The Tennessee Volunteers finally did it. After 19-game losing streak against ranked teams the streak ends October 19, 2013.
The streak for the Vols spanned four years dating back to the last time they beat South Carolina in 2009. The Vols ended the skid in dramatic fashion with a go-ahead field goal from 19-yards out with no time on the clock. The final score was 23-21.
The real stars of the game for Tennessee were true freshman wide receiver Marquez North, and senior defensive end Marlon Walls. The veteran and the young freshman both provided sparks for their units when the team needed them most.
North was the sparkplug that the Vols needed on offense. Throughout the game Tennessee struggled to get in a rhythm offensively, and when they sputtered they looked to North for the big plays. Twice North was targeted for a 40+ yard pass, and both times he came up with the ball. First, North high-pointed a ball over a defender, and later with the Vols desperately needed to get into field goal range he came up with a one-handed catch with a defender draped all over him.
The other star Marlon Walls had his first multi-sack game of his career, as he finished with three on the day. Of his three sacks, the third was arguably the most important and unquestionably changed the game. With just over five minutes left on the clock, Walls and defensive tackle Daniel McCullers combined to sack South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw. During that play, Shaw was hurt and that changed the course of the game. Shaw’s backup Dylan Thompson, couldn’t manufacture plays like Shaw and it hurt the SC offense. That difference lead to a punt from South Carolina, which the Vols turned into the game-winning field goal.
Tennessee’s impressive performance even had South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier praising the Vols. Spurrier said, “Give Tennessee credit. I think they out played us.” Spurrier went question his game plan after underestimating the Vols offense saying, “Maybe we had too much press. We thought we were too good, maybe.”
Spurrier’s team is an outstanding unit, as he has proven in a tough close loss to the Georgia Bulldogs, and the defeat they handed the Arkansas Razorbacks just a week ago. The Vols now stand at 4-3, tied for third place in the SEC East in overall wins.
The Vols face their biggest challenge of the year against Alabama next week, and do so with a new-found confidence.