- Advertisement -
Home Sports Errant special teams play helps No. 16 Tennessee to 31-27 win over...

Errant special teams play helps No. 16 Tennessee to 31-27 win over South Carolina

Jimmy Holiday comes up with a muffed punt with 1:23 remaining in Tennessee’s game at South Carolina on Saturday, September 26, 2020, allowing the Vols to escape with a 31-27 win | Photo: UTSports.com

COLUMBIA, S.C. — For the past decade, Tennessee fans have grown weary of watching their teams lose games in bizarre and sometimes inexplicable ways.

On Saturday, it felt like the shoe was finally on the other foot, as a late punt caromed off the leg of a South Carolina player who had his back to the ball, allowing Tennessee to escape Columbia with a 31-27 win over the Gamecocks.

Jimmy Holiday recovered the muffed punt with 1:24 remaining, denying South Carolina an opportunity to get the ball back late.

The win, coupled with Mississippi State’s upset win at defending national champion LSU in Mike Leach’s debut, gave the 16th-ranked Vols the SEC’s longest active winning streak, at seven games. Ironically, that winning streak began against South Carolina last October.

By turn on Saturday, Tennessee looked like a team that can compete for the SEC East championship and a team that will struggle for bowl eligibility. However, on a night when the positives out-weighed the negatives, the Vols finished with 394 yards of total offense and did not trail after answering a South Carolina touchdown that the Gamecocks scored on the game’s opening possession.

Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano continued to struggle with consistency. The fifth-year senior made some big throws, while also missing wide open receivers. He finished 19 of 31 for 259 yards and a touchdown. Ty Chandler was the workhorse of Tennessee’s backfield, with 86 yards on 13 carries. Josh Palmer was the leading receiver, with six catches for 85 yards and a score.

Defensively, Tennessee looked exceptionally good in the first half, outside of the Gamecocks’ opening drive. In fact, after that game-opening score, South Carolina did not sniff the end zone again in the first half. Tennessee took a 14-7 lead to the locker room, after Guarantano scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak and star sophomore linebacker Henry To’o To’o returned an interception 32 yards for a score.

- Story Continues Below -

Join our mailing list

Get headlines delivered directly to your inbox with the Inside Scott Newsletter.

We will not sell or spam your email address.

But South Carolina began to find some success, both through the air and on the ground, in the second half. The Gamecocks quickly drove the length of the field on each of their first two possessions of the second half to tie the game, 21-21. New quarterback Collin Hill was 25 of 39 for 290 yards and a score, and standout wide receiver Shi Smith torched Tennessee’s secondary, with 10 catches for 140 yards and a score.

There were also special teams miscues for Tennessee. A long snap rolled to punter Paxton Brooks in the first quarter, who appeared to panic and did not get a punt off. Later, Brent Cimaglia — one of the most accurate kickers in UT history — missed a 46-yard field goal attempt.

But in the end, all of the above were just good enough. Guarantano had no accuracy issues on a key fourth quarter drive, completing two perfectly-thrown passes to get the Vols to the end zone after South Carolina had kicked a field goal to tie the game at 24. The second of the two was a 32-yard scoring strike to Palmer.

And Tennessee’s defense held South Carolina, forcing a 45-yard field goal with 3:16 remaining that cut the lead to 31-27.

Needing just two first downs to effectively kill the clock, Tennessee saw Chandler pick up eight yards on first down, leading to one first down and punching the ball into South Carolina territory. But things went horribly awry after that. There were two procedural penalties and two lost yardage plays, putting the Vols in a 4th and 24 situation and making it appear that the dangerous Hill-Smith combination would have one last opportunity to end the game.

However, the punt bounced off of Gamecock player Cam Smith, and Holiday recovered at the South Carolina 18-yard-line. With no time outs remaining, the Gamecocks were powerless to stop the clock.

Next up for Tennessee will be the home opener against Missouri on October 3. Kickoff is set for noon at Neyland Stadium.

- Advertisement -
Independent Herald
Contact the Independent Herald at newsroom@ihoneida.com. Follow us on Twitter, @indherald.
- Advertisement -

Stay Connected

9,430FansLike
1,280FollowersFollow
1,682FollowersFollow

Join our mailing list

We will not sell or spam your email address.

The Latest

Scott County records 400th case of coronavirus, ranks among lowest in state

Scott County recorded its 400th case of novel coronavirus on Wednesday, as the TN Dept. of Health reported six new cases in the county....

Weather service issued Flood Watch for Scott County

Scott County and the rest of East Tennessee have been placed under a Flash Flood Watch as the remnants of Hurricane Zeta continue to...

Rain expected locally from Hurricane Zeta

Hurricane Zeta will trek northward across the southeastern United States over the next several days, and is expected to bring several inches of rain...

Early voting surges above 5,000 in Scott County, with two days to go

HUNTSVILLE — More than 5,400 Scott Countians have cast their ballots for the November 3 presidential election, with still two days of early voting remaining. Tuesday...

Related Stories

IH Sports Minute: Season 2, Episode 19

A final look at the high school soccer season, the accomplishments of the seniors and what might be ahead for Scott High and Oneida...

Oneida will remain in Class 1A for basketball, Scott goes to Class 3A

By the skin of its teeth, Oneida High School will remain in Class 1A for basketball, baseball and softball the next four years. The Tennessee...

IH Sports Minute: Season 2, Episode 18

Setting the stage for tonight's Region 2-A championship game between Oneida and Cumberland Gap, a look at how Scott High's successful season ended with...

Oneida-Coalfield game canceled due to Covid-19, as Indians suspend season for two weeks

The always-anticipated Oneida-Coalfield rivalry game will not happen this season, as the Indians have suspended football for two weeks due to Covid-19. Oneida High School...

For Scott seniors, an accomplished career ends in region semifinals

LIVINGSTON — When the final whistle sounded in Livingston Academy's 2-0 win over Scott High here Tuesday, the curtain fell on an accomplished career...
- Advertisement -