Spencer Rattler had the best day of his unpredictable career, throwing for 438 yards and five touchdowns as South Carolina beat No. 5 Tennessee 63-38 on Saturday night, virtually eliminating the Volunteers from the playoffs.
Tennessee (9-2, 6-2 Southeast, No. 5 CFP) may also have lost Heisman Trophy contender Hendon Hooker, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, falling and groping without being touched.
Even before the injury, the quarterback of the night was Rattler, who went from contender to benched Heisman in Oklahoma in 2021. The junior finally matched potential South Carolina fans (7-4, 4 -4) expected when it arrived.
Rattler entered the night with nine interceptions and eight touchdowns and averaging 198 yards per game. Questions have been asked whether the Gamecocks might want to test the save.
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But the junior was patient in the pocket, dropping passes into the tightest windows. He ran when needed with five carries for 16 yards. And he even caught a pass into the red zone from Dakeron Joyner, who South Carolina typically uses as a common threat under center.
Rattler’s best day before Saturday was 387 yards against Kansas State for Oklahoma in 2020 and five touchdowns for the Sooners against West Carolina in 2021.
Antwane Wells Jr. caught 11 passes for 177 yards and Josh Vann and Jaheim Bell each had two touchdowns for the Gamecocks.
Tennessee’s defense could do almost nothing to stop the SEC’s 11th-best offense. The Gamecocks have gained 606 yards after failing to gain more than 300 yards in three of their last four games.
The 63 points was the most the Vols had ever allowed in an SEC game, eclipsing Steve Spurrier’s 62-37 loss to Florida in 1995.
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Hooker was 25 of 42 for 247 yards and three touchdowns before his injury. There was no immediate word on the severity of his injured leg, but he did not return to the game.
Joe Milton III took over at QB for the Vols when Hooker went down, turning the ball over after stepping into the red zone and then leading a 75-yard run on four plays in the final two minutes.
Tennessee: A promising season for Tennessee imploded when the defense couldn’t stop. South Carolina has scored touchdowns on nine of 11 drives. One of the failures was a practice game that ended the first half.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks beat a Top 5 team for just the seventh time and their fans rushed to the field. It was their biggest win since beating No. 2 Georgia 20-17 in 2019 in double overtime. The 63 points were the most in an SEC game by the Gamecocks since beating Mississippi State 65-39 in 1995.
CONSEQUENCES OF THE SURVEY
On a day when many of the top teams folded, but didn’t break (see No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan, and No. 4 TCU), Tennessee was made to crush. The Vols will likely make a big dip in The Associated Press’ new Top 25 on Sunday.
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Tennessee: The Vols head to Vanderbilt. Tennessee has a three-game winning streak in the series after losing three in a row.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks head to Clemson, which has won seven straight in the state’s bitter rivalry.