Steve Spurrier oversaw the biggest offensive output of his South Carolina tenure on Saturday night and followed it up with his shortest postgame news conference as a Gamecock.
“A lot of guys played well, but we couldn't hold the lead there. I don't need to take any questions. You guys watched it,” he said, walking out after a 42-second statement.
Spurrier’s disgust mirrored that of most Gamecocks, who saw a 625-yard offensive night and a 14-point lead in the final two minutes wasted in a 45-42 loss to Tennessee in the first overtime game in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“We didn't play well enough to win at the end,” Spurrier said. “We didn't play well enough as a team. We did a lousy job of maximizing what we think we've got here. We can score a few points, but we find a way to lose.”
The Volunteers scored 21 points in the final 6:34 and got the decisive points with a 32-yard field goal from Aaron Medley in the first possession of overtime. The Gamecocks (4-5, 2-5 SEC) attempted a 57-yard field goal following two sacks and an incomplete pass on their overtime possession. .Elliott Fry’s miss sent the Volunteers running onto the field in glee and most of the Gamecocks to the locker room before the playing of the alma mater.
“Done a lousy job of maximizing what we think we’ve got here,” Spurrier said. “We can score a few points but we find a way to lose.”
Tennessee gained 645 yards, and Josh Dobbs, the Volunteers sophomore quarterback, won an offensive duel with South Carolina sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper.
Cooper had a school-record 233 receiving yards on 11 catches, threw a touchdown pass, rushed for a touchdown and recovered the Volunteers onside kick with 1:50 left as South Carolina surpassed 500 yards for a school-record fourth straight game.
“All that stuff goes out the window,” Cooper said. “We’ve lost five games this year. It’s very frustrating.”
Dobbs, starting in place of injured South Carolina native Justin Worley, had 301 yards passing and 166 yards rushing. A crowd that was announced as 81,891 thinned out considerably in the second half of a cold and windy night. Those who stayed watched the Gamecocks lose their sixth straight game in black jerseys.
Second year Tennessee coach Butch Jones improved to 3-10 in the SEC with two of those wins coming against South Carolina. The Volunteers improved to 4-5 overall and 1-4 in the SEC.
“Just gotta finish,” spur Sharrod Golightly said.
Junior running back Brandon Wilds had seven carries for 123 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown run with 4:52 left to clinch the victory. Senior quarterback Dylan Thompson had 347 passing yards and made a key 20-yard scramble to convert third-and-18 on the play before Wilds’ long touchdown run.
The Volunteers entered the game No. 12 in the SEC in total offense.
South Carolina trailed 21-14 at halftime but tied the score with 9:06 left in the third quarter with an 8-play, 74-yard drive capped by Brandon Wilds’ 5-yard touchdown run. After Tennessee missed its second field goal of the third quarter, the Gamecocks took a 28-21 lead with 9 seconds left in the quarter on a 12-yard pass from Dylan Thompson to Cooper.
Cooper started the game’s scoring with an 11-yard run from the Wildcat quarterback position that put South Carolina ahead 7-0 with 8:34 left in the first quarter. After turning the ball over three times in the red zone last week against Auburn, the Gamecocks replaced starting quarterback Dylan Thompson with Cooper as the Wildcat quarterback the moment they moved inside the 20-yard line.
The Volunteers took the ensuing possession to South Carolina’s 1-yard line, but the Gamecock defense forced a turnover with a stop on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. However, South Carolina’s offense couldn’t capitalize because Thompson was intercepted on the next play, setting up the Volunteers at the Gamecocks’ 40-yard line. Tennessee converted that drive into seven points, tying the score at 7-7 on a 1-yard scoring run from Pig Howard with 2:37 left in the first quarter.
Tennessee took a 14-7 lead on its next possession when Dobbs scored on a 7-yard run with 10:58 left in the second quarter. South Carolina tied the game again on Cooper’s 30-yard pass to Brandon Wilds with 6:35 left in the half.
Elliott Fry then saw his streak of 12 straight made field goals snapped when he missed a 37-yarder in the swirling winds with 1:20 left in first half. Tennessee turned that into a 21-14 lead by going 80 yards in one minute, 13 seconds, covering the final 36 yards on a zone read keeper by Dobbs with 7 seconds left in the half.