No. 5 Tennessee’s dreams of making the College Football Playoffs faded when the Volunteers failed to stop South Carolina’s offense in a 63-38 loss on Saturday night.
And when we say Tennessee couldn’t stop South Carolina, we mean it very literally. Aside from a one-play drive late in the first half, South Carolina (7-4) had touchdowns on eight of their first nine possessions. The Gamecocks scored on their first five possessions of the night and were unable to punt until the third quarter thanks to a fantastic performance from QB Spencer Rattler.
As if the loss itself wasn’t bad enough, the night got even worse for Tennessee (10-2) in the fourth quarter when Heisman quarterback candidate Hendon Hooker collapsed to the ground without being touched. Hooker sustained a left knee injury at the game and never returned to the game after limping into the locker room.
Rattler transferred from Oklahoma to South Carolina ahead of the 2022 season after being replaced by Caleb Williams as the Sooners’ starting quarterback. Rattler struggled in 2021 as he opened the season as a Heisman favorite, coming to South Carolina to match the 2020 form that made him a preseason Heisman contender.
That form had eluded him until Saturday night. After throwing eight touchdowns and nine interceptions in South Carolina’s first 10 games of the season, Rattler threw six touchdowns and no interceptions as South Carolina had the most points ever by a ranked team against a team ranked in the top five on the AP poll scored
Spencer Rattler’s best game ever
Rattler has never thrown for five touchdowns in a single game in Oklahoma — let alone six — and his 438 yards is a career high. It was clear South Carolina wanted to score as many points as possible when Rattler was still throwing in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and finding Jalen Brooks for a 20-yard catch-and-run TD with 2:06 left.
South Carolina scored 28 straight points to end the game after Tennessee cut USC’s 9-53 lead to four in the third quarter. The nine TDs the Gamecocks scored against UT came after USC had a total of only 18 offensive points in his first seven SEC games of the season.
The Gamecocks had over 500 yards in attack and also rushed for three points. Antwane Wells Jr. had 10 catches for 141 yards and Josh Vann had a 60-yard TD catch and an 18-yard TD catch as Tennessee’s secondary just couldn’t cover.
Tennessee’s offense wasn’t as explosive as it was at times in 2022, but it was still good enough to win the game with a decent performance from the Tennessee defense. After all, South Carolina had just six points against Florida the week before and 10 points against Missouri on October 29.
But defense became the Vols’ undoing as UT’s chances of making the playoffs are now nil. No team has ever made the college football playoffs with two losses, and Tennessee won’t be in the SEC title game. Without that extra game, the Vols will finish 10-2 at best and head off to a New Year’s Six Bowl game. Hopefully this game involves Hooker and his knee injury isn’t too serious.