Tennessee’s College Football Playoff hopes were dashed with a loss to South Carolina

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dated: 2022-11-20 04:20:29 .

COLUMBIA, SC – No. 5 Tennessee’s College Football Playoff hopes were dashed in a 63-38 loss to South Carolina as fans stormed the field Saturday night.

The Vols (9-2, 5-2 SEC) were helpless on defense and fell 35-17 in the first half. And their No. 1 offense was enough to slow the rally.

South Carolina (7-4, 4-4) was unstoppable, spoiling Tennessee’s best season since the 1998 national title.

It ended a crazy day for the College Football Playoff contenders. No. 3 Michigan beat Illinois with a last-second field goal. No. 4 TCU did the same to defeat Baylor. And No. 2 Ohio State pulled off the upset of Maryland.

But Tennessee was the only team not to run away.

Here are five observations from Tennessee’s loss amid a sellout crowd of 79,041 at Williams-Brice Stadium:

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Hendon Hooker left the game due to injury

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, a Heisman Trophy candidate, did not play his best game. He was off target on some passes, under pressure on others and had miscommunication with the headset.

Then the poor play got worse as he went down with a left leg injury with 11:28 left in the fourth quarter. Hooker was playing an option when his leg gave way and he fell without making contact with a defender.

Hooker fumbled and South Carolina recovered at Tennessee’s 17-yard line. The Gamecocks turned it into a touchdown for a 56-31 lead.

Hooker was 24 of 42 passing for 247 yards, three TDs and no interceptions. He limped to the locker room and did not return to the game.

Cedric Tillman caught a 3-yard TD pass on fourth-and-goal. Bru McCoy scored 7 yards on a deflected pass. And Hooker threw a dart to Princeton Fant for a 41-yard score.

Tennessee let South Carolina score at will

South Carolina gained 606 total yards of offense and never encountered any resistance from the Tennessee defense.

South Carolina scored a TD on its first five possessions, and that streak was only ended by halftime. The Gamecocks scored 35 points in a half against an SEC team for the first time since 1995, and they kept on pouring.

South Carolina looked like a Tennessee offense entering the game leading the FBS in points and yards.

Tennessee’s defense just couldn’t get off the field except by giving up points. On those five first-half drives, South Carolina converted 4 of 6 in the third. His two failures were followed by a successful demotion.

Spencer Rattler looked like a Heisman candidate

South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler was touted as a Heisman candidate last preseason after transferring from Oklahoma. But he didn’t act like that until the Oxen arrived.

A Rattler sets fire to a high school in Tennessee. He was 10 of 12 passing for 185 yards and three TDs in the first quarter to build a 21-7 lead. That surpassed his mileage for the entire contest in four of the previous five games.

And Rattler didn’t give up. He passed for 438 yards and six TDs, both career highs.

Tennessee wide receiver Bru McCoy scores a touchdown against South Carolina.

Cedric Tillman could be ready

Tillman returned to the starting 11 after missing the Missouri game as an injury precaution. He caught a pass in the first game and appeared to have recovered physically.

Tillman looked even better when he made a spinning catch for a 3-yard TD on fourth-and-goal. But his speed down the flat was maybe half a step slower on deep passes, or Hooker wasn’t ready for it. Tillman also caught a TD pass from backup Joe Milton in the fourth quarter.

Tillman’s TD catches were his second and third in six games this season. He missed four straight games with an ankle injury that required surgery and then the Missouri game with an unrelated injury.

Tillman had over 1,000 yards receiving and 12 TDs last season.

Jalin Hyatt’s return home was relatively quiet

Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, a Biletnikoff Award candidate, played against his hometown. He played at Dutch Fork High in Irm, South Carolina, 17 miles from Columbia.

And he won four straight national titles at Williams-Brice Stadium, but the Gamecocks didn’t offer Hyatt a scholarship.

Hyatt had a solid performance, but was well off his season-high pace. He still moved to No. 2 on Tennessee’s single-season receiving yardage list, passing Marcus Nash (1,170 yards in 1997). Robert Meachem holds the school record with 1,298 yards from 2006.

Reach Adam Sparks at [email protected] and on Twitter: @AdamSparks.

This article originally appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel: Tennessee’s No. 5 College Football Playoff hopes dashed with loss

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Tennessee’s College Football Playoff hopes were dashed with a loss to South Carolina

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