COLUMBIA, South Carolina (WATE) – General Neyland’s first maxim reads the team with the fewest mistakes wins and on Saturday night that was the Vols as Tennessee extended their win streak to seven, defeating South Carolina 31-27.
Jarrett Guarantano went 19-for-31 passing for 259 yards and one touchdown, connecting with eight receivers throughout the week one showdown, while rushing for 12 yards and another score.
First-year starter for the Gamecocks Collin Hill methodically drove the Gamecocks drove down the field on the games opening possession. South Carolina ate up five minutes and one second on the 11-play, 75-yard opening drive that ended with a three-yard touchdown run by Kevin Harris putting the Gamecocks up 7-0.
The Vols would answer on their second drive. After Brandon Johnson hauled in a one-handed 30-yard pick-up on third and short, Guarantano hit Josh Palmer for a 10-yard gain then Eric Gray for a 31-yard pickup putting Tennessee at the South Carolina one-yard line. Guarantano scored on the one-yard quarterback keeper to tie the game at seven-all.
That score would hold through the end of the first quarter, but not much longer. On third and sixteen Collin Hill’s pass went through the hands of Shi Smith and into the arms of Tennessee linebacker Henry To’o To’o. The sophomores first career interception would turn into his first career pick-six as To’o To’o returned it 32 yards for the score to give the Vols a 14-7 edge.
Tennessee doubled their lead on the opening drive of the second half as Guarantano methodically drove the Vols downfield on an eight-play, 74 yard drive that was capped off by a 12-yard touchdown jaunt by sophomore Eric Gray giving the Vols a 21-7 advantage.
Gamecocks would score on their next two possessions. First, Collin Hill connected with Shi Smith for a 29-yard touchdown. Then Hill took it in himself on the one-yard quarterback keeper for a new ball game with 4:32 to play in the third quarter.
Tennessee and South Carolina would then exchange a pair of field goals for the next few scores of the game after Brent Cimaglia (UT) split the upright from 27-yards out and Parker White (USC) did the same but from 35-yards to tie the game again at 24.
Guarantano responded with a pair of thirty-plus yard passes, part of a four-play 75-yard drive, the second of which was caught by Josh Palmer in the endzone to give Tennessee a seven-point lead with 9:35 to play in the game.
With 1:29 left to play the Gamecocks were set to get the ball back but Cam Smith fumbled Paxton Brooks 42-yard punt and Jimmy Holiday recovered putting the nail in the coffin for the Gamecocks.
The Vols return to Knoxville for their home opener, hosting Mizzou on Saturday, October 3rd at noon.