Vols Stun Gamecocks in Overtime After Comeback
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Trailing South Carolina by 14 points with just under five minutes remaining, it looked like Tennessee was in for another tough-luck loss on a cold night in Columbia S.C. on Saturday.
Butch Jones said he didn’t have to say a word to his team. They knew what they needed to do.
They had practiced these scenarios dozens of times. They ran extra conditioning in the summer to simulate late-game situations. They were down 27 points to Alabama last week and made that a game. With new starting quarterback Joshua Dobbs at the helm, the Vols were set to storm back.
“Being down by 14 with four or five minutes left in the game, there was never a doubt we were going to win this football game,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said after the game.
After falling short a few other times this year in comeback attempts, this time Jones was right.
The Vols came back to tie it at 42 in regulation with just 11 seconds remaining. A short field goal by Aaron Medley in overtime gave the Vols a 45-42 edge.
Tennessee’s defense, which had been gashed for 42 points and 625 yards throughout the course of the game, then found a whole new level. The Vols sacked South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson twice, forced a throw away on third down and a 57-yard field goal by kicker Elliott Fry fell well short, triggering a celebration for the Vols as they won their first SEC road game against a non-Vandy/Kentucky opponent since 2007.
“There was just a little different push in overtime,” Jones said. “That’s what great players do. They step up in critical moments and critical stages of the game. We always talk about impacting the game, and they impact the game.”
Dobbs and freshman running back Jalen Hurd were on full display for the Vols on Saturday night. South Carolina had a chance to practically end the game on a fourth-and-six situation late in the fourth. Dobbs hit Hurd on a middle screen pass and Hurd ran into a defender short of the first-down marker.
Hurd, who finished the game with 125 yards rushing and 58 yards receiving, avoided the tackle, broke down the middle of the field and powered into the end zone to cut SC’s lead to 35-28 with 6:34 remaining.
“I just kept thinking back to whatever it takes,” Hurd said. “We busted our butts throughout this week getting ready for this game. Even in the Alabama game, we were down, but we didn’t give up at all. That’s exactly what we need and our wide receivers made some big plays. Our offense played great and didn’t give up any sacks. We had a lot of rushing yards and the team played great.”
South Carolina quickly answered with a 70-yard touchdown run by reserve running back Brandon Wilds that put the Gamecocks back up two scores. Dobbs, who finished the game with 166 yards rushing and 301 yards passing, had two more drives in him, however. He quickly marched the Vols 75 yards, finishing off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run himself.
After a failed onside kick attempt, the Vols bowed up on defense, getting a three-and-out and getting the ball back in Dobbs’ hands at UT’s own 15 with just 1:23 remaining and no timeouts. The sophomore quarterback calmly marched the Vols down the field, running and throwing with efficiency, to set the Vols up in the red zone.
On a critical play with 15 seconds left, Dobbs rolled right and found a wide-open Jason Croom in the end zone tie the game in regulation, setting up UT’s eventual overtime win.
“Well, it feels good anytime you win, but I feel great for Vol Nation,” Jones said of the win. “You talk about a loyal fan base – we are going to need them as this season continues to progress. Our student body, our student section – I hope everyone in Vol Nation can have a great weekend and a great week. And I am proud of our seniors and everyone associated with our football program. You know, we’ve been on the other side of things – so we’re going to enjoy the night.”
The Vols will have a bye week before hosting Kentucky at home before finishing out the season with Missouri at home and travelling to Vanderbilt. Tennessee (4-5, 1-4 SEC) now needs just two wins in their final three games to reach bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010.