South Carolina rallies from 12 down to beat Vols 27-24
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Jake Bentley lay on the field after a hard hit on his game-tying two-point conversion in the second half.
Despite feeling like he “got hit by a boulder” and taking a few moments to recover, Bentley knew he wasn’t done — and neither was South Carolina.
Bentley threw for 152 yards and a touchdown and the Gamecocks stopped Tennessee on downs twice in the final quarter to rally from 12-points down to beat the Vols 27-24 on Saturday.
“It’s a huge SEC win for us and it’s huge for our team,” Bentley said. “The resiliency that our team showed the past couple of weeks and tonight really a testament to our coaches and the culture that we have here.”
It’s also a testament to Bentley’s ability to block out critics and sluggish play. He was hurt against Kentucky last month, missed a dramatic win over Missouri the next week as his backup Michael Scarnecchia starred, then played a dreadful first half in a 26-23 loss to Texas A&M two weeks ago where even an average game might have saved the Gamecocks.
Bentley heard the boos, plenty of them.
“I’ve had great teammates who’ve lifted me up the past couple of weeks,” Bentley said. “But it’s our job to come out here and win.”
Parker White’s 25-yard field goal with 5:52 remaining proved the difference, the second time in South Carolina’s past three game he’s gotten the game winning kick.
South Carolina defensive end D.J. Wonnum, back after missing five games with an ankle injury, sacked Vols quarterback Jarrett Guarantano on fourth down with 1:08 to go to seal the win.
The Vols (3-5, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) looked like they had gained control when they went up 21-9 on Carlin Fils-aime’s 14-yard TD run early in the third quarter.
But with the previous six meetings in the series decided by 20 points, there was little chance this one wouldn’t tighten up.
“We played some good football today,” Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “We didn’t finish the game. We made mistakes and they took advantage of it.”
The Gamecocks (4-3, 3-3) began the comeback on Rico Dowdle’s 1-yard touchdown run. Then, after a Vols field goal, South Carolina responded again.
Bentley connected with Bryan Edwards on a 73-yard pass to the Tennessee 2 and two plays later Ty’Son Williams bulled in for a 1-yard touchdown run.
Bentley ran past three defenders for a two-point conversion and a 24-all tie.
After Javon Kinlaw knocked down Guarantano’s fourth-down pass with 9:47 to go, Bentley led the Gamecocks to the Vols 8 to set Parker up for the go-ahead kick.
Tennessee drove to midfield the final time it had the ball before Wonnum wrapped up Guarantano on fourth-and-10.
Tennessee finally got off to a quick start.
Guarantano helped the Vols convert four third downs on a 71-yard TD drive that ended with a 6-yard pass to Jauan Jennings, the brother of South Carolina women’s basketball forward Alexis Jennings, to put the Vols up 14-3.
Perhaps it was scoring at his big sister’s school, but the younger Jennings celebrated his touchdown by placing the ball on the stomach of defender Steven Montac as he lay in the end zone. The action drew a penalty and set up a late South Carolina touchdown after it began at its 40.
Tennessee: The Vols rebounded strongly from last week’s 58-21 beatdown by No. 1 Alabama. But Tennessee still has some offensive work to do, particularly down the stretch.
South Carolina: Second-half Jake Bentley looks much better than first-half Bentley. The Gamecocks junior had 61 yards passing, an interception and a sack the first 30 minutes. He led three scoring drives the final two quarters.
South Carolina’s Rico Dowdle ran for a season high 140 yards against the Vols, his third 100-yard game of the season. Dowdle said the team focused on improving the run during the off week and felt the results were there Saturday.
The Vols played without starting left tackle Trey Smith who was found to have blood clots in his lungs and is out indefinitely. Tennessee’s Pruitt said Smith was out of the hospital and is grateful doctors have done a good job with the players’ condition.
Tennessee steps out of the SEC with a home game against Charlotte next week.
South Carolina plays its first game with Ole Miss in nine years when it travels to face the Rebels next Saturday.
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