JOE BIDDLE: No. 17 Gamecocks overcome Tennessee 38-35 - WKRN News 2

JOE BIDDLE: No. 17 Gamecocks overcome Tennessee 38-35

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

There's a reason Tennessee's football team hasn't won an SEC game this season.

The Vols have played five teams ranked in the top 15 in the country.

So you think the Vols should have won at least a couple of those games?

Why? No one else has been able to beat them.

Three of the losses were on the road and you don't need state troopers to testify how dangerous life on the SEC highways is.

The five teams Tennessee lost to include Florida, Georgia, Missississippi State, Alabama. Saturday, the Vols added South Carolina (No. 13) to the list.

Those five teams have a combined three losses on the season going into this weekend.

Take defending national champion Alabama out of the equation and the Vols have lost to the other four teams by an average of 9 points.

You can say or think what you want about the job Derek Dooley has done. But it was apparent Saturday that this Vols team has not quit on him.

They fought the Gamecocks with every fiber in their body. They lost, 38-35, outscoring South Carolina 14-3 in the final quarter.

"We fought our tails off,'' Dooley said after the game. "We had a chance at the end of the game to win it and didn't get it done.''

For once Vols quarterback Tyler Bray played the game his coaches have been waiting for him to play against top 20 teams.

Bray hung tough, thanks to an offensive line that for the most part kept the Gamecocks' destructive man-child Jadeveon Clowney away from Bray, giving him time to spread the ball around.

Dooley had challenged Bray to be more responsible and take ownership after Bray refused to face the media a week before.

Bray completed 27 0f 43 with four touchdowns and 368 yards. His lone interception came at the end of the game on a desperation effort.

"I think Tyler Bray really played his best game,'' Dooley said. "If they can perform like that every week, we'll have a chance to win some games.''

With the Vols hoping to go ahead late in the game, it was Clowney, who slipped past former Ensworth star Antonio "Tiny'' Richardson and dislodged the football from Bray just as Bray was starting to launch a pass. South Carolina recovered, snuffing any upset plans the Vols had.

It was a bitter pill for the Vols to swallow, but South Carolina suffered a devastating loss of its own when running back Marcus Lattimore's right leg buckled when slammed by linebacker Herman Lathers and Nashville's Eric Gordon in the second quarter. Lattimore was rushed to a hospital to discover the extent of the injury to his right leg. It appeared his season would be over, just as it was a year ago when he tore an ACL on the opposite knee.

The schedule eases up for the Vols from here on out. They don't play a currently ranked team and could be favored in the final four games.

If Tennessee runs the table, Dooley should keep his job for a fourth season. Media, polls or fans will not make that decision. It is squarely in the lap of Athletics Director Dave Hart.

But there was promise for the future in the way Tennessee battled South Carolina in a hostile environment.

They have some players and Dooley deserves to have a roster filled with all his recruits in order to better judge his capability as a head coach on the SEC level.

The worst is behind them. But they still have some unfinished business to bag a bowl bid this season. 

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com

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