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  • Kendall Smith

Gamecocks Cannot Complete Comeback against UT

Kendall Smith | @Kendall__smithh

Credit: Gamecock Athletics

Columbia, S.C. - Tonight at Williams-Brice Stadium, there were many firsts. South Carolina’s starting quarterback, Collin Hill, made his first appearance in a Gamecock uniform. Mike Bobo coached his first game as South Carolina’s offensive coordinator, and the Gamecocks suffered their first loss of the 2020 season 31-27 to the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Gamecocks jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their opening drive of the season as second-year running back Kevin Harris plunged his way into the endzone. That lead however, slipped to a 7-point deficit by halftime with Tennessee ahead 14-7.

Tennessee earned their halftime lead by a pick six from linebacker, Henry To’o To’o with 13:22 remaining in the first half. The Volunteers wasted no time in the second half expanding upon that lead as Eric Gray scampered into the endzone from 12 yards out.

The Gamecocks answered, scoring touchdowns on back-to-back offensive drives in the third quarter. The first touchdown, a 29-yard reception from wide receiver Shi Smith, who had 140 yards on 10 receptions, put the Gamecocks down one score, 21-14. The second touchdown, a 1-yard run from Collin Hill, evened the score 21-21.

“I think that we made some explosive plays, and we left some on the field,” said South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp.

South Carolina and Tennessee remained close throughout the second half. With just over three minutes left in the game, South Carolina kicker, Parker White, nailed a 45-yard field goal that narrowed Tennessee’s lead to 31-27.

The Gamecocks defense responded with a huge stop, but with under two minutes left in the game, Tennessee's punt rolled into South Carolina’s Cam Smith and Tennessee recovered, clinching their 31-27 victory.

Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw for 259 yards and a touchdown as the Vols racked up nearly 400 yards of total offense.

“We need to play better on the defensive side of the ball,” said Muschamp.

Hill impressed in his Gamecock debut. The Colorado State graduate transfer threw for 290 yards with two total touchdowns. The big differences between his and Guarantano’s play were Hill’s one interception and the offensive line’s inability to keep him upright. Hill was sacked four times while Guarantano only went down twice.

Starting defensive back and punt returner, Israel Mukuamu sat out of the second half due to a groin issue, according to Muschamp.

On a night of firsts, South Carolina’s loss to Tennessee marks the first time they have lost back-to-back season openers since 1994 and 1995. This is also Muschamp’s second consecutive opening day loss after starting his head coaching career undefeated at both Florida and South Carolina. Despite the early struggle, the Gamecocks are still looking ahead.

“You gotta show up tomorrow and be ready to work,” said Hill.

South Carolina will be back at practice on Sunday and turn their attention to the fifth-ranked Florida Gators, who knocked off Ole Miss 51-35 in Oxford. Kickoff is set for noon in Gainesville next weekend.

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