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Gamecocks' loss is painful in multiple ways

Shaq Wilson (16) tries to scoop up a Jonathan Crompton fumbled forced by Stephon Gilmore. Crompton eventually retook possession.
Shaq Wilson (16) tries to scoop up a Jonathan Crompton fumbled forced by Stephon Gilmore. Crompton eventually retook possession.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - USC played the final three quarters Saturday without defensive end Cliff Matthews - and might be missing him for several weeks.

Matthews dislocated his left shoulder early in the Gamecocks' 31-13 loss at Tennessee. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said medical personnel put Matthews' shoulder back in place, but the junior from Cheraw is expected to be out a few weeks.

Matthews, one of four team captains, had a stinger last week against Vanderbilt. The shoulder injury is unrelated.

"Cliff Matthews was the only serious injury," Spurrier said. "I think his shoulder popped out, and he'll be out several weeks."

Receiver Moe Brown, another captain, said the Gamecocks would miss Matthews.

"It's big. It's Cliff Matthews," he said. "He's one of the guys that's a huge energy guy that we feed off. You lose a guy like that, that's big-time."

Matthews entered the game ranked second on the team behind linebacker Eric Norwood in sacks (five) and tackles for loss (eight).

Youthful mistakes

It was a rocky night for several USC freshmen in their first trip to Rocky Top.

First-year tight end Justice Cunningham fumbled after a 14-yard reception on USC's third play. The fumble came on Cunningham's second career reception, and the Vols wasted no time making the Gamecocks pay.

UT quarterback Jonathan Crompton hit wide-open fullback Austin Johnson for a 38-yard touchdown.

"Justice turned right into the guy, (who) got a helmet on the ball," Spurrier said.

Two plays later, redshirt freshman Kenny Miles fumbled on a hit by linebacker Rico McCoy, giving Tennessee possession at the Gamecocks' 27. After Miles' fumble, Montario Hardesty carried four consecutive times - the last one a 14-yard touchdown that gave the Vols a 14-0 lead four minutes into the game.

Trailing 21-0 in the second quarter, USC appeared to get a boost on a 73-yard punt return by Stephon Gilmore. But an illegal block by freshman cornerback D.J. Swearinger wiped out the play.

"Unfortunately, one of our freshmen shoved a guy in the back," Spurrier said. "We talked all day about screening the guy off. You don't have to shove him when you're behind him."

Changeup

The Gamecocks made a couple of defensive changes. Strong safety Darian Stewart returned to his former position of spur after practicing there this past week.

Freshman DeVonte Holloman took Stewart's spot at strong safety, becoming the fourth freshman to start this season. Receiver Alshon Jeffery, Gilmore and Cunningham are the others.

Cornerback C.C. Whitlock started at field cornerback, replacing Akeem Auguste. Whitlock played well during Auguste's three-game suspension, which ended the week of the Vanderbilt game. Auguste and Whitlock both played in the first half.

Extra points

A week after Tennessee kicker Daniel Lincoln's final two field-goal tries were blocked at Alabama, his replacement kept the streak going. Chad Cunningham, filling in for the injured Lincoln (leg), had a 40-yard try blocked by defensive end Devin Taylor in the first half. It was Taylor's second block this season; he blocked a punt at N.C. State. ... Spencer Lanning's 47-yard field goal as the first half expired was a career long. Lanning is one of 42 players on the Ray Guy Award watch list, which goes to the nation's top punter. Lanning entered Saturday's game ranked fourth in the SEC with a 42.3-yard average, with a long of 56.

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