COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - With South Carolina's chances of winning the SEC East nearly as good as the weather, the Gamecocks entered the Brice with their destiny fully in hand.
The 38-24 win against UT brought them one step closer to the prize fans have been expecting since Lou Holtz arrived nearly 12 years ago and since Steve Spurrier took over in 2004.
On the first USC drive, UT stopped the Gamecock drive with an interception in the end zone after a would-be Marcus Lattimore touchdown was wiped out by an illegal shift penalty.
On the ensuing Volunteer drive, the Gamecock defense managed to hold the Vols to just a field goal after Tennessee did put together a 54-yard drive from their 20.
What began as a promising drive stalled quickly and the Gamecocks had to settle for a Spencer Lanning field goal from 39-yards out, but it did get things all tied up at 3.
On Tennessee's first drive of 2nd quarter, a Cliff Matthews sack led to a UT fumble and Gamecock recovery. Marcus Lattimore, showing no signs of his injured ankle slowing him down, capped the Carolina drive with his 13th touchdown of the season, tying a freshman record set by Sidney Rice.
Tennessee answered with a 9 play 73-yard scoring drive to knot it up at 10 all at halftime.
The 3rd quarter started out well for the Gamecocks. A sack by Antonio Allen yielded a Volunteer fumble inside the UT 30. Stephen Garcia eventually scored his 3rd rushing touchdown of the year on a 1-yard keeper up the middle. That TD put the Gamecocks up 17-10.
On the next UT drive, Devin Taylor grabbed a pick six for his third turnover recovery of the day. That score put the Gamecocks up by two touchdowns with just under 12 minutes to go in the third.
"After (the Vanderbilt game) we did a bunch of drills and drills and stuff to help us get recovery for fumbles and stuff, we used it for this week and it worked out well for us", Taylor said.
The Gamecocks looked to have the Vols stopped on the next drive, but a 25-yard run on a fake punt set up a 30 yard pass to Denarius Moore, bringing UT to within a touchdown, 24-17 with about 3 minutes to go in the third.
After the Volunteer defense stopped a USC drive, a 42-yard Spencer Lanning punt was bobbled by the Tennessee returner, Devonte Holloman, and recovered by the Gamecocks at the UT 17.
USC had another crack from within the red zone before the third quarter would tick away, but the Gamecocks could not punch it in and a field goal attempt went wide.
After a Tennessee touchdown tied the game at 24 in the 4th quarter, the prettiest play in the game for USC came when Garcia hooked up with Alshon Jeffrey for a 70-yard touchdown, breaking the tie and giving the Gamecocks enough for the win.
"He's a great player. and there's a reason two or three people are covering him (every play). I can't blame them. Once he gets the ball he's obviously dangerous," said QB Garcia of Jeffery.
Garcia added another rushing touchdown from 1-yard out with 3:28 left that sealed the win for South Carolina (6-2, 4-2).
After the game, Steve Spurrier said, "It was a good day for the Gamecocks. A good win for us. We didn't play extremely well. We had some really ridiculous, dumb plays today, especially the fake punt (in the third quarter.)"
The Gamecocks are the East's only two-loss team. They can clinch their first berth in the SEC title game with wins over Arkansas and Florida in the next two weeks.