Strong defense and 246 rushing yards help the Vols go to 4-1
When South Carolina beat UT 63-38 last season, Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler threw for six touchdowns. This time around he was sacked six times, twice by defensive end James Pearce Jr. “We were playing together, playing relentless,” explained Pearce. “All the way up to game time we said we have to win the line of scrimmage.” Safety Wesley Walker had five solo tackles, several in the open field and on key third downs.
The Vols’ opening drive was capped by Jaylen Wright’s 42-yard blast up the middle sprung by center Cooper Mays and left guard Ollie Lane’s nifty double-team blocking. In all, Wright ran for 123 yards.
The highlight for the passing game came with two minutes left in the first quarter, when Joe Milton III launched a ball 50 yards to Squirrel White on the right sideline, where he was well-covered by a Gamecock defensive back. “I couldn’t even see the ball, for real,” said White. “It hit my hands and I just held onto it. It was a hell of a throw.” It set up a two-yard touchdown by Jabari Small to put the Vols up 14-10.
It was Milton’s fifth pass of 50 yards or more to White over the past year. Milton threw to White nine times against South Carolina for 104 yards. They have a bond: “We’re Mike and Pippen,” White said on Media Day in the summer. At the interview table after South Carolina, Milton downplayed their bond, in part because of the very badly broken ankle suffered by receiver Bru McCoy in the second quarter. “I truly honestly didn’t want to go back out there no more,” said Milton, “just ‘cause I knew how hard he worked . . . loss of words, pretty much.”
In the second quarter, speedy running back Dylan Sampson grabbed a short pass and scampered 37 yards to set up a Charles Campbell field goal to make it 17-10.
On a third and 22 on the South Carolina 24, Rattler felt the pressure and overthrew his receiver. Cornerback Kamal Hadden grabbed it and ran 28 yards to make the score 24-10 at halftime.
Tight End Jacob Warren had three catches, including a six-yarder in the left corner of the end zone to make it 31-10. Playing in McCoy’s place, speedy Chas Nimrod dropped a ball on a third-down button hook but redeemed himself by snagging a 10-yard slant on third down on the final scoring drive that set up Sampson’s six-yard run for the final score of 41-20, granting the Vols the win.
The Volunteers host Texas A&M on Oct. 14 then meet Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 21 and Kentucky in Lexington on Oct. 28.
After UConn at home and Missouri away, UT hosts No. 1-ranked Georgia in Neyland Stadium on Nov. 18. In case you had forgotten, last year the Dawgs won 27-13.
Vandy ends UT’s regular season in Knoxville on Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 26.