7:00 PM ET, November 1, 2008
Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC
South Carolina downs Tennessee and turns up pressure on embattled Fulmer
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina's Stephen Garcia wasn't going to be stopped Saturday night, not by Tennessee or an ex-linebacker turned Southeastern Conference official.
Garcia threw a pair of touchdown passes and helped the Gamecocks pile on to the problems for the struggling Vols and embattled coach Phillip Fulmer with a 27-6 victory.
"It's a good feeling to finally beat those guys," Garcia said.
And Garcia also felt good not getting his bell rung by umpire Wilbur Hackett Jr., who became an Internet sensation for his forearm-first hit on South Carolina's freshman against LSU two weeks ago.
Garcia spoke to Hackett between plays. "We were laughing about the whole situation," Garcia said.
Garcia apologized to Hackett, a former linebacker for Kentucky, for "all that crazy stuff that happened. He said, 'Yeah, it's over now.' So we're cool about it."
Less certain is Fulmer's position after the Vols (3-6) at 1-5 in the Southeastern Conference were guaranteed their second losing league mark in the past four seasons.
Fulmer said Tennessee's players were disappointed with their fourth loss in the past five games and told them to keep their heads up.
"It's not the way Tennessee is supposed to be," Fulmer said. "It's not what they came here for."
Still, Fulmer said he's the man for the job despite the poor season. When the Vols disappoint, they typically bounce back the next year.
"I certainly feel like in time, we'll be back on track, " he said.
The victory was just the fourth over the Vols for the Gamecocks (6-3, 3-3).
A big reason was the heady play of Garcia, who passed for 139 yards, and his two scoring throws before a third-quarter knee injury sent him to the sideline.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier didn't find much good in his team's production.
"Our biggest problem is blocking and running and throwing and catching on offense," he said.
Of Garcia, "he's not familiar with everything," Spurrier said.
Maybe Spurrier's edginess is because beating the Vols is nothing new to him. He'd beaten them as coach at Duke, several times leading Florida and then, in his debut with the Gamecocks in 2005, led South Carolina to its first victory in Knoxville.
For Gamecocks fans, victory was something they hadn't seen at home in 16 years.
Even in down years for Tennessee, there's usually one sure thing -- the Vols beat South Carolina.
The Gamecocks won three times in 26 previous meetings: 1903, 1992 and 2005.
Just a year ago, the 4-3 Vols faced South Carolina and used a dramatic 27-24 OT victory to start a five-game win streak. Tennessee won the SEC Eastern Division, won 10 games and the pressure surrounding Fulmer eased a bit.
Fulmer probably won't be so lucky this time.
Tennessee's stagnant offense had no solution for South Carolina's top-rated SEC defense.
Garcia went 4-for-4 for 80 yards on the first scoring drive, ended by the 12-yard TD pass to Mike Davis.
Gamecocks cornerback Stoney Woodson jumped in front of Nick Stephens' pass and took it 68 yards for a touchdown to give South Carolina, at 14-0, its largest lead over the Vols in 16 years in the SEC.
The interception was Stephens' first of his career and Tennessee's first turnover in 193 snaps. The Vols didn't take nearly that long for their next one.
Garcia hit Kenny McKinley on a slant pattern for a 21-0 lead.
Things were ugly for the Vols.
Stephens and Crompton were sacked six times and Tennessee was held to fewer than 10 points for the third time this season, a first in the Fulmer era.
The highlight might have been the career-long 71-yard punt of Britton Colquitt, the latest in the line of kicking Colquitts for Tennessee.
The Vols finished with minus-2 yards rushing in the opening half and 34 for the game.
Tennessee's third-quarter TD on Arian Foster's 1-yard leap averted an end to their streak of scoring in every game, which began in 1994 after Spurrier's Gators blanked Fulmer and the Vols 31-0.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||3-14||4-17|
|4th Down Conversions||0-2||1-2|
|TD||07:59||Mike Davis 12 Yd Pass From Stephen Garcia (Ryan Succop Kick)||0||7|
|TD||14:45||Stoney Woodson 68 Yd Interception Return (Ryan Succop Kick)||0||14|
|TD||10:17||Kenny Mckinley 4 Yd Pass From Stephen Garcia (Ryan Succop Kick)||0||21|
|FG||07:33||Ryan Succop 31 Yd||0||24|
|TD||04:09||Arian Foster 1 Yd Run (Two-Point Conversion Failed)||6||24|
|FG||03:12||Ryan Succop 31 Yd||6||27|