. JG found JJ in the back of the end zone for a Vol TD from 19 yards out. That brings us to easily my favorite part of the game. South Carolina put together another negative drive, but more importantly, Neyland Stadium exploded. That venue was louder than any other place I have ever heard and I loved every second of it. I believe the players fed off that and ended up forcing the punt. Guarantano had to exit the game due to a hand injury, we would not see him the rest of the night. This game J.T. Shrout the opportunity to show what he was capable of, an opportunity not wasted. Shrout found Marquez Callaway for a 55-yard touchdown extending the lead to 31-21.
The defense didn’t disappoint in the 2nd half as they locked down South Carolina, not giving up any major plays. The Vols next scoring drive ended in another Cimaglia field goal, this time form 31 yards out making it 34-21 Vols. The last highlight of the game and really the cherry on top was a blocked punt by Daniel Bituli in the 4th quarter. Not only did he blocked it but was also the one to recover it in the endzone for the final score of the game to give us our final at 41-21 Vols.
Last week gave us a glimpse of what this team is really capable of. Last night showed us that capability in action to the fullest extent. I think that was a great win, a must needed win, and is will give enough momentum to allow us to run the table the rest of the season. No I’m not saying it will be a walk in the park or guaranteed wins, but I am saying that I believe we are better than UAB, Kentucky, Missouri, and Vandy.
J. Guarantano: 11/19, 229 yards, 2 TD
J.T. Shrout: 7/11, 122 yards, 1 TD
T. Chandler: 16 rush, 78 yards
J. Jennings: 7 rec., 174 yards, 2 TD
M. Callaway: 3 rec., 102 yards, 1 TD, 1 Punt Return TD
R. Hilinski: 28/51, 319 yards, 1 TD, 38.4 QBR
T. Feaster: 19 rush, 80 yards, 1 TD
S. Smith: 11 rec., 156 yards, 1 TD
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