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(Saturday, October 30th)
Final Score: (17) South Carolina 38, Tennessee 24
Columbia, SC (Sports Network) - Stephen Garcia and Alshon Jeffery hooked up for a 70-yard touchdown to snap a fourth-quarter tie and Garcia added a late TD run, as 17th-ranked South Carolina posted a 38-24 win over Tennessee at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Garcia completed 13-of-22 passes for 223 yards with an interception and freshman Marcus Lattimore returned to the lineup with a career-high 184 yards and a score on 29 carries for South Carolina (6-2, 4-2 SEC). Lattimore sat out last week's victory over Vanderbilt because of an ankle injury.
The Gamecocks have won six straight home games and are in control of the SEC East with just two conference games remaining -- next week against Arkansas and at Florida on November 13. South Carolina also beat Tennessee for just the fifth time in 29 all-time meetings (5-22-2).
"We're bowl eligible today," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said. "Don't ever take for granted being bowl eligible. That's a nice accomplishment for this team already with four games left. Now we shoot for the next goal - winning the SEC East. We have a chance. Regardless of what happens at Florida, we have a chance."
Tyler Bray threw a pair of touchdown passes for Tennessee (2-6, 0-5), which has lost four in a row for the first time since 2005. Denarius Moore finished with six catches for 228 yards in defeat.
Bray's 17-yard touchdown pass to Gerald Jones tied it for the Volunteers with 13:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Garcia and Jeffery made a big play soon after.
Jeffery caught a pass near midfield and took advantage of a big block to reach the left sideline, from where he raced untouched to the end zone for a 24-17 lead.
Tennessee drove to the South Carolina 41 on the next possession, but the next two plays lost 15 yards and the Vols were forced to punt. The Gamecocks were pinned at their own eight, but Lattimore did most of the work on a 92-yard drive that sealed the contest.
Garcia kept the drive alive early with a 12-yard pass to Jeffery on 3rd-and-5 from the 13 and Lattimore followed with a 40-yard run to the Tennessee 35. After a penalty for a personal foul advanced the ball to the 20, a 19-yard jaunt by Lattimore set up Garcia's one-yard touchdown run to make it a 14- point game with 3:28 to play.
The Vols turned it over on downs and the Gamecocks ran out the final two minutes.
"We talked about playing the second half better than we did in our two losses," Spurrier added. "We talked about it and maybe that helped us. We tried to play a full game. Maybe that hurt us in the first half because we haven't done that well in the first half recently."
Garcia was intercepted at the goal line to stop South Carolina's first series of the game and Tennessee answered with a drive for a 39-yard field goal from Michael Palardy for a 3-0 lead.
Spencer Lanning's 40-yard field early in the second quarter tied it for South Carolina and the Vols blew a great chance on their next possession. With a first down at the South Carolina six, quarterback Matt Simms was sacked, then threw incomplete and fumbled while being sacked on third down.
The Gamecocks followed with a 75-yard drive for a touchdown. Lattimore keyed the 10-play set with a 34-yard run and finished it with a one-yard scoring run for a 10-3 lead. Tennessee answered with a 12-yard TD pass from Simms to Luke Stocker and went into the break tied at 10-10.
Simms was sacked and fumbled on Tennessee's first possession of the second half, giving South Carolina the ball at UT 27. Garcia needed six plays to again put his team in the end zone, scoring himself from a yard away for a 17-10 lead just 2 1/2 minutes into the third quarter.
Bray took over at quarterback for Simms on Tennessee's next series and promptly threw an interception that was returned 24 yards for a touchdown by Devin Taylor.
The Vols pulled within seven late in the third on Bray's 30-yard touchdown pass to Moore, one play after a successful fake punt.
"There were a lot of good things in the game today but when you spit the ball out four times, three of them in your territory, one of them for a score and then you have the sacks that we have, and then you give up three huge plays in the last two drives, you aren't going to win the game," Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said. " I was proud of the team for the fight they showed and the resolve they showed. At the end of the day, the mistakes were the difference."
Simms completed 10-of-13 passes for 153 yards before leaving the game, while Bray was 9-of-15 for 159 yards. The two were sacked a combined six times...Lattimore's previous career best rushing effort was 182 yards against Georgia in September...Jeffery finished with just three catches for 87 yards.
10/30 19:11:25 ET