No. 11 South Carolina falls 23-21 to Tennessee

First, South Carolina lost its quarterback. Then it lost a game
it was expected to win.

Michael Palardy made a 19-yard field goal as time expired
Saturday to give Tennessee a 23-21 victory that snapped the
11th-ranked Gamecocks’ four-game winning streak.

Palardy’s field goal came after South Carolina quarterback
Connor Shaw was injured while being sacked by Marlon Walls and
Daniel McCullers with about five minutes remaining. South Carolina
coach Steve Spurrier said afterward that Shaw had a sprained
knee.

”I think he sort of got tackled on it,” Spurrier said. ”It
collapsed under him, he said.”

Shaw was the latest Southeastern Conference star to get hurt
while facing Tennessee. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, Georgia
running back Keith Marshall and Georgia wide receiver Justin
Scott-Wesley all had season-ending injuries in their teams’ games
against the Volunteers.

Tennessee (4-3, 1-2 SEC) got into field-goal range on a
spectacular 39-yard catch by freshman Marquez North, who snared the
ball with his left hand at the South Carolina 26 while being
closely covered by cornerback Ahmad Christian down the left
sideline. Four consecutive runs by Marlin Lane got the Vols to the
South Carolina 2 and set up the field goal.

”That was just an impressive catch,” South Carolina linebacker
T.J. Holloman said. ”Ahmad played great defense and (North) just
made a great catch.”

Palardy celebrated his game-winning kick by racing to join his
teammates on the sideline closest to the Tennessee locker room,
where they gathered to celebrate at about the 15-yard line. They
later ran to the other side of the field to celebrate with
Tennessee’s band and students.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones chest-bumped athletic director Dave
Hart on his way off the field. Tennessee had lost 19 straight games
against ranked foes since a 31-13 victory over a 21st-ranked South
Carolina team on Oct. 31, 2009.

”It meant everything, to be honest with you,” Palardy said.
”It’s been a long time coming.”

Mike Davis rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown for South
Carolina (5-2, 3-2), which erased a 17-7 halftime deficit before
seeing its SEC Eastern Division title hopes suffer a major blow.
Shaw had a touchdown run and a touchdown pass, though he also was 7
of 21 and threw his first interception of the season, ending a
string of 177 consecutive passes without getting picked off.

”They came out, played fast, did the things we expect them to
do,” Davis said. ”We just didn’t execute.”

South Carolina was coming off a 52-7 victory at Arkansas that
represented its most one-sided road win since 1912, but the
Gamecocks weren’t nearly as polished Saturday. South Carolina’s
offense struggled throughout the first half, aside from a 76-yard
touchdown pass from Shaw to Damiere Byrd on the opening play of the
second quarter.

The Gamecocks also got some bad luck late in the first half.

South Carolina believed it had recovered a fumble at about the
Tennessee 30 in the final minute of the first half when Jadeveon
Clowney stuffed Vols running back Rajion Neal. The play instead was
ruled an incomplete pass, as Neal threw the ball toward quarterback
Justin Worley on his way to the ground.

”That was a fumble,” said Clowney, who had 2 1/2 tackles for
loss. ”He wasn’t trying to throw. I don’t know what the ref was
watching, but it was a fumble. He made a bad call. You never want
to leave it in the ref’s hands.”

South Carolina regained the momentum after a gutsy fourth-down
call.

Shaw scrambled 9 yards for a first down on fourth-and-8 from the
Tennessee 45 in the third quarter. Shaw capped the drive by
pitching right to Davis on third-and-6 for a 21-yard touchdown.

After Palardy’s 46-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide left on
Tennessee’s next possession, South Carolina grabbed a 21-17 lead on
Shaw’s 1-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.

Tennessee cut the lead to 21-20 with 10:11 remaining on
Palardy’s 33-yard field goal, which was set up by North’s leaping
48-yard reception. But the Vols stalled after reaching South
Carolina territory on their next two possessions.

South Carolina, which has gone 6 of 6 on fourth-down conversions
over the last two weeks, considered trying to put the game away
with one more fourth-down attempt. South Carolina faced
fourth-and-2 from its own 26 with 2:55 left when Spurrier kept his
offense on the field and called two straight timeouts before
finally opting to punt.

”We were thinking about going for it,” Spurrier said. ”We
went up there and if it looked good, we were thinking about going
for it. Then, the second time, they actually changed their defense
a little bit. We thought we had a little bit of a hole there. …
But looking back, I always tell myself to go for those.”