Gamecocks blow another late lead in OT loss to Vols

uscfoot-86blackDespite a career night from sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina fell to Tennessee, 45-42, at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.

On first-and-10 and the Gamecocks on their own 34-yard line, junior tailback Mike Davis flipped the field after catching a short pass in the flat and took it for a 34-yard gain down to the Vols’ 32. After a 15-yard pass to Cooper, the Gamecocks went into the wildcat with Cooper taking the snaps. Facing a third-and-three, Cooper found an open hole on the right side and took the ball 11 yards into the end zone.

On Tennessee’s following drive, the Vols moved the ball down to the Gamecocks’ one-yard line, but Tennessee turned the ball over on downs after Carolina came up with back-to-back stops up the middle. Two plays later though, redshirt senior Dylan Thompson was intercepted by Justin Coleman. The Vols moved the ball 39 yards on six plays before Pig Howard scored on a one-yard rush on third-and-goal to tie the game at 7-7 with 2:37 on the clock in the first quarter.

After forcing the Gamecocks to punt, Tennessee put together an11-play, 80-yard drive to take a 14-7 lead after a seven-yard rush from quarterback Joshua Dobbs, his first of three touchdown runs on the night. On the ensuing drive, Cooper accounted for 67 yards on three of Carolina’s eight plays, with 37 on two receptions and ending the possession with a 30-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to junior Brandon Wilds to even the game at 14-14.

A 37-yard missed field goal by sophomore kicker Elliott Fry, his first missed field goal in his last 12 attempts, gave Tennessee the ball on its own 20-yard line with 1:20 remaining in the first half. Dobbs went 3-of-5 passing on the drive before giving the Vols a 21-14 lead with a 36-yard touchdown run with seven seconds before the end of the half.

On Tennessee’s opening drive of the second half, Austin Medley missed a 43-yard field goal attempt, giving the ball to the Gamecocks. Davis began the drive with an 18-yard run to move the ball out to South Carolina’s 44-yard line. On third-and-10, Thompson found junior tight end Jerell Adams for a 16-yard completion. Three plays later, Cooper laid out for a 26-yard reception from Thompson to move the ball into the red zone. Wilds leveled the game at 21-21 after back-to-back five-yard runs.

After Medley’s second missed field goal of the quarter a 32-yard run from Wilds set up Cooper’s first touchdown reception of the night, a 12-yard strike from Thompson to give the Gamecocks a 28-21 advantage with nine seconds remaining in the third quarter.

The Carolina defense forced a Tennessee three-and-out on its next possession. Three plays later, Thompson threw a rope to Cooper over the middle. The receiver took it 85 yards to the end zone, his longest reception of the season, and his second receiving touchdown in less than two minutes to extend the Gamecocks’ lead to 35-21 with 13:22 remaining in the game.

With Tennessee driving on the following possession, senior defensive back Brison Williams shut down the drive by intercepting Dobbs at the Carolina 22-yard line. A three-and-out led to a Gamecock punt, allowing the Vols to start their drive in South Carolina territory. On a fourth-and-six from the 21-yard line, Dobbs connected with Jalen Hurd for a touchdown to bring Tennessee within seven.

Back-to-back negative yardage plays to start the following possession had the Gamecocks looking at a third-and-18. Thompson though found open space on the left side and rushed for 20 yards. On the ensuing play, Wilds broke free down the left sideline for a 70-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career to put the Gamecocks back up 14 at 42-28 with just under five minutes remaining. Tennessee responded though with a 10-play, 78-yard drive that Dobbs capped off with a three-yard run, his third rushing touchdown of the night.

The Vols held the Gamecocks to a three-and-out on their next possession and proceeded to put together a nine-play, 85-yard drive as Dobbs found Jason Croom over the middle of the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown to tie the game at 42-42 with 11 seconds remaining that forced the game into overtime.

Tennessee received to start overtime and Medley converted on a 32-yard field goal to put the Vols ahead, 45-42. Tennessee sent heavy pressure on the Gamecocks’ possession, leading to back-to-back sacks and a hurry on Thompson. On fourth-and-25, Fry missed a 58-yard field goal attempt to end the game.

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