Columbia, SC - The defensive woes for the Tennessee Volunteers' continued Saturday, falling 35-38 to the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Vols trailed throughout the entire game by as much as two touchdowns. However, they pulled within three on one of Zach Rogers' three touchdown catches with 8:35 left in the fourth quarter. After forcing an interception, the Vols gave the ball back to the Gamecocks on a Tyler Bray fumble with 1:08 left to go in the game, thwarting their comeback.
Head coach Derek Dooley said he's proud of the resiliency the Vols showed throughout the game.
"Well that was another tough finish; a great football game," said Dooley. "We gave up a lot of big plays, so the same old song and dance in the SEC games."
South Carolina came into Saturday's game with 29 sacks as a team, third most in the nation. However, the Vols' offensive line held its ground, only allowing one sack.
"(The offensive line) did a great job. That's one of the top defenses in college football," said Dooley. "We put 472 yards on them and 35 points but it wasn't enough to win the game."
Starting quarterback Tyler Bray responded to a challenge made earlier this week by Dooley, criticizing the play of the junior. Bray had one of his best games of the year, completing 27 of his 43 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns.
"(Tyler Bray) played a great game," said Dooley. "But he had an unfortunate end to a great game."
Dooley also issued a challenge to junior receiver Justin Hunter earlier this week, and like Bray, Hunter responded well. He pulled in eight catches for 90 yards.
"I think I kept the chains moving the most I could," said Hunter. "I just tried to help my team the most I could and just being a leader."
The biggest standout on Tennessee's offense was senior receiver Zach Rogers. Rogers had six receptions with a team-leading 107 yards and three touchdowns. His three touchdowns tied the school record for most in a single game in team history. The last to do it was Hunter earlier this season against Georgia State. Dooley said Rogers' success comes from his work ethic.
"What Zach (Rogers) does is he plays fast without the ball and he practices fast without the ball," said Dooley. "...I think that develops a lot of trust with Tyler (Bray) about where he's going to be and that's what our other kids gotta learn how to do."
But the one thing that most people will remember from this game is the gruesome injury suffered by South Carolina junior running back Marcus Lattimore. On a run in the second quarter, one Tennessee player hit Lattimore high and another hit him low. When the pile dispersed, Lattimore was clutching his knee that was pointed the wrong way.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said the doctors will know more later in the week.
"He's such a good young man. Good things are going to happen for Marcus," said Spurrier. "I don't know exactly where or how, but good things are going to happen for Marcus Lattimore."