Michael Palardy made a 19-yard field goal as time expired Saturday to give Tennessee a 23-21 victory over No. 11 South Carolina that ended the Volunteers’ 19-game losing streak against ranked opponents.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw left the game after being sacked by Marlon Walls and Daniel McCullers with less than five minutes remaining. Coach Steve Spurrier said Shaw had a sprained knee.
Tennessee got into field-goal range on a spectacular 39-yard catch by freshman Marquez North, who snared the ball with his left hand at the South Carolina 26 while being closely covered by cornerback Ahmad Christian down the left sideline. Four consecutive runs by Marlin Lane got the Vols to the South Carolina 2 and set up the field goal.
Palardy celebrated his game-winning kick by racing to join his teammates on the sideline closest to the Tennessee locker room, where they gathered to celebrate at about the 15-yard line. Tennessee coach Butch Jones chest-bumped athletic director Dave Hart on his way off the field.
Mike Davis rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown for South Carolina (5-2, 3-2), which erased a 17-7 halftime deficit before having its four-game winning streak snapped. Shaw had a touchdown run and a touchdown pass, though he also was 7 of 21 and threw his first interception of the season.
Tennessee (4-3, 1-2 SEC) hadn’t beaten a ranked foe since a 31-13 victory over No. 21 South Carolina on Oct. 31, 2009. The Vols also had lost 16 of their last 18 SEC games.
But on a day when hundreds of former Volunteers joined the team Saturday in running onto Neyland Stadium, Tennessee finally started playing like the Vols of old.
About 250 former Tennessee players, including All-Pro selections Al Wilson and Jamal Lewis, joined the team in going through the “T” and onto the playing field before the game.
That seemed to inspire the Vols early.
Tennessee took a 3-0 lead on a 37-yard field goal that was set up by a targeting penalty on South Carolina safety Kadetrix Marcus that resulted in his ejection. Marcus had hit Alton “Pig” Howard at the end of a 12-yard reception on a third-and-5 play.
On the first play of the second quarter, Shaw hit a wide-open Damiere Byrd in stride for a 76-yard touchdown that put South Carolina ahead 7-3.
Tennessee answered by reaching the end zone on its next two series. Justin Worley’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Howard put the Vols ahead, then Rajion Neal added a 5-yard touchdown run.