Gameday Guide: South Carolina vs Tennessee
Oct. 08, 2021
Who: South Carolina (3-2, 0-2 SEC) at Tennessee (3-2, 1-1 SEC)
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Neyland Stadium (102,455) in Knoxville, Tenn.
Stream: via ESPN app
On-air announce crew: Anish Shroff, play-by-play; Mike Golic Jr., analyst; Taylor McGregor, sideline
Radio: 107.5 FM in the Columbia area (Todd Ellis, play-by-play; Tommy Suggs, analyst; Jamar Nesbit, sideline) …
Satellite radio: Sirius 137/XM 201
Series history: South Carolina trails Tennessee in the all time series, 10-27-2. The Volunteers have won the last two matchups and carry a 17-3 record against the Gamecocks in Knoxville.
South Carolina football hits the road to play the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville this weekend for its third Southeastern Conference game of the year. The Vols are settling in under first-year head coach Josh Heupel, rushing away with a dominant 62-24 victory over Missouri in the Tigers’ home stadium last weekend. Tennessee’s strength is in its offense, which has started to click at the season’s midpoint. Volunteer rushers are averaging 255 yards per game, a mark good for second in the SEC, and piled 458 yards on the ground at Mizzou. South Carolina veered out of conference play for last week’s meeting with the Sun Belt’s Troy in Columbia. The Gamecocks came away with a 23-14 win but didn’t answer many of the questions posed about the offense’s efficiency or its ability to capitalize on its staunch defensive efforts.
Quarterback Luke Doty continued to progress against Troy, as he put up career-highs in attempts, completions and passing yards going 20-for-34 for 255 yards and a touchdown. Still, USC had opportunities to make 6 points into 14. The Gamecocks stalled on a game-opening 70-yard drive and settled for another field goal after a blocked punt set them up inside at the Trojans’ 23-yard line. The Gamecocks seek their first SEC East win under Beamer as they travel to Knoxville, where Tennessee will look for a win to increase its chance at a potential bowl berth. The Volunteers sit at 3-2 and turn to a challenging four-game stretch after hosting the Gamecocks, with two winnable games at the end of the season. South Carolina, also at 3-2, still has every chance to make it to six wins, though the Gamecocks have now completed their non-conference slate outside of their annual meeting with in-state rival Clemson.
POINT SPREAD FOR UT VS USC GAMECOCKS: South Carolina opened as a 12-point road underdog to Tennessee, but the Volunteers are now favored by 10.5 points, according to VegasInsider. ESPN Chalk’s David Purdum told The State the opening line for the Vols-Gamecocks matchup was one of the higher numbers he’s seen in a while in the series. “Twelve is on the very high end of the opening numbers,” Purdum said. “A lot of books kind of waited and opened closer to 10. It has ticked up between 10 and 10½. We’ve seen an impressive Tennessee team last week. They seem to be ascending while South Carolina is still trying to find what they’re going to do the rest of the season.”
FULL GAME NOTES
A LITTLE HISTORY: 2021 marks the 128th season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina dating back to 1892. It is the 115th-consecutive year in which South Carolina has competed on the gridiron. The University did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. Carolina owns an all-time record of 617-597-44, a .508 winning pct.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: The 2021 season marks South Carolina's 30th year in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned the SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season. The Gamecocks are 99-136-1 (.422) all-time in SEC regular-season play.
LOOKING FOR A MILESTONE WIN: A win over Tennessee would mark South Carolina's 100th conference win since joining the SEC in 1992.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: South Carolina forced four turnovers, including a 74-yard pick-six from David Spaulding, blocked a punt and got three field goals from Parker White in a hard-fought 23-14 win over Troy last Saturday afternoon in Columbia. The Gamecocks improved to 49-4 against non-power 5 schools since the turn of the century.
CAREER DAY FOR DOTY: Luke Doty had the biggest passing game of his young career in the win over Troy. He set career-highs in completions (20), attempts (34) and yards passing (255) against the Trojans. It was his first collegiate victory as a starting quarterback in four tries.
PARKER STILL PERFECT: Senior placekicker Parker White continued his perfect season, connecting on all three field goal attempts and both extra points in the win over Troy. His field goals came from 23-, 48- and 37-yards out. He is 9-for-9 in both field goals and extra points this season.
BEAMER BALL 2.0: "Beamer Ball" is alive and well in Columbia, as the Gamecocks have blocked three punts this season. They blocked two in the season opener against Eastern Illinois, both credited to Debo Williams, then got another from Jahmar Brown in the win over Troy. Williams, who was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for his efforts, became the first SEC player to record two blocked punts in a game since Florida's Chris Rainey accomplished the feat in 2010. Prior to the three this season, the Gamecocks had not blocked a punt since 2014. With three blocked punts, the Gamecocks are in a five-way tie for second in the NCAA in that category with Army, Coastal Carolina, Houston and San Diego State behind only Old Dominion (4).
THAT'S OUR BALL: The Gamecock defense has been outstanding in forcing turnovers this season. They forced a season-high four turnovers against Troy, collecting a pair of fumbles along with two interceptions. For the season, South Carolina has forced 14 turnovers - nine interceptions and five fumbles (2.8 turnovers per game), ranking in a tie for fourth in the NCAA. Here are the NCAA leaders in turnovers forced:
No. TEAM GMS FUM INT TOTAL
1. Hawaii 6 8 8 16
Iowa 5 4 12 16
3. Middle Tennessee 5 10 5 15
4. South Carolina 5 5 9 14
Kent State 5 4 10 14
6. Notre Dame 5 4 9 13
Oregon 5 4 9 13
PICK PARTY: The Gamecocks have picked off two passes in four of their five games this season and have nine interceptions total through five games. Included are a trio of pick-sixes by Jordan Burch, Damani Staley and David Spaulding. Jaylan Foster leads the way individually with four, which ties him for the NCAA lead. The Gamecocks are tied for third in the nation in pass interceptions. South Carolina recorded just eight INTs in 10 games last year. Here are the NCAA team leaders:
No. TEAM INTERCEPTIONS
1. Iowa............................................. 12
2. Kent State.................................. 10
3. South Carolina.......................... 9
Notre Dame............................. 9
Oregon State.......................... 9
THREE TO THE HOUSE: The Gamecock defense has scored three times this season on pick-sixes. In the opener against Eastern Illinois, it was defensive end Jordan Burch who picked off a pass and rumbled 61 yards to paydirt. That was Carolina's first pick-six since Israel Mukuamu went 53 yards for a score at Georgia in 2019 and the first for a Gamecock defensive lineman since Devin Taylor raced 48 yards at Arkansas in 2011. Linebacker Damani Staley got the Gamecocks on the scoreboard with just a minute left in the first half on a 63-yard interception return against East Carolina. David Spaulding went 74 yards with an interception return in the final minute of the first half against Troy. The Gamecocks are tied for the NCAA lead with Ohio State and Wyoming with three interception returns for touchdowns and tied for second in the NCAA behind only Ohio State (4) with three defensive touchdowns. The three interception returns for touchdowns is the most for Carolina in a season since 2010 (5).
CAROLINA VS. TENNESSEE: This is the 40th gridiron meeting between the Gamecocks and Volunteers in a series that dates back to 1903. Tennessee leads the all-time series, 27-10-2, including a 17-3 advantage in Knoxville and a 10-7-2 mark in Columbia. The teams have met every year since Carolina joined the SEC for the 1992 season, with the Volunteers winning 20 of the 29 meetings as conference rivals. The Gamecocks defeated Tennessee just three times in a 105-year period from 1903-2007, but have won seven times in the last 13 years from 2008-20, including three of the last five contests.
IT FIGURES TO BE CLOSE: Eight of the last nine contests (2012-20) have been decided by six points or less, with Carolina winning four games by 3, 3, 6 and 3 points and Tennessee winning four times by 2-, 3-, 3- and 4-point margins. Six of the last nine games have been decided by three points or less.
WHATEVER IT TAKES: South Carolina has played seven overtime games in its history, logging a 3-4 mark in those contests that needed more than 60 minutes to decide. Tennessee has been the opponent in three of the seven overtime games and accounted for three of the Gamecocks' four overtime losses, all decided by a field goal.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The Gamecocks opened the 2020 season at home on Sept. 26 and dropped a hard-fought 31-27 decision to No. 16/21 Tennessee. Carolina drove right down the field on its first possession to take an early 7-0 lead. The Vols scored the next three touchdowns to open up a 21-7 advantage early in the third quarter, but the Gamecocks stormed back to tie the game at 21 and again at 24. Jarrett Guarantano hit Josh Palmer on a 32-yard scoring strike with 9:35 left in the contest for a 31-24 UT lead. The Gamecocks would get a Parker White 45-yard field goal with 3:16 to play, but after the defense got a late stop, a special teams miscue cost Carolina a final chance to score. The yards gained was pretty even, with UT outgaining the Gamecocks, 394-379, but the Vols won the turnover battle 2-0. Collin Hill completed 25-of-39 passes for 290 yards, with Shi Smith on the receiving end of 10 passes for 140 yards.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: Tennessee scored on a pair of special teams plays and overcame a 21-17 halftime deficit to post a 41-21 win over South Carolina in Knoxville on Oct. 26, 2019. The Vols rolled up 485 yards of offense to just 397 for South Carolina, despite Ryan Hilinski completing 28-of-51 passes for 319 yards, including a 75-yard strike to Shi Smith on the game's first play from scrimmage. The loss snapped a three-game Carolina win streak in the series, which matched the 2010-12 stretch for the Gamecocks' longest winning streak over UT.
LAST GAMECOCK WIN: Jake Bentley threw for 152 yards and a touchdown, Rico Dowdle rushed for 140 yards and a score, and the Carolina defense stopped Tennessee on downs twice in the final quarter as the Gamecocks rallied from a 12-point deficit for a 27-24 win in Columbia on Oct. 27, 2018. Parker White's 25-yard field goal with 5:52 remaining proved to be the difference.
GOOD OL' ROCKY TOP: South Carolina redshirt sophomore Keveon Mullins lists Memphis as his hometown. Head coach Shane Beamer and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield were Tennessee graduate assistants in 2002 and 2003 under Phillip Fulmer. Running backs coach Montario Hardesty is a former UT running back, a 2009 grad and worked for the Vols in 2018 as a quality control coach. Offensive line coach Greg Adkins served on the UT staff from 2003-08. Kristin Coggin, Director of Football Nutrition, is a Pulaski, Tenn., native who was part of the Lady Vols rowing team as an undergrad. Defensive analyst Shaq Wilson and assistant strength coach Byron Jerideau, a pair of Carolina grads, both returned to their alma mater this year after a three-year stint in the Vols football program as assistant directors of sports performance.