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Tennessee-The Post and Courier
The Rivalry
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Missed Opportunity

Gamecocks fall short against Vols

Published on 10/29/06

The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — South Carolina had its chances Saturday night against eighth-ranked Tennessee, but in the beginning the Vols were simply too lucky, and in the end they were simply too good.

That deadly combination propelled Tennessee to a 31-24 victory in front of a Williams-Brice Stadium crowd of 82,011. It also kept the Vols in the chase for the Southeastern Conference title, while all but dashing any slim hopes the Gamecocks had of staying in it.

"Tennessee beat us," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. "No excuses. I think last year when we beat them, I think I said we were just meant to win. Tonight, I don't think we were meant to win. The ball certainly didn't bounce our way, and they turned them into scores."

Tennessee (7-1, 3-1 SEC) got a masterful game from quarterback Erik Ainge, who completed 21 of 29 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns.

South Carolina's Syvelle Newton was nearly as good. Newton rushed 14 times for 85 yards and a touchdown, and completed 16 of 29 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns.

Newton did have three interceptions, but two came off tipped balls and one was on a desperation throw at the end of the game.

"It's tough to come close again and lose to a top team," Newton said, referencing South Carolina's 24-17 loss earlier this season to Auburn. "They made some big plays on us and we couldn't match them."

South Carolina (5-3, 3-3) was within striking distance of the Vols, trailing 21-17, when Tennessee's Jonathan Heffney, a Rock Hill native, returned a punt 65 yards to the Gamecocks' 5-yard line.

Tailback Arian Foster scored on

Tennessee holds off South Carolina

5-yard run on the next play and Tennessee led 28-17 with 10:25 left in the game.

The Vols essentially put the game away on James Wilhoit's field goal with 5:09 remaining that increased the Vols' lead to 31-17.

Ainge supplied the big play on the drive, completing a 62-yard pass to Robert Meachem.

However, South Carolina didn't go down quietly. The Gamecocks drove 95 yards in nine plays with Newton scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:45 to play.

South Carolina elected to try an onside kick, but Tennessee recovered.

The Gamecocks got the ball back with 1:06 on the clock, but with no timeouts remaining and 91 yards to travel.

Newton's fourth-down pass on the final play of the game was intercepted.

Trailing 14-10, the Gamecocks got a big break when Tennessee fumbled a punt and South Carolina's Yvan Banag recovered on the Gamecock 27.

Five plays later, Newton passed 15 yards to Noah Whiteside for a touchdown that put South Carolina ahead 17-14 with 4:10 to play in the third quarter.

"When we took the lead, I thought we were going to win it," said Newton. "But give Tennessee credit. They came right back on us."

The Vols came back to take the lead with a 13-play, 79-yard drive culminating in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Ainge to Smith.

Tennessee led 14-10 at the half, and the Vols showed why teams always practice tip drills.

Tennessee plucked two interceptions out of the air after deflections, one of which went for a 17-yard return for a touchdown by Marvin Mitchell.

The second interception killed a South Carolina drive at the Tennessee 5-yard line.

However, it wasn't just the Vols' defensive backs who proved adept at catching deflections.

The Vols' second score came when wide receiver Bret Smith caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Ainge on a ball that was tipped into his hands by a South Carolina defender.

That put Tennessee ahead 14-0 with 2:57 to play in the first quarter.

Ryan Succop's 50-yard field goal with 14:15 to play in the second quarter got the Gamecocks on the scoreboard, and Mike West caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Newton to make it 14-10 with 5:29 to play in the half.

Reach Charles Bennett at

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"When we took the lead, I thought we were going to win it.  But give Tennessee credit. They came right back on us."  ~Syvelle Newton (on losing to Tennessee)