Vols-Gamecocks: Will it be another close one?

The Tennessee-South Carolina series has been one of most closely played rivalries in the SEC. It started that way when the Gamecocks joined the league in 1992 and was still that way last season when the Vols won in overtime.

Here’s a trip down memory lane, revisiting some of the nail-biter finishes:

1992: Mose Phillips made what would have been remembered as one of the greatest runs in UT history to score a late touchdown in Columbia in the inaugural SEC meeting of the Vols and Gamecocks. Only the Vols didn’t win the game, so Phillips’ weaving, tackle-breaking run fades into a second-tier memory. Phillips’ score closed Carolina’s lead to 24-23. The Vols went for the two-point conversion and the win (there was no overtime in 1992). Heath Shuler threw a short flare pass to James Stewart but Gamecock Hank Campbell tackled Stewart at the 3-yard line, preserving the upset. Later the following week, Tennessee announced Johnny Majors was out as head coach.

1998: This one wasn’t close but it’s worth mentioning. On the way to the national title, the Vols routed Carolina 49-14 in Columbia. Tee Martin completed 23 consecutive passes to set an NCAA single-game record that stood for years.

2000: The Vols trailed 14-7 but pulled it out on their final two possessions. Alex Walls kicked a field goal, then Travis Henry scored from the 1 with 26 seconds left and Tennessee won 17-14.

2002: Tennessee led 12-10 and lined up to kick a 22-yard field goal with 6:25 left. But realizing there were 12 men on the field, UT called timeout to avoid a penalty. Phillip Fulmer, given a chance to rethink his options, decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the 5. Casey Clausen not only got the first down but scored on a keeper. UT won 18-10.

2003: UT won 23-20, the first of three overtime wins over South Carolina. After a 17-17 tie, the Gamecocks kicked a field goal on their OT possession. Tennessee trumped it when Casey Clausen hit James Banks for a touchdown pass.

2005: South Carolina came to Neyland Stadium a 14-point underdog with a 12-year losing streak to Tennessee. But it had Steve Spurrier on the sideline for the first time. The Gamecocks won 16-15 with a late field goal. The following Monday, Randy Sanders resigned as offensive coordinator, falling on his sword as the scapegoat for a struggling Tennessee offense.

2007: Another overtime win 27-24, thanks to a Daniel Lincoln field goal of 27 yards. But first Lincoln had to hit a 48-yarder with 5 seconds to play to send the game to overtime. It was a mulligan. Lincoln’s first try from 43 yards missed but the Vols were flagged for a false start. Then Lincoln hit from 48. The win was a Launchpad for a 5-0 stretch run to reach the SEC championship game.

2009: Not close but worth a mention. Lane Kiffin suited the Vols in black jerseys for the first time since 1921 and the Vols upset the No. 21 Gamecocks 31-13.

2013: Butch Jones got his first marquee win when Michael Palardy hit a 19-yard field goal as time expired for a 23-21 win over the No. 11 Gamecocks.

2014: The Vols moved to 3-for-3 on OT wins over Carolina when Aaron Medley hit from 32 yards to break a 42-42 tie. But how the game got tied is one of the wildest finishes in UT history. The Vols trailed 42-28 with less than 5 minutes to play. Josh Dobbs scored on a keeper with 1:50 left, then hit Jason Croom with 11 seconds to play to knot the game at 42-all.

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