College Sports

USC falls to Vols

Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker is upended by South Carolina's Brandon Isaac in Knoxville, Tenn.
Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker is upended by South Carolina's Brandon Isaac in Knoxville, Tenn.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Minutes after running off the field with his arm raised after booting a 49-yard field goal, Ryan Succop found himself in a much different posture.

After pushing a 40-yard attempt wide right in overtime, Succop stood alone at the 30-yard line at Neyland Stadium, not believing what he had just seen.

Succop's miss -- following Daniel Lincoln's 26-yard kick on Tennessee's first overtime possession -- allowed the Volunteers to escape with a 27-24 win Saturday in front of a Neyland Stadium crowd of 105,962.

Lincoln's kick spoiled a remarkable second-half comeback by the 15th-ranked Gamecocks, who rallied from a 21-point halftime deficit behind fifth-year quarterback Blake Mitchell.

It looked briefly as though USC would win its second in a row over the Vols in Knoxville when Succop nailed his 49-yarder with 1:30 remaining in regulation. It was the same distance that former USC kicker Josh Brown made to beat Tennessee 16-15 in 2005 for the Gamecocks' first win in Knoxville.

But LaMarcus Coker's 37-yard return on the ensuing kickoff gave Tennessee good field position. Several plays later, Lincoln drilled a 48-yard kick with five seconds left to force overtime.

USC's only other overtime game was a 23-20 loss at Tennessee in 2003.

With Georgia knocking off Florida 42-30 before the Tennessee-USC game kicked off, the Gamecocks (6-3, 3-3 SEC) blew a chance to move into a first-place tie with the Bulldogs.

USC had won eight of its previous 10 road games.

After going eight quarters without a touchdown and falling behind 21-0, the Gamecocks came roaring back for three touchdowns in a wild 9:30 flurry spanning the third and fourth quarters to tie.

Mitchell, who helped author the win in Knoxville two years ago, replaced Chris Smelley after the redshirt freshman's third interception in the past two weeks. Mitchell immediately went to work, completing his first seven passes -- five of which went to McKinley.

But the Gamecocks bogged down around midfield on their final two drives of the first half and went to the locker room down three touchdowns.

After USC failed to score after a first-and-goal situation from the 5 on its opening second-half possession, the Gamecocks punched it in on their next series when Mitchell sneaked in from 1 yard to cut the lead to 21-7 with 5:41 left in the third quarter.

It was USC's first touchdown since late in the second quarter at North Carolina on Oct. 13 -- a span of 129 minutes, 34 seconds.

But the Gamecocks needed just 3:29 before finding the end zone again.

After a pair of long completions by Mitchell, Cory Boyd scooted around the right end on a draw for a 29-yard score that cut the Vols' lead to 21-14 at the 2:12 mark of the third quarter.

Mitchell took the Gamecocks down the field on their next possession, as well. The right-hander completed five passes on the 66-yard drive, which ended with Mitchell's 11-yard touchdown pass to McKinley that evened the score with 11:11 left.

USC was driving for its fourth score in as many possessions when Mike Davis fumbled at the end of a 6-yard run with 6:52 left.

The Gamecocks got the ball right back when USC cornerback Captain Munnerlyn intercepted Erik Ainge at the Tennessee 30.

But after a holding penalty by USC guard Seaver Brown and a delay-of-game call, Tennessee linebacker Ryan Karl intercepted Mitchell at the UT 17 with 4:05 remaining.

Again the USC defense held, forcing a three-and-out to give the Gamecocks the ball back at its 43 with 3:18 left.

Tennessee stormed to a 21-0 halftime lead as the Gamecocks extended their dubious streak without a touchdown to eight quarters, the longest touchdown drought in Spurrier's career. Spurrier's first Duke team in 1987 went seven quarters over three games without reaching the end zone.

After a scoreless second half at North Carolina, the Gamecocks managed a pair of field goals in a 17-6 loss against Vanderbilt before being shut out in the first half by the Volunteers.

The Gamecocks lost two turnovers that Tennessee turned into a 14-0 lead and prompted Spurrier to bench starting quarterback Chris Smelley for fifth-year senior Blake Mitchell.

The first turnover was not the fault of Smelley, who hit Freddie Brown for what would have been a first down. But DeAngelo Willingham knocked the ball from Brown and Eric Berry picked it up and darted 52 yards before Smelley knocked him out inside the USC 5-yard line.

Three plays later, Arian Foster's 1-yard run put Tennessee up 7-0 with 1:14 left in the first quarter.

On USC's next possession, Smelley air-mailed a pass for Kenny McKinley. Berry again was the recipient, picking it off and returning it to the Gamecocks' 44.

After a pass interference penalty on Munnerlyn prolonged the Vols' ensuing drive, tailback Montario Hardesty capped it with a 3-yard run to put Tennessee in front 14-0.

The Vols added another touchdown on Erik Ainge's 5-yard strike to Josh Briscoe with 4:39 remaining before the half.