And it was difficult to determine whether Gamecocks or Tigers fans hurt more.
No. 20 South Carolina was stung by Tennessee’s fourth-quarter rally, the unranked Vols snapping a four-year streak of losses to ranked opponents 23-21 on Michael Palardy’s 19-yard field as time ran out.
“I couldn’t sleep hardly a bit last night,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday.
The Gamecocks had figured to grab hold of the SEC Eastern Division at Neyland Stadium and, after a sluggish start, led 21-17 in the fourth quarter and figured to try and run out the game with mobile quarterback Connor Shaw and the SEC’s leading rusher in Mike Davis.
Instead, Shaw got crunched midway through final period and suffered a left knee sprain that Spurrier says will most likely keep him out of next Saturday’s game at SEC East leader, No. 5 Missouri.
Without Shaw’s versatility, the Gamecocks offense bogged down and they twice gave the ball back to Tennessee for an upset chance. The Vols did it on their last possession, freshman receiver Marquez North with a one-armed catch with South Carolina’s Ahmad Christian in seemingly good position to make a play. The stunned South Carolina defense couldn’t compose itself after that and Tennessee put Palardy in chip-shot range.
Spurrier questioned his play-calling down the stretch and acknowledged he would’ve gone for it on fourth down deep in Gamecocks territory if his offense needed one yard instead of two. Spurrier used two time outs considering the decision before punting.
Spurrier and the Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2) will try and get back on track at Missouri. The coach said that’s the first step toward working themselves back in the divisional race since undefeated Missouri has a two-game lead over the East’s three favorites in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
“I think we all know that there’s a lot of ball still left for everyone,” Spurrier said.
And more chances to make Palmetto State fans happy again.