By Stephen K. Lee
Malik Foreman forced a fumble and Jalen Reeves-Maybin recovered it at the UT 13-yard line in the final minute to help Tennessee secure a 27-24 victory over South Carolina on Saturday before a crowd of 101,253 at Neyland Stadium.
For the third-straight year, the Vols (5-4, 3-3 SEC) defeated the Gamecocks (3-6, 1-6 SEC) with a late field goal. Aaron Medley gave Tennessee the lead with 9:14 left in the game when he made a 27-yard field goal.
The Vols controlled the game in the first half before South Carolina tied the game at 24-24 with three touchdowns in the third quarter.
Von Pearson set career highs with eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. His 121 receiving yards were the most by a Vol since Justin Hunter had 141 yards and Mychal Rivera had 129 against Missouri in 2012.
UT quarterback Joshua Dobbs finished 20-of-34 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and added 35 rushing yards on 13 carries. Alvin Kamara recorded his fourth multi-touchdown game, rushing for 30 yards and a touchdown on four carries and catching three passes for 27 yards and a score. Jalen Hurd had 90 yards on 23 carries.
South Carolina’s Perry Orth was 20-of-39 for 233 yards and three touchdowns. Gamecocks star wideout Pharoh Cooper tallied four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Tennessee was strong out of the gate, marching 67 yards down the field on the game’s opening possession to score on a four-yard touchdown run by Kamara. Kamara turned a short pass into a 20-yard gain up the right sideline early in the drive and set the Vols up at the six-yard line with a 23-yard run down the left sideline. The touchdown marked the fourth time this season UT had scored on its opening drive.
The Vols’ lead grew to 14-0 after UT’s second possession when Dobbs connected with Pearson down the left side of the field for a 37-yard touchdown pass.
Medley made a 44-yard field goal with five minutes left in the second quarter and South Carolina’s Elliott Fry made a 43-yard field goal with just over one minute remaining. The Vols took a 17-3 lead into the half.
Tennessee had 259 yards to the Gamecocks’ 114 in the first half. Hurd had 79 yards on 14 carries and Pearson had 58 yards on four catches before the break.
South Carolina seized momentum early in the third quarter. USC pulled to within 17-10 when Jonathan Walton hauled in a 10-yard touchdown catch from Orth on the Gamecocks’ opening drive of the third quarter. USC drove 80 yards in 11 plays.
The Gamecocks forced a fumble inside the Vols’ own 10-yard line on UT’s next possession and recovered the ball at the seven. After the Vols’ defense kept South Carolina out of the end zone on three-straight plays, Orth completed a seven-yard touchdown pass to Jerell Adams on fourth down to tie the game at 17-17 with 8:29 left in the third quarter.
Dobbs marched the Vols 75 yards down the field in 11 plays on UT’s next possession and hit Kamara for an 11-yard touchdown pass to retake the lead, 24-17.
South Carolina answered with a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a five-yard touchdown pass from Orth to Cooper to knot the score at 24-24 with under a minute left in the third quarter.
Medley made a 27-yard field goal to put Tennessee back in front, 27-24, with 9:14 remaining. Dobbs directed UT 61 yards down the field with a 25-yard pass to Johnathon Johnson and a 30-yard throw to Pearson to put the Vols in the red zone.
The Gamecocks drove 63 yards down the field on their final drive, which ended when Orth completed a pass to Adams and the senior tight end turned up field. Foreman caught him and stripped the ball and Reeves-Maybin recovered it at the UT 13.
Tennessee celebrates homecoming on Nov. 14 when the Vols host North Texas. Kickoff is slated for noon ET on SEC Network.