Quarterback Spencer Rattler stood at the 25-yard line and pointed to the sky.

When Dakereon Joyner tumbled into the North End zone on South Carolina’s eighth touchdown of the night and turned the avalanche of white towels into a blizzard in USC’s student wing, South Carolina’s maligned, gun-slinging signalman could only look skyward.

Call it divine intervention. Perhaps a prayer was answered. Whatever it may have been, consider that the remaining bad juju or chicken curses that existed at Williams-Brice Stadium in years past have been exorcised.

South Carolina 63, No. 5 Tennessee 38.

“I can’t even explain the feeling we’re all having right now,” Rattler said, upset that he escaped a sea of ​​bodies that blanketed the field after the game. “That was a game we thought we could win.”

On a night that featured college football’s most dominant offense this side of Joe Burrow, it was the previously anemic Gamecocks unit anchored by their tattooed, dime-throwing quarterback, Heisman frontrunner Hendon Hooker and the visiting Volunteers killed.

The South Carolina offense, who had covered just 37 yards in the first quarter last week in Florida, switched from a Ford Pinto to a Lamborghini MurcieLago within seven days.

Rattler served as conductor for the Gamecocks’ suddenly masterful bunch, completing 15 of 20 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone as the Gamecocks (7-4, 4-4 SEC) rolled up 606 yards of offense that night.

The former Oklahoma signal caller looked like the hopeful part of the Heisman he was during his days patrolling the Norman backfield and hitting touchdown passes for 11, 18, 19 and 60 yards in the first 30 minutes. He finished the night with a school record six throws.

“That was probably the best thing I’ve ever felt in a game, just the feeling of being unstoppable out there with my guys,” Rattler said. “I mean, we felt really unstoppable.”

South Carolina blasted out of the gate and orchestrated a nine-game 75-yard drive that included a pair of third-down conversions and a fourth-and-6 connection between Rattler and Antwane “Juice” Wells – who beat the Gamecocks with 177 Yards stepped at 11 catches. Rattler ended first possession with an 18-yard pitch and hauled in on the left plane to Jaheim Bell, where South Carolina’s offensive Swiss Army knife rolled over a pair of Tennessee defenders and into the end zone.

The one-time Sooner, whose name will now be etched in Gamecocks lore, followed up with goals on Josh Vann (twice) and Juju McDowell in the first two quarters, sending South Carolina into the half atop Rocky Top 35-24.

“Spencer’s a talented guy, right?” said Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel. “Sometimes when he gets hot, he plays hot. And he was.”

As the Volunteers (9-2, 5-2) frantically fought back, the Rattler and Gamecocks’ offense delivered haymaker after haymaker as they battled the nation’s fifth-best team.

Cornerback Cam Smith largely locked in ex-Dutch Fork receiver and All-World playmaker Jalin Hyatt, who finished the night with a meager six catches for 65 yards.

Both Smith and Hyatt berated each other throughout the night. How much of that came from either party?

“Man, there’s not much talk when it’s just going one way,” Smith said with a crooked smile on his face.

Wells started the latter part of South Carolina’s offensive fireworks — which literally ran out of pyrotechnics at the stadium — and took an end about three yards for a touchdown.

Then, as he did all night, Rattler delivered the drama as only a magician of his caliber can.

Rattler danced right and hit an orange and white wall of volunteer defenders. He turned fields and shot back to the left, scurrying to the opposite side of the broken formation and flipping over what functionally evolved into the game-ending 2-yard touchdown pass to Jaheim Bell.

The Gamecocks would score two more points that night — the Joyner touchdown jump and a 20-yard pitch and catch by Rattler to Jalen Brooks — but it was the crazy scramble connection between Rattler and Bell that got the Volunteers put on ice.

“Their predictions for this game were pretty much the worst I’ve seen,” South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer quipped after the game. “I read some of these at the hotel today which you all chose and you couldn’t have been better off.”

Beamer launched a diatribe during his Tuesday press conference saying it was time South Carolina fans put aside superstitions and curses. That people in Colombia shouldn’t expect bad things – despite almost 120 years of history, on the contrary.

As the clock struck zero and fans rushed over the hedges onto the pitch to celebrate with their team, the doom and gloom of a dismal Gainesville performance dissipated.

At 10:57 p.m. Saturday, Beamer, South Carolina and a stadium full of garnet and white found nothing but joy.

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South Carolina fans storm the field after beating Tennessee on Saturday, November 19, 2022. Joshua Boucher [email protected]

Down first

South Carolina’s 35 first-half points were the most in a half against the SEC competition since 1995. USC defeated Vanderbilt 52-14 in that competition.

The Gamecocks also posted a high for first quarter points (21) under Shane Beamer on Saturday. The previous high (18) came in South Carolina’s win over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

Important statistics

4 – Spencer Rattler threw four touchdown passes in the first half

606 – South Carolina’s total offensive mileage in Saturday’s win

2019 – Last time South Carolina beat a team ranked in the top five of the Associated Press Top 25

Next South Carolina game

Who: South Carolina at Clemson

When: Noon, Saturday 26th November

Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson


This story was originally published Nov 19, 2022 10:57 p.m.

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Ben Portnoy is the football beat writer for The State’s South Carolina Gamecocks. He is a five-time Associated Press Sports Editors Award recipient and has received recognition from the Mississippi Press Association and the National Sports Media Association. Portnoy previously covered the state of Mississippi for Columbus Commercial Dispatch and Indiana Football for the Journal Gazette at Ft. Wayne, Indiana.