South Carolina at Tennessee – the thing of which nightmares are made.
1995 – My only trip to Knoxville for a game featured Steve Taneyhill vs. Peyton Manning. The Gamecocks took the opening kickoff and drove all the way to the Tennessee one-yard line, only to have a false start penalty stall the drive. The chip shot field goal that would’ve given South Carolina an early lead was blocked by Leonard Little and returned 90 yards for a Vol touchdown. It was all downhill from there as Tennessee went on to win 56-21.
2001 – The no. 15 Gamecocks and no. 9 Volunteers battled nip and tuck for three and a half quarters, but a Travis Stephens touchdown midway through the fourth quarter gave Tennessee a 17-10 victory. It was one of only three losses on the season for the Gamecocks.
2003 – Star freshman running back Demetris Summers ran for 158 yards on 27 carries and the Gamecocks played their first ever overtime game (I think) in Knoxville. But they lost in heartbreaking fashion as Tennessee scored a touchdown in their overtime possession after a USC field goal.
2007 – Talk about heartbreaking. The Gamecocks stormed back from a 21-0 halftime deficit to take a 24-21 lead late in the game. The Vols’ Daniel Lincoln hit a 48-yard field goal with five seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime, then made a 27-yarder in the first overtime period. Ryan Succop missed a 40-yarder with a chance to force a second overtime. At the time, had the Gamecocks won out, they would have won the SEC East (instead, they lost their last three regular season games).
2009 – The 22nd-ranked Gamecocks went into Knoxville against an aggressively average Tennessee team in their first and only year under Lane Kiffin. When the Vols ran out onto the field in black jerseys, on Halloween no less, the game was over. The Gamecocks gave the game away early, turning the ball over and falling behind 21-0 again. There would be no comeback this time, and UT went on to win 31-13.
2015 – The worst South Carolina team of the last two decades fell into a big hole again (sound familiar?), trailing by two touchdowns at the half. Once again they rallied to tie it up, and had a chance to win late, but Jerrell Adams fumbled at the Tennessee 13-yard line with :32 seconds left to play.
Even the wins in Knoxville have been pretty blah – 14-3 in 2011 when we had a vastly superior team, and 15-9 in 2017 when we dominated most of the game but needed a goal line stand at the end of the game to seal it.
That said, one of the great moments in Gamecock history happened in Knoxville in 2005 in Steve Spurrier’s first year as head coach. Josh Brown’s 49-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter gave the Gamecocks a 16-15 win, their first in Neyland Stadium. But as far as great USC performances in Knoxville, the list pretty much begins and ends with that game.
What am I expecting tomorrow? Who knows. What we need is an offensive breakout for this team. We’ve seen glimpses throughout the season, but it would be nice to see a four quarter performance from the offense where we put 35-38 points on the board and have the defense play at the level it played against Georgia. If we can pull that off, we should have a relaxing afternoon.
However, the Vols have been playing tough football, especially the last two weeks against Mississippi State and Alabama. So while there’s the performance I’m hoping for, there’s also the performance we’re most likely to get – a low scoring street fight that isn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter. As long as we come away with a win I really don’t care how we get it.
I’d just like to save all my scares and horrors for later in the week.