Tennessee 31 (21)South Carolina 13: Game Recap and Summary
MAXIM #2: Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way – SCORE!
Mission accomplished on Saturday. It was simply the difference. Three induced fumbles by the Vol ball hawks in the first half and an interception in the second were quickly turned into 24 points on All Hallow’s Eve down by the river. That’s right – 3 TD’s and a FG immediately after 4 turnovers. These weren’t turnovers that killed Gamecock drives. Instead, they happened in USC’s own half, allowing the Vols to start their drives from the C27, the C43, the C22, and the C47 because of the 4 Gamecock turnovers. Yes indeed – make the breaks and when one four come your way – SCORE (EVERY TIME)!
However, in years to come, this game will not likely be remembered for the turnovers and resultant scores, but for the black jerseys.
Neyland Stadium is named after Robert Neyland for one reason – he put Tennessee football on the national map by winning loads of games (173-31-12 overall). His teams won loads of games because, many more times than not, the players wearing orange met his famous “Seven Game Maxims” that he created to teach and motivate his players. General Neyland believed that those maxims summarized everything it took to win a football game.
Tennessee fans revere them. Tennessee teams still live by them. The players recite them in the locker room before every game – when at home the players stand before a large prayer wall-like rendering of the famous maxims (see photo right). As somebody once wrote, Neyland’s Maxims are not Tennessee property. They are out there for the taking. The Vols’ opponents have the same chance to meet those Game Maxims as does Tennessee. On Saturday night, the Vols won convincingly mainly because they mastered Maxim Number 2. Good thing, because the remainder of the game was pretty even if not advantage Gamecocks. More on that later. First up is how Tennessee met the second Maxim.
Meeting Maxim #2: Scene 1
South Carolina receives the opening kickoff and started their first possession from their own 27. RB Kenny Miles gets only 2 yards on a run up the middle, and a long Stephen Garcia pass down the right to Jeffrey was incomplete, bringing up 3rd and 8. Tennessee brings blitz but Garcia gets it away, complete to Justice Cunningham over the middle who turns and running upfield gets hit low by Vol CB Janzen Jackson, flips over while the ball slings loose and is recovered by Big Dan Williams!
And just like that, Tennessee has possession at the USC 43. Crompton comes out firing. First a pass to the left flank for a completion for 5 yards. Then, the continually improving Vol QB finds FB Austin Johnson wide open over the middle. Johnson gets free, and rambles into the checkerboard for a Vol TD. The festive crowd goes nuts. Tennessee 7 South Carolina 0.
Meeting Maxim #2: Scene 2
A Tennessee kickoff to the Gamecocks results in great coverage and South Carolina are now in a bit of trouble: down seven and starting their second “drive” at their own 14. Garcia on a play-action pass hits Jason Barnes out on the right flank for a quick first down. Working from the no-huddle, Garcia gives the ball on a draw to Kenny Miles who receives the prototype “hat on the ball” causing a fumble, and Wes Brown falls on it for another turnover by the ferocious Vol defense. First and 10 Vols at the USC 27. Now it’s the opening act of the Montario Hardesty Show. Hardesty for 8 up the middle. Hardesty for a yard-and-a-half up the middle. Hardesty up the middle for 4. Now, it’s Hardesty running off left tackle, puts a marvelous leftward spin move to make space for himself, slingshotting him into the open field and runs into the checkerboard for the Vols’ second TD in a matter of only a few minutes. Tennessee 14 South Carolina 0.
Meeting Maxim #2: Scene 3
USC gets their 3rd kickoff and the receiver tries a fake hand off but instead ends up in the arms of a defender dressed in Orange and Black to give the Gamecocks more poor field position at their own 18. USC finally get a first down, followed by another, but can’t move the ball into Tennessee territory because of a blitz on 3rd and 6 resulting in a pass to Jeffrey on the left sideline who had his landing foot out of bounds.
Tennessee come back with their longest yardage drive of the evening. Starting on their own 12, the Vols rely mostly on the pass to move the ball to the Gamecock 16. The drive almost ends in a Tennessee turnover when Crompton, hit from behind, loses the ball to Shaq Wilson who promptly coughs up the wet ball and Crompton luckily gets it back to retain possession and allow Chad Cunningham to attempt a 40-yard field goal. But Cunningham, in for the injured Daniel Lincoln, doesn’t give the Vol faithful any faith in the kicking game as his attempt is blocked by Devin Taylor who jumps vertically upward to heights that have to be above the invisible basketball rim. THE THIRD CONSECUTIVE VOL FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT THAT IS BLOCKED!
Now you feel happy that your guys got an early 14 because this game might finally settle down to trench warfare on a rainy night. The Gamecocks open with a first down but on 2nd and 7 shoot themselves in the foot when another South Carolina first down from a pass completion is called back for offensive holding. The Gamecocks end up punting, but the Vols go three and out and punt the ball back to South Carolina who start on their own 22. On 2nd and 10, Garcia can’t find an open receiver and runs to where he is hit squarely by Savion Frazier. Fumble! This time Dennis Rogan gets the loose ball for the Vols and Tennessee yet again have excellent field possession off a turnover.
Tennessee gets a quick first down and now have it first and goal at the Carolina 10. Nothing on first down. Incomplete pass on second down. Then Crompton does his best Tim Tebow impression when seeing no receiver open runs right up the middle to the 2 yard line. So with 4th and goal, with no trustworthy kicking game, and momentum out the wazoo, Kiffin goes for it and Crompton delivers a quick pass to the right flank that is a high floater caught by a backpeddling Kevin Cooper who falls just into the end zone for the third Vols TD. Wow! Tennessee 21 South Carolina 0.
Meeting Maxim #2: The Final Scene
Fast forward to the Fourth Quarter. Now the score is Tennessee 28 South Carolina 13. Amazingly, because of the Gamecock FG kicker (2 FGs from 47 and 32 yards), a 300-yard passing game (a beautiful 30+ yard pass from Stephen Garcia to the pylon caught in spectacular fashion by Moe Brown while well-covered) and a stingy Carolina defense and/or fairly inept Tennessee offense, USC find themselves with a decent chance to get close if not equal before time runs out. Tennessee has the ball 4th and 1 at the Vol 24 after another unproductive possession. Chad Cunningham gets off a punt, seemingly giving USC the ball well inside their own half. Instead, Eric Berry on coverage gets into a bit of an unnecessary wrestling match with a Gamecock and is called for a face mask – a 15-yard penalty. First and ten USC at their 49 yard line. Can they get a quick six and put some pressure on Tennessee who, without their only TD of the evening not as a result of a USC turnover (56 yard drive ending in a Hardesty TD run), would be in a world of hurt?
On the first play from scrimmage, Garcia after a few frantic seconds finds his RB open over the middle. But the Gamecock QB overthrows him, the ball squirts through the receiver’s hands, and ends up in the arms of Greg King at the Vol 45 who returns it to the USC 47. The Vols then move the ball to the Gamecock 23, while chewing up some valuable minutes on the clock, where on 4th and 1, Chad Cunningham kicks a 39-yard field goal to put South Carolina to bed for the evening. Tennessee 31 South Carolina 13.
MAXIM #1: The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.
This one is as old as the Sermon on the Mount. Now, I don’t have any actual data to test the hypothesis that is Maxim #1, but it sounds good to me. I’m willing to go with it.
A dagger in the heart of the Gamecocks.
South Carolina didn’t just lose possession four times. They also got caught caught for offensive holding on a 2nd and 7 resulting in a 4th and 17 punt when they were trying to recover from an early 0-14 deficit. But that’s just a minor infraction compared with the potential killer.
With the score 21-0 and the gamecocks desperately needing a big play to get some sense of energy and momentum, they got it on a Vol punt. Nearing the end of the first half, Tennessee went three and out. At the Vol 29, Chad Cunningham punted to Stephon Gilmore who fielded the ball and immediately went right. Gilmore did just like another punt-returner on a Halloween night four decades ago. Billy Cannon fielded an Old Miss punt and immediately went looking for white jerseys, found them, hid within them for a while, and then bolted for space, broke a tackle, and sprinted into the far end zone. Saturday, Stephon, after immediately going to his right, found his jersey color, got invisible for a while among them, and then broke free to the left and ran nearly untouched into the Vol end zone for a potential game-turning touchdown…
Except that there is a lonely yellow flag laying on the ground way back near where Gilmore originally caught the ball.
Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, D.J. Swearinger laid a block on Tennessee’s Lamarcus Thompson close to where the punt came down at least a second after Gilmore passed him with the ball. Hard to see that kind of thing when on the field in the middle of the fray. But the point is that Gilmore was not aided by the block in any way. Thus, the penalty was totally unnecessary, and more importantly destroyed the Gamecock’s one chance for a big, game-changing play that could have made the rest of the evening much more interesting and potentially very different.
Tennessee’s unforced errors must be remediated.
Tennessee had six penalties during the game for 40 yards. One of the penalties was Eric Berry’s face mask on a punt to South Carolina, already mentioned. The other five were unforced errors by the offense. Three of those penalties arguably stalled Vol drives. Here are the five penalties called on the Vol offense.
- False Start: Chris Scott. Went from 1st and 10 to 1st and 15. Series ended 4th and 9 with a blocked FG attempt.
- False Start: Jacques McClendon. Went from 3rd and 12 to 3rd and 17. Gained 12 for a 4th and 5. Series ended with a punt.
- False Start: Entire right side of the Vol OL. Went from 1st and 10 to 1st and 15.
- False Start: Jacques McClendon. Same series as the previous infraction. Went from 2nd and 12 to 2nd and 17. The Vols made a first down and eventually a TD, the score that put the game out of reach.
- Illegal Formation. Went from 1st and 10 to 1st and 15. Series ended on 4th and 9 where Tennessee scored 3 on a field goal.
Four false starts?!?! Somebody please comment why these occur, especially in situations where there is no evidence that the defense is trying to draw the offensive lineman into soiling their pants. THIS HAS TO STOP, PEOPLE!
Some final tricks and treats
Both South Carolina and Tennessee went to their strengths for their respective offenses. The Gamecocks relied on the pass. The Vols relied largely on the ground game. This was reflected in the time of possession numbers: Vols had the ball for 33 minutes; South Carolina maintained possession for 27 minutes.
South Carolina passed twice as many times as the Vols. Garcia threw 50 passes (25/50 for 300 yards) whereas Crompton only threw 24 passes (12/24 for 142 yards). Noteworthy is that Crompton did not throw an interception. In total, South Carolina had 4 turnovers; the Vols none.
Tennessee rushed twice as much as did the Gamecocks. The Vols pounded the rock 40 times for 199 yards. South Carolina ran only 20 times for a mere 65 yards. Vol Man-Child Montario Hardesty gained 121 yards on 23 carries. Freshman RB Bryce Brown added a not-too-shabby 60 yards. The Gamecocks were led by Kevin Miles’ 44 yards.
Both teams were dreadful on third-down conversions. USC made 19 first downs to Tennessee’s 15. But both teams combined for a 7-for-29 success on third down (Vols were 3-14; Gamecocks were 4-15).
Tennessee’s drives other than those following South Carolina turnovers were, overall, inept. As much as we, the Vol Nation, are surely reveling in the Halloween Win, this gives me heartburn. Don’t tell me that it didn’t matter because we put a 21-0 irritant deep in the sore of the USC open wound that never healed. It’s going to have to improve in order to achieve what some idiot savants out there fully expect – an 8-4 final record. Dream on with this type of performance…
In the first half:
- T12 to C24 (64 yards/3 first downs). BLOCKED FG ATTEMPT.
- T25 to T30 (5 yards/0 first downs). PUNT.
- T20 to T43 (23 yards/1 first down). PUNT.
- T26 to T29 (3 yards/0 first yards). PUNT.
In the second half:
- T 20 to T29 (9 yards/0 first downs). PUNT.
- T20 to T20 (o yards/0 first downs). PUNT.
- T44 to End Zone (56 yards/3 first downs). TOUCHDOWN.
- T43 to T45 (2 yards/0 first downs). PUNT.
- T5 to T24 (19 yards/1 first down). PUNT.
- T48 to S41 (11 yards/1 first down). END OF GAME.
Oh, and I Almost Forgot…
By the talk before and after the game, you would think that we as the Vol Fandom were more concerned with fashion than execution. But, like them or not, the black jerseys seemed to infuse the players and the fans with an energy that transmitted to those three first-half ball-seeking tackles resulting in what proved to be an insurmountable 21-0 lead.
Lane Kiffin on his Sunday show seemed to indicate that he finally gave in to his players’ repeated requests for the black. And the result was chronicled by Will over at RTT:
“When the Vols came to the edge of the tunnel, and suddenly the JumboTron showed the black unis, at first I was stunned. And I still think that had I been sitting at home watching that game on TV, I would’ve hated them. But to have been there, and to have heard and felt the reaction of that crowd, and then to have seen the way this team came out and played off of that emotion – in a week where we were all worried about an emotional letdown – I think everyone in the stadium Saturday night liked those uniforms within ten minutes of first laying eyes on them. Including me.”
I didn’t think we would do it. When I first turned on the tube and noticed the all-orange outfit, I felt good somehow because as a silly, sentimental traditionalist, I don’t want to see anything but orange and white. Black shoes? Sure. Fine. Black on the uniform? Hell, I HATE the fact that the names and numbers on the white road kits have any black! I’d just as soon not be able to read the names and numbers as have a single stitch of black fabric! Call me old fashioned.
But when I saw what Will saw (and I watched the game on TV) I started yelling to my wife who was downstairs: “They’re wearing black! They’re wearing black!” I didn’t get sick. I didn’t turn away. I embraced it because my immediate emotional response was extreme excitement.
The jerseys in my opinion were flat ugly. Poor design. And what I’ve read indicated that it was a late decision, so late that black pants reportedly ordered were not ready in time. Over at Fulmer’s Belly, there was a picture (folks are getting really good with Photoshop) that showed a design of black helmets, black jerseys, and black pants. Not ugly at all. In fact, this traditionalist considers that look classy – has a theme, a good design. What we wore Saturday was a half-assed attempt at a halloween outfit. Something I would have done with my own money. But I’m convinced that as ugly and half baked it was, it made a difference – the energy between the players and fans fed off each other to the extent that 21-0 was in some part due to the experiment.
I’m ready for the jerseys to be buried. If black makes a comeback, please let it happen infrequently (once a season at the very most – a Halloween-week tradition would be very cool and would bring national bling with it – hey, I’m down with anything that brings in players) and with a decent design. Unless it guarantees a win every time. Yes, I guess I can be bought.
Scores of Tennessee Opponents, Past and Future
- Western Kentucky 49 North Texas 68
- UCLA 19 Oregon State 26
- Florida 41 Georgia 17
- Ohio 20 Ball State 17
- Ole Miss 20 Auburn 33
- East Carolina 38 Memphis 19 [played Tuesday 27 Oct 2009]
- Georgia Tech 56 Vanderbilt 31
- Kentucky 24 Mississippi State 31
Alabama: BYE WEEK