There are two absolute truths when the South Carolina Gamecocks play the Tennessee Volunteers in Williams-Brice Stadium: The Cocks are going to wear all black, and prepare for a very thrilling, but bizarre, game.
Much has been made of Coach Will Muschamp’s record at night, but that was laid to rest after a power toss to Rico Dowdle put the Gamecocks at the Tennessee 16 yard line with just under a minute remaining in the game. A few timeouts and a few Jake Bentley kneel-downs later, there is a (feasible) path to the postseason following their third consecutive victory over the Vols.
But it wasn’t that simple.
After two flat first possessions, the Gamecocks seemed to be driving until a poorly-timed pass from Bentley found Shy Tuttle instead of a black uniform, and the Vols scored on a short field just six plays later. South Carolina proceeded to march down the field only to stall in the red zone, settling for a 19-yard field goal just before the end of the first quarter. After trading punts, each team pocketed a touchdown before heading for the locker rooms to prepare for the second half.
At the break? The Gamecocks were one bogus interception away from a pretty dominating performance against the one thing that could cripple the USC defense: Tennessee’s ability to press the edge with screen passes.
When the Vols came out in the second half, it appeared as though Jeremy Pruitt’s promising offense had delivered the death knell at the hands of Carlin Fils-Aime (and a ridiculous amount of third down conversions).
NOT. SO. FAST. MY. FRIENDS.
A Rico Dowdle scramble from a yard away brought the Gamecocks to within five. Tennessee looked like they were marching down the field again.
Welcome back, D.J. Wonnum .
A sack and a crazy unsportsmanlike conduct penalty forced a Brent Cimaglia field goal that tied his career long (stop me if you’ve heard about someone tying a record in Willy B before). The Vols were up by eight.
The Gamecocks had been hammering the run all night, and hadn’t even really attempted anything that resembled a pass (interceptions don’t count) until the end of the first half. So, naturally the Gamecocks started throwing the football all over the place in the second half, with limited success. Until a perfectly thrown first-down seam route set the stage for arguably the best play from scrimmage in Bryan Edwards career, which set up a much-deserved touchdown run by Ty’Son Williams, and a quintessential Jake Bentley moment; a keeper up the middle for the tying points that ended in a trip to the concussion tent but only after a wild display of emotion that either bolstered your opinion of his leadership ability. or scared the daylights out of you. You be the judge.
Then, like magic, after a botched possession, a weird timeout, a fumble that wasn’t a fumble, another weird timeout, and another lost possession, the defense decided to show up, and buddy, did they ever. Tennessee turned it over on downs the next two times they had the football, and Parker White got to deliver the final nail in another comeback win.
Will Muschamp got to enjoy a (potentially) watershed moment. Gamecock fans got to enjoy yet another spooky, yet satisfying win under the lights in Columbia.