Tennessee’s dream season turned into a House of Horrors nightmare at Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday night.
The Vols were favored to win the SEC East, but barring a number of miracles, they can forget it.
Arguably the worst team in the SEC East took care of the Vols by upsetting them, 24-21.
A second interception by South Carolina’s defensive back Jamarcus King was Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ early Halloween House of Horrors visit. King picked two of Dobbs’ passes, including a game breaker.
Dobbs and the Vols have won a number of games this season by having to come from behind. After a bye week to rest and recover, the Vols returned to their bad habits, but this night it would not be in the cards for them to overcome a deficit.
Oh, they had a 58-yard field goal attempt with five seconds remaining to tie the game, but it was never going to reach the cross bar. The Vols magic carpet ride crashed and burned.
South Carolina deserved to win. They followed a play-making South Carolina freshman quarterback in Jake Bentley. The son of a coach led the Gamecocks to the game of his young life. It was Bentley’s night. He ran. He put his passes where they needed to go. Bentley was going to redshirt this season, but they took it off of him recently and threw him in against a Tennessee team that was facing a must win road game.
He outplayed Joshua Dobbs, the Vols quarterback considered one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the SEC.
The Vols dropped to a mediocre 5-3 overall record and 2-3 in the SEC. Florida beat rival Georgia Saturday to take over the driver’s seat in the East race. The Vols fell two games behind Florida with three to play.
South Carolina won its second SEC contest of the season and evened out at 4-4 overall under first year coach Will Muschamp.
The Vols and Coach Butch Jones have some soul searching to do and little time to do it.
The first half was a hint that South Carolina wasn’t going away.
“Right now they are owning the line of scrimmage,’’ Jones said at halftime. “This is a man’s game and our offensive and defensive fronts have to step up in the second half.’’
It never came.
The Vols play Tennessee Tech of the OVC next. It is a game they should win. But so was South Carolina.
After that they host an improving Kentucky team, Missouri and wind up at Vanderbilt.
They proved they couldn’t run between the Gamecocks’ tackles for steady yardage and they won’t be able to do it against Vanderbilt.
Jalen Hurd missed the second half with an injury. He gained 16 yards on eight carries. Defensive tackle Shy Tuttle was taken off the field and did not return.
The Vols need to lick their wounds and play up to their potential. They have gotten a lot of breaks in the come-from behind wins. They need to make their own breaks from here on out.
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.