Columbia, SC – Adam Yates' fourth-quarter field goal was the deciding score, and Victor Hampton's late interception sealed it, as the 17th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks escaped with a 38-35 decision over the Tennessee Volunteers at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"I think it was good to win one like that. We figured they would come back," said South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.
Connor Shaw threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns on 22-of-32 efficiency for the Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2 SEC), who snapped a two-game slide.
Bruce Ellington led the way with 101 yards and a score on six catches, while Ace Sanders and Rory Anderson also ended with a TD reception each.
Marcus Lattimore totaled 65 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries before departing in the second quarter with a gruesome right leg injury.
Tyler Bray tossed three of his four touchdowns to Zach Rogers, part of a 27- of-43, 368-yard performance for the Volunteers (3-5, 0-5), who lost their fourth straight contest.
Rogers finished with 107 yards on six grabs, while Vincent Dallas and Mychal Rivera also posted TD receptions in defeat.
Yates' 36-yard make put the hosts ahead by a 38-28 count with 10 minutes to play, but Tennessee struck back inside of two minutes later. Rogers had one foot in bounds on a 22-yard TD reception to pull Tennessee within three.
Holding onto a that slim lead, the hosts were poised to add an insurance score. However, on a 4th-and-4 from the Vols' 30-yard line, Shaw was picked off by Herman Lathers, and the visitors set up on their own 19.
Reaching the hosts' 19-yard line on the ninth play of the ensuing possession, Bray was hit on the arm by Jadeveon Clowney and coughed up the ball on 1st- and-10, recovered by South Carolina's Shaq Wilson with 1:08 on the clock.
"Clowney wins the game for us. He got two good pressures there at the end," Spurrier added of the key defensive stand. "I don't think we could have slowed them down much. That was the key to the ball game. He knocked it loose, and our guys fell on the fumble."
The Volunteers defense held on the following series, but after a punt, took over on their own 16 with 36 seconds to play. An incompletion on first down was followed by an interception by Hampton to seal it.
"Well that was another tough finish. It was a great football game and I am proud of my team for the resiliency that they showed," said Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley. "So all you can do is move on. We didn't really accomplish what we wanted to against these SEC top teams but we have to turn the page. There is a lot at stake down the stretch and we could still have a really good season."
Shaw hit Ellington for a 33-yard strike on South Carolina's first drive of the contest. Tennessee countered on its ensuing series as Bray found Rogers in the end zone from eight yards out.
Early in the second quarter, Anderson hauled in a Shaw pass from 26 yards out and the hosts led 14-7, and Lattimore capped the next Carolina drive with a 28-yard scamper to paydirt.
Bray and Rogers hooked up again, this time on a 37-yard scoring play, to pull the Vols back within one score.
Despite losing Lattimore when a Tennessee defender's helmet struck the junior back's knee head on and with full force late in the first half, South Carolina managed to head to the break up 28-14 after Shaw's one-yard plunge.
"He had a heck of a game going, too," Spurrier said of Lattimore. "A guy came knifing in there. The other guy hit him low. It is a very, very unfortunate thing that happened to Marcus. We'll all pray for him. Hopefully he'll be back. Maybe he'll be back next year. Maybe it won't be quite as severe as it appeared on the field out there."
Aided by a Gamecocks defender falling down, Dallas was able to take a Bray pass on the left side and roll 61 yards into the end zone for a one-touchdown game early in the third.
Both sides then traded failed series, and South Carolina took 11 plays to go 80 yards and took a 35-21 lead on a 24-yard connection from Shaw to Sanders.
The Vols responded with a 13-yard pass from Alton Howard to Rivera on the first play of the fourth quarter.
South Carolina racked up 510 yards of total offense and 25 first downs, to 472 yards and 23 first downs for Tennessee ... Justice Cunningham totaled 108 yards on six receptions for the victors ... Shaw added 33 yards rushing ... Marlin Lane, Jr. finished with a team-high 56 yards on 15 carries for the Volunteers.