The Tennessee and South Carolina rivalry, on paper, is one of the younger rivalries around college football. The first meeting between the two was back in 1903, although most of their contests have come since 1992. Despite that they did not begin to play regularly until then, that has not stopped the Volunteers and the Gamecocks from having some great moments, and here, we will take a look at the five of the best moments in the rivalry.
5) 1992: Tennessee vs. South Carolina in Columbia – 1992 was the year that this rivalry truly jump-started, marking the first year that the two teams began playing yearly. Prior to this contest, the Vols and Gamecocks had only played 10 times between 1903-1991. In a tight contest, Tennessee trailed 24-17 late in the fourth quarter, but would not go down quietly. Quarterback Heath Shuler connected with Mose Phillips for a touchdown to cut the South Carolina lead to just one. The Volunteers then failed to convert a 2-point conversion attempt and ended up losing 24-23. It became South Carolina’s first victory over the Vols since 1903, a span of 89 years. This would also mark a turning point in the football program at Tennessee. In the following week, head coach Johnny Majors resigned and the Phillip Fulmer era began.
4) 2012: Tennessee vs. South Carolina in Columbia – Coming into this game, Tennessee was looking to play spoiler to South Carolina. The Gamecocks were ranked 13th in the BCS standings while the Volunteers were only 3-4. At halftime, South Carolina appeared to be in control with a 28-14 lead, but that was not the main concern for Gamecocks’ fans. Their star running back, Marcus Lattimore, had left the game in the second quarter after a gruesome-looking knee injury. It was the second consecutive year that Lattimore’s season ended prematurely due to a knee injury, injuries that led to an unfortunate early end to his career. In the second half, Tennessee did its best to pull off the comeback effort, cutting the deficit to only three late in the fourth quarter. However, a late sack by Jadeveon Clowney and a Tyler Bray interception sealed the 38-35 South Carolina victory.
3) 2013: Tennessee vs. South Carolina in Knoxville – South Carolina had won three straight against Tennessee, its longest winning streak against the Vols in the rivalry’s history. The Gamecocks came into the game ranked No. 11, while Tennessee entered the game at 3-3 under first year head coach Butch Jones. By halftime though, the Volunteers appeared to be in control of the game, leading 17-7. It would not last long. The Gamecocks scored two touchdowns, including one after a missed Michael Palardy field goal, to take a 21-17 lead into the fourth quarter. Tennessee was able to bring the score to 21-20 with approximately 10 minutes left to play. At the end of the game, the Volunteers forced South Carolina to punt, setting up Tennessee with one final possession and a chance for Palardy to redeem himself. He did just that. As time expired, Palardy nailed a 19-yard field goal to give the Vols a 23-21 victory, the first time they had defeated the Gamecocks since 2009.
2) 2005: Tennessee vs. South Carolina in Knoxville – Tennessee was ranked No. 3 to begin the 2005 season and had legitimate national championship aspirations. It simply was not the Vols’ years, however, and they entered this game at 3-3. Tennessee expected an easier game after facing a top 10 team the previous two weeks, but South Carolina would not provide that leisure. In Steve Spurrier’s first year as “Head Ball Coach” for the Gamecocks, they were determined to get a win over the struggling Volunteers. In a low scoring affair, the score was 12-7 until the fourth quarter. Just 30 seconds into the final quarter, South Carolina retook the lead on Blake Mitchell’s second touchdown pass to Sidney Rice, who finished the game with eight catches for 112 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, but the Gamecocks led 13-12. Tennessee was able to respond and take a 15-13 lead on a 43 yard James Wilhoit field goal. However, much like the season as a whole, this day was not Tennessee’s day. South Carolina drove to the Tennessee 32 yard line and Josh Brown nailed a 49 yard field goal, which would end up being the game winner. The Volunteers had plenty of time to answer, but their offense simply showed no signs of life, and the Gamecocks held on to win 16-15 for their first ever win over Tennessee in Knoxville.
1) 2014: Tennessee vs. South Carolina in Columbia – Sometimes, the best moments are not so long ago. Sometimes, the best moments are the most recent ones. Heading into the 2014 showdown, both squads were in the midst of disappointing seasons; the Vols were 3-5 and the Gamecocks were 4-4. At halftime, Tennessee had a 21-14 edge. With about five minutes left to play, though, South Carolina had come roaring back and led the Vols 42-28 after a 70 yard touchdown run by Brandon Wilds. Even facing daunting odds, Tennessee refused to give up, and brought the score to 42-35 with just under two minutes left to play after a Josh Dobbs’ touchdown run. The Volunteers were then able to get the ball back, and with just 11 seconds left to play, Dobbs threw the game-tying touchdown to Jason Croom. With the game tied at 42, it went into overtime. In overtime, Aaron Medley hit a 32-yard field goal to give the Vols the lead 45-42. On the ensuing possession, South Carolina gave up two sacks and missed a 58-yard field goal, which gave Tennessee the thrilling victory by a score of 45-42 in overtime. In just his first start of the season, Josh Dobbs threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns while running for another 166 yards (a school record for rushing yards by a quarterback) and three touchdowns. This incredible performance lifted Tennessee to a season-best 645 offensive yards.
Edited by Nathan Odom