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TENNESSEE Team Report
For the second consecutive week, Tennessee came through when it had to.
"Both teams made big plays. Both teams made mistakes," Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge said. "We just made more big plays when it counted."
After mounting a late touchdown drive to beat Alabama 16-13 two weeks ago, the Vols scored 17 consecutive points in the fourth quarter at South Carolina for a 31-24 victory over the Gamecocks.
With five consecutive victories, the eighth-ranked Vols (7-1, 3-1 SEC) still trail Florida in the SEC East race. Still, Tennessee says it will not let up on the Gators.
They did, however, let up long enough to give the Gamecocks a chance to win Saturday. The Vols jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead when linebacker Marvin Mitchell intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown before receiver Bret Smith caught a 5-yard touchdown pass.
South Carolina then came back with the 17 consecutive points and led 17-14 heading into the decisive fourth quarter. Along the way, the SEC's previously least-penalized team committed eight penalties for 70 yards. The Vols also continued to struggle in the running game, rushing for 71 yards and 3.1 yards per carry.
Then the fourth quarter came along, giving the Vols another chance to take over.
"If we'd play the way we do in the fourth quarter in the first three," Ainge said, "then we wouldn't have to win in the fourth quarter."
Beating Alabama and South Carolina in the fourth quarter is one thing. The Vols will most likely need more than one good quarter to beat No. 13 LSU at home on Saturday.
"We've shown some tenacity as a football team and some toughness and gotten ourselves to this point, and I'm proud of them," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "It doesn't do anything but get harder with LSU coming in next week."
GAME BALL GOES TO: CB Jonathan Wade -– Wade opened with a hard hit on the second play of the game, separating the ball from South Carolina WR Mike West and sending it into the hands of LB Marvin Mitchell. Wade then intercepted a pass in the end zone midway through the first quarter, preventing a South Carolina touchdown. Wade, who also made four tackles and one for loss, now has three INTs this season.
KEEP AN EYE ON: LB Marvin Mitchell –- Mitchell caught the loose ball caused by West and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown for a 7-0 Tennessee lead just 1:39 into the game. Mitchell also recorded eight tackles and a quarterback hurry.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It didn't have anything to do with it. Neither one of us played a snap. He's a good coach, and I don't know where all that gets started. There's been times we should have won and didn't and times he probably should have won and didn't. That's just the way it is. I'm just glad to get a win, so we can move to 7-1." -– Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, who's now 4-8 against South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.
LOOKING GOOD: QB Erik Ainge -– Ainge came through with another big fourth quarter to lead the Vols to a victory. For the game, he completed 21 of 29 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
WRs Bret Smith and Robert Meachem -– Smith caught four passes for 23 yards and touchdowns of five and 12 yards while caught five passes for 106 yards.
FS-PR Jonathan Hefney -– His 65-yard punt return set up a touchdown that gave the Vols a 28-17 lead.
STILL NEEDS WORK: TBs Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty -– Foster and Hardesty combined for only 53 yards on 20 carries as the Vols continued to struggle in the running game.
Defensive front seven -– The Vols have done a lot of good things in the front seven this season but South Carolina QB Syvelle Newton accounted for three touchdowns and 315 total yards, including 85 rushing yards and a TD run.
ROSTER REPORT: Starting SS Demetrice Morley missed the first half of the South Carolina game as a punishment for Morley's poor academic performance. "Demetrice Morley is being disciplined for not taking academics as seriously as he should, for missing class and not telling me the truth," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said in a statement released through the sports information department. "Additional internal discipline also is in effect." Redshirt freshman Antonio Wardlow started in place of Newton at strong safety.
QB Erik Ainge suffered a right ankle injury late in the game and didn't finish the game. Instead, redshirt freshman Jonathan Crompton played the final series for the Vols. The ankle isn't expected to keep Ainge out of Saturday's game against LSU. "I just know I'm able to walk on it right now," Ainge said. "We'll see how it is. I think I'll be all right."
While WR Bret Smith also suffered a sprain to his left ankle and could be seen receiving treatment on the sideline late in the game, senior WR Jayson Swain played despite battling a sprained left ankle he originally suffered against Georgia on Oct. 7. Swain had been limited in practice all week.
Previous Report: 10/24/2006