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Vols playoff hopes dashed with loss to South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WATE) — Tennessee’s College Football Playoff dreams were dashed Saturday night after a 63-38 loss to South Carolina in Columbia.

Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker left the game with a knee injury with Tennessee trailing 49-31 in the 4th quarter. Hooker fumbled the ball before clutching his knee and the Gamecock’s recovered, setting up a Dakereon Joyner touchdown run to seal the USC victory. Hooker would not return to the game.

Tennessee’s defense had been it’s Achilles heel all season and they had a rough night Saturday, giving up 608 yards of total offense, including 453 yards through the air.

South Carolina struck first, when Spencer Rattler found Jaheim Bell on a 19 yard scoring strike to give the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead. It’s the first time this season the Vols gave up a touchdown on the opening possession of the game.

Tennessee responded quickly, going 75 yards in four plays, taking up 1:04 on the clock, capped by a Jabari Small 31 yard touchdown run to tie the game 7-7.

Tennessee wide receiver Bru McCoy (15), offensive lineman Gerald Mincey (54) and offensive lineman Jerome Carvin (75) celebrate with wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) after his touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against South Carolina on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)South Carolina wide receiver Dakereon Joyner (5) runs past Tennessee linebacker Juwan Mitchell (10) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) throws a short pass during the first half of the team’s NCAA college football game against South Carolina on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)Tennessee defensive back Brandon Turnage (8) deflects a pass in the end zone intended for South Carolina wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) makes a catch over South Carolina defensive back Cam Smith (9) for a 3-yard touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)South Carolina wide receiver Jalen Brooks (13) makes a catch next to Tennessee defensive back Brandon Turnage (8) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)Tennessee running back Jabari Small (2) runs past South Carolina defensive back Cam Smith (9) for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) is tackled by South Carolina defensive back Marcellas Dial (24) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)

Rattler answered with a 60 yard touchdown pass to Josh Vann to give South Carolina a 14-7 lead. After holding the Vols to a three and out, the Gamecocks extended the lead to 21-7 on a Rattler 11 yard touchdown strike to Juju McDonald.

Rattler was dialed in on the deep ball, finishing 30-37 for 438 yards and 6 touchdowns in the game.

Early in the 2nd quarter, Hendon Hooker connected with Cedric Tillman on a beautiful fade pass on 4th down. The three yard touchdown pass pulled the Vols within 7 at 21-14.

Hooker continues to put up video game numbers, before the injury he completed 25-42 passes for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns in the game.

Late in the 2nd quarter, after falling behind 35-17, Tennessee put together a textbook two minute drive, going 75 yards on 11 plays taking up 1:52 on the clock, capped by a 7 yard touchdown pass from Hooker to Bru McCoy. The Vols trailed 35-24 at the half.

The Vols struck again early in the 2nd half, Hooker found Princeton Fant streaking down the middle of the field for a 41 yard touchdown strike to pull Tennessee within four at 35-31.

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