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.”