South Carolina rolled into Neyland Stadium with a big defensive reputation.
But it was the Vols who might have earned a defensive reputation. Tennessee sacked Conner Shaw four times.
"We game planned throughout practice. Every thing we game planned for they ran it in the game, so we were ready for it," said Vols linebacker A.J. Johnson.
The Gamecocks completed only 8 passes, but they got a big one on the first play of the second quarter. Shaw connected with a 76-yard touchdown pass to Damiere Byrd to make it 7-3 South Carolina. But U-T responded with two touchdowns in the second period. Pig Howard caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Justin Worley.
Tennessee carried a 17-7 lead into halftime thanks to Rajion Neal's five yard touchdown run. Third quarter, and the Gamecocks bounced back with two touchdowns, including a 21-yard scamper from Mike Davis. But much to Steve Spurrier's chagrin, his team couldn't shake the Vols. About two minutes to play, Vols trail 21-20. Third and ten, and Marquez North makes an incredible catch for a 39-yard gain to the 26.
"We call it back-footing it. Going up and catching the ball at it's highest point. It's the equivalent of going up and grabbing a rebound," said Vols head coach Butch Jones.
Time to warm up Michael Palardy for the game winning kick.
"Mike and I were in line at dinner last night. I looked at him because he told me he was going to have the game winner at Georgia. So I looked at him this time and said, you got the game winner tomorrow right? He looked at me and said, I got you coach."
Palardy connects on the 19-yarder as time expires. Vols win 23-21.
"I kind of stopped and fell to the ground. I was kind of in awe. It all happened so fast."
"We needed that badly. Desperately. Whew. It has been a long time," said Vols running back Rajion Neal.