South Carolina thrashes No. 5 Tennessee 63-38

No. 5 Tennessee’s dreams of making the College Football Playoff disappeared as the Volunteers were unable to stop South Carolina’s offense on Saturday night in a 63-38 loss.

And when we say that Tennessee couldn’t stop South Carolina, we mean that very literally. Outside of a one-play drive to end the first half, South Carolina (7-4) scored touchdowns on eight of its first nine possessions. The Gamecocks scored on their first five possessions of the night and didn’t punt until the third quarter thanks to a fantastic performance by QB Spencer Rattler.

If the loss itself wasn’t bad enough, the night got even worse for Tennessee (10-2) in the fourth quarter when Heisman candidate quarterback Hendon Hooker crumpled to the ground without getting touched. Hooker suffered a left knee injury on the play and never returned to the game after limping to the locker room.

Rattler transferred to South Carolina from Oklahoma ahead of the 2022 season after he was replaced as the Sooners’ starting quarterback by Caleb Williams. Rattler struggled in 2021 as he opened the season as the Heisman favorite and came to South Carolina looking to capture the 2020 form that made him a preseason Heisman contender.

That form had eluded him until Saturday night. After throwing eight touchdowns and nine interceptions through South Carolina’s first 10 games of the season, Rattler threw six touchdowns and no interceptions as South Carolina scored the most points ever by a ranked team against a team in the top five of the AP poll.

Spencer Rattler’s best game ever

Rattler never threw for five touchdowns in a single game at Oklahoma — let alone six — and his 438 yards are a career-high. It was clear that South Carolina wanted to put up as many points as possible when Rattler was still throwing in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and found Jalen Brooks for a 20-yard catch-and-run TD with 2:06 to go.

South Carolina scored 28 consecutive points to put the game away after Tennessee cut USC’s lead to four with 9:53 to go in the third quarter. The nine TDs the Gamecocks scored against UT came after USC had just 18 offensive scores overall in its first seven SEC games of the season.

The Gamecocks had over 500 yards of offense and also rushed for three scores. Antwane Wells Jr. had 10 catches for 141 yards and Josh Vann had a 60-yard TD catch and an 18-yard TD catch as Tennessee’s secondary simply couldn’t cover.

Tennessee’s offense wasn’t as explosive as it’s been at times in 2022, but it was still good enough to win the game with a decent showing by the Tennessee defense. After all, South Carolina had scored just six points against Florida the week before and 10 points against Missouri on Oct. 29.

But the defense was the Vols’ undoing as UT’s chances of making the playoff are now zero. No two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff and Tennessee won’t be in the SEC title game. Without that extra game, the Vols will finish 10-2 at best and head to a New Year’s Six bowl game. Hopefully that game includes Hooker and his knee injury isn’t too serious.

South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler threw for six touchdowns against Tennessee. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)

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