RECAP: With both offenses looking incompetent early, it was fitting that the game's first points should come on defense. After a Carolina punt was downed at the Vol 1-yard line, Gerald Riggs was stopped in the backfield for a safety that gave the Gamecocks a 2-0 lead. Carolina failed to field the ensuing free kick (actually a free punt by Dustin Colquitt) and UT's Robert Boulware recovered at the SC 32-yard line. A delay penalty got the possession started on the wrong foot, however, and Erik Ainge was intercepted on third and 15, giving the ball back to Carolina.
Dondrial Pinkins scrambled for 12 yards on third-and-seven at the Carolina 49-yard line, helping the Gamecocks mount a 13-play drive that eventually stalled at Tennessee's 9-yard line. Josh Brown booted a 26-yard field goal to widen SC's lead to 5-0.
The Vol offense continued to look out of sync, and Carolina was driving again as the quarter ended. The big plays were a 28-yard run by Boyd and an 18-yard run by Gonzy Gray that carried to the Vol 27-yard line.
KEY PLAY: The safety. Carolina was more fired up than UT already, but that big play early seemed to raise the Gamecocks to an even higher level.
KEY PLAYER: Pinkins. He was hurting the Vols more with his feet than his arm, keeping UT's defense off balance.
KEY STAT: Tennessee ran 10 plays in the quarter, gaining a measly 17 yards and zero first downs. Conversely, Carolina had 17 plays for 126 yards.
RECAP: Carolina's drive begun late in the first quarter finally stalled at the Vol 19-yard line, and Brown hit a 36-yard field goal that widened the gap to 8-0 on the third play of the second period. With Ainge struggling mightily, Tennessee went with Brent Schaeffer at quarterback.
After a three-and-out on his first possession, he provided a spark on the next one. Cedric Houston broke a 27-yard run that would've gained another 20 yards if not for an illegal-block-in-the-back penalty. Moments later an ineligible receiver penalty negated a 33-yard pass from Schaeffer to Riggs. On the very next play a holding call negated a nifty scramble by Schaeffer, killing the drive. A 49-yard run by Demetris Summers which featured some atrocious tackling by Tennessee helped Carolina drive to the Vol 6-yard line. However, Jesse Mahelona threw Turman for a five-yard loss, then Parys Haralson sacked Syvelle Newton for an eight-yard loss and Brown missed a 36-yard field goal.
After making just one first down in the game's first 27 minutes, Tennessee started its final drive of the half at its 20-yard line with 3:02 left to intermission. A holding penalty on first down did not bode well but a 15-yard run by Riggs on first down helped UT escape the hole. Ainge was hemmed in on third-and-two but shoveled to Riggs, who gained four yards and a critical first down at the Vol 32-yard line. Moments later, on third-and-17, Schaeffer hit C.J. Fayton with a 54-yard bomb that carried to the Carolina 21-yard line with 42 seconds left in the half. Ainge hit freshman fullback David Holbert with a 21-yard TD pass on second down, pulling UT within 8-6 with 30 seconds left in the quarter. Schaeffer returned at quarterback for the conversion try. A quarterback draw was stuffed up the middle, so Schaeffer bounced outside and scored untouched around right end, tying the score at 8-8.
KEY PLAY: Schaeffer's bomb to Fayton. That play gained almost as many yards (54) as all of the Vols' other plays in the first half combined.
KEY PLAYER: Schaeffer. He clearly gave Tennessee's offense a big boost with his ability to buy time with his feet and scramble for yardage.
KEY STAT: Tennessee missed 11 first-half tackles. Also, the Vols had the ball just 9 minutes and 7 seconds, compared to Carolina's 20 minutes and 53 seconds.
RECAP: Building on the momentum of its TD drive at the end of the first half, Tennessee scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of the second half. Cedric Houston burst 54 yards on UT's first play of the second half. Ainge replaced Schaeffer on third-and-seven moments later and hit Chris Hannon with a 24-yard touchdown pass. James Wilhoit's PAT made it 15-8 with 13:04 left in the quarter. Jonathan Hefney intercepted a Syvelle Newton bomb on Carolina's next possession. Schaeffer gained 10 yards on a scramble and Ainge hit Houston with a 13-yard swing pass but the drive stalled.
A nine-yard sack of Newton by Columbia native Tony McDaniel backed Carolina up to its 1-yard line. Moments later, a short punt gave UT possession at the Carolina 20-yard line. With Schaeffer resting a sore shoulder suffered on the previous possession, Ainge hit freshman tight end Chris Brown with a 20-yard TD pass on the first play of the possession, padding the lead to 22-8 with 6:42 left in the period.
Carolina drove to the Tennessee 18-yard line but Pinkins, pressured by Tony McDaniel, threw a pass that was intercepted by Roshaun Fellows in the back of the end zone.
Taking over at its 20-yard line, Tennessee got a first down on a nifty seven-yard scramble by Schaeffer on third-and-five. A 65-yard burst by Houston on the last play of the quarter carried to the Gamecock 3-yard line.
KEY PLAY: Houston's 54-yard ramble on the first play of the quarter set the tone for the remainder of the period.
KEY PLAYER: Houston. He carried four times for 123 yards in the quarter, an average of 31 yards per attempt.
KEY STAT: Tennessee's ground game roared to life in the period. Ten rushes gained 142 yards in the period. That opened up the passing game, enabling Ainge to complete TD passes of 24 yards to Hannon and 20 to Chris Brown.
RECAP: Houston dived over the the 1-yard line on the second play of the quarter, boosting Tennessee's lead to 29-8. Carolina roared back, however, to score its first TD of the game. The big play was a 40-yard swing pass from Pinkins to Gonzy Gray. Pinkins subsequently hit Matthew Thomas with a five-yard touchdown pass, narrowing the gap to 29-15 with 11:30 remaining.
Tennessee went up 36-15 moments later. Haralson hit Pinkins, forcing a poor pass that Omar Gaither intercepted and returned 16 yards to the UT 48-yard line. An interference penalty moved the ball to the Carolina 35-yard line and former walk-on David Yancey rambled 23 yards moments later for a touchdown that gave Tennessee a 21-point lead with 5:09 remaining.
The Vol defense relaxed at this point, allowing Carolina to march 60 yards in five plays. Pinkins had runs of 8 and 12 yards on the play and a roughing-the-passer penalty against UT's Turk McBride contributed. Pinkins hit Andre Gauz on a three-yard TD pass, closing the gap to 36-22 with 3:44 left.
Carolina's coverage men overran the ensuing onsides kick, enabling UT's Bret Smith to pluck it out of the air, then return it 44 yards for a touchdown that widened the lead to 43-22.
With Tennessee's defense playing ultra-soft, Carolina was able to score with 1:22 left on a four-yard QB draw by Pinkins, closing the deficit to 43-29.
KEY PLAY: Yancey's TD run. It widened the lead to three touchdowns and put the Gamecocks in a hole too deep to escape.
KEY PLAYER: Bret Smith. His unorthodox kickoff return was the final nail in Carolina's coffin.
KEY STAT: After scoring zero points in the game's first 29 minutes, Tennessee scored 43 in the last 31 minutes. Houston finished with 15 carries for 190 yards.