5 things we learned from Vols' loss to South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Five things we learned from No. 18 Tennessee’s 24-21 loss to South Carolina on Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium. Tennessee’s third straight conference loss dropped the Vols to 5-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC.
1. Same problems keep hurting Vols
Tennessee has talked all season about fixing certain issues, but they continue to plague the Vols. Despite coming off an open week, Tennessee lacked intensity and energy at the start and fell behind early again. Tennessee has been outscored 133-72 in the first half this season. Self-inflicted wounds once again hurt the Vols. Tennessee committed three turnovers and had nine penalties for 87 yards. A healthier offensive line didn’t lead to an improved performance. Dobbs and the running backs were continually pressured and the Vols gave up two sacks and averaged 3.7 yards per rush.
2. Dobbs struggled to spark the offense
Tennessee senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs hasn’t been performing to his own standards. In the last two games, he’s thrown for 253 yards and rushed for minus-4 yards. It was somewhat understandable against top-ranked Alabama’s defense with injuries along Tennessee’s offensive line. But South Carolina made Dobbs appear just as out of sorts. He committed three turnovers with two interceptions and a fumble. Dobbs completed 12 of 26 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown and rushed 12 times for 27 yards. Dobbs was rattled by South Carolina's pressure and bounced passes to receivers. It’s hard to know how much of the skittishness is a result of Tennessee’s subpar offensive line play this season. Dobbs has 11 interceptions and three fumbles lost through eight games. He had five interceptions total last season.
3. Vols will need some breaks to win the SEC East
Tennessee’s SEC East Division title hopes were dampened in the loss. The Vols can still emerge as champions, but will need more help. Florida (6-1, 4-1) remained in first place with a win over Georgia on Saturday and Kentucky (5-3, 4-2) stayed in second with a win over Missouri. Florida plays at Arkansas, hosts South Carolina and is at LSU to finish conference play. After a homecoming game against Tennessee Tech, the Vols host Kentucky and Missouri and travel to Vanderbilt. Kentucky hosts Georgia and plays at Tennessee. The Vols had the easiest road to the title on paper, but the loss to South Carolina largely negated that advantage. Florida and Kentucky have won three straight games and Tennessee has lost three straight.
4. Record not a sure thing anymore for Hurd
It was expected junior running back Jalen Hurd would break the UT all-time rushing record by the end of the season. But that looks more and more in doubt. Hurd rushed for 16 yards on eight carries in the first half against South Carolina and did not play in the second half. He is in sixth place in the UT record book with 2,634 yards. Travis Henry holds the record with 3,078 yards. Hurd needs 445 more yards to break the record this season. Hurd is averaging 3.7 yards per carry and 64.4 per game. He will need to be more productive down the stretch to break the record if he’s able to play in full games. He’s already missed one game with an undisclosed injury. If Hurd stays on his average through the four remaining regular-season games and an expected bowl game, he would finish the season with 2,956 career yards. That would rank second all-time behind recently-retired Arian Foster (2,964).
5. Bright spots amid the dark night
Although there wasn’t much to celebrate in the aftermath, a few Vols hit career milestones and performed well. Junior defensive end Derek Barnett finished with three sacks and three tackles for loss. Barnett now ranks second all-time in UT history for career sacks with 29. Reggie White holds the record with 32 sacks from 1980-83. Running back John Kelly had a strong showing with Alvin Kamara sidelined by an injury. Kelly carried 14 times for 94 yards. Combined with his 89-yard performance against Texas A&M, Kelly has made a good case for more touches going forward. Evan Berry came close to going the distance many times this season and finally broke through against South Carolina, taking a kickoff return 100 yards for a touchdown that gave Tennessee some life in the third quarter. It was Berry’s fourth career kickoff return for a touchdown, tying him with Willie Gault (1979-82) for the most in UT history.
More South Carolina game coverage:
- Vols report card: Poor grades for poor effort
- John Adams: Tennessee headed in wrong direction
- Vols QB Dobbs struggles in return to Williams-Brice
- Vols' mistakes drive Gamecock touchdowns
- Gamecocks knock Vols off course
- Tennessee vs. S. Carolina: How they scored
- Butch Jones on Vols 24-21 loss to S. Carolina
- Tennessee short-handed in secondary without Foreman, Abernathy
- How would you grade Vols' performance vs. S. Carolina?
- First-half notebook: Secondary short-handed, Summitt honored