The defensive woes for the Tennessee Volunteers continued Saturday, falling 38-35 to the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Vols trailed throughout the game by as many as two touchdowns at times. However, Tennessee pulled within three points on Zach Rogers' third touchdown catch with 8:35 left in the fourth quarter.
After forcing a Connor Shaw interception, the Gamecocks star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney stripped Tyler Bray with 1:08 left to go in the game, thwarting their comeback.
Head coach Derek Dooley said he's proud of the resilience 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 the one sack by Clowney.
"(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."
Bray responded to a challenge made earlier this week by Dooley, criticizing the junior's play. Bray had one of his best games of the year, completing 27 of 43 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns.
"(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 (be) a leader."
Rogers, the senior lead of the wide receiving core, had a career day for the Vols. 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 play 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, Herman Lathers was bringing Lattimore to the ground when cornerback Eric Gordon hit the junior tailback low. When the pile dispersed, Lattimore was clutching his right knee.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier issued a statement saying the running back had a dislocated knee, but speculations of a more severe injury are circulating. Lattimore tore his left ACL last season.
"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."