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Signature Win For Vols Team Now Thinking Bowl Game


Marquez North and Tennessee may be thinking Music City Bowl after scoring an upset win against South Carolina on Saturday. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.
Marquez North and Tennessee may be thinking Music City Bowl after scoring an upset win against South Carolina on Saturday. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.

Athleticism versus team football.

That was the story today at Neyland Stadium.  

Jadeveon Clowney, Mike Davis and Connor Shaw all played well for South Carolina, but team football beat Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks team.  

Clowney played perhaps his best game all season, but appeared to get tired late. The lack of conditioning, fueling speculation Clowney wasn't fully committed to the 2013 season, showed as the game went on.   

Shaw's third-quarter heroics propelled South Carolina and defined the team's offensive identity. Shaw's game management and wise running decisions took over the game. That's why coach Steve Spurrier came into this game with a shot to win the SEC this season: He finally has a quarterback who can lead his offense.

But Tennessee responded with a 48-yard completion to Marquez North with 11 minutes to go, setting up a Michael Palardy made field goal. Carolina then had a chance to keep the clock moving and take a W back to Columbia, but Shaw injured his knee and the Gamecocks couldn't put the game away. A Tennessee defensive stop on third-and-8 with three minutes to go allowed Butch Jones and the Vols an opportunity for victory.   

A game-winning Palardy field goal propelled the team and gave Jones his signature win, something Derek Dooley was unable to provide in the previous three seasons.   Neyland Stadium showcased team football today as Tennessee defeated an athletic team without a strong identity.  

What does Saturday's outcome mean for both teams?  

Carolina is now looking at upcoming dates with Missouri, Mississippi State, Florida, Coastal Carolina and Clemson. I can see nine wins at worst, and if Spurrier can pull out W's against Florida and Missouri, that could be enough to net the Gamecocks a New Year's Eve night in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. A Clemson loss tonight to Florida State easily could result in a Carolina/Clemson rematch in Atlanta.  

For Tennessee, the win simplified its route to a bowl game and created a margin of error against Missouri and Vanderbilt. Beat Kentucky split the Missouri and Vandy games and the Vols have six wins. I still like UT to earn a Music City Bowl invite.

Butch Jones Post-Game Quotes

“Great day to be a Vol. I thought our team showed some resiliency. We found a way to win and we talk about playing winning football. All the things that happened throughout the course of the game and a game can be decided by two or three plays, but you never know which two or three plays they’re going to be. I thought our kids showed some resiliency."

On The Atmosphere At Neyland Stadium And The Post-Game Celebration

“Well, you know, we’re on fall break and the crowd was outstanding. This is a great home-field advantage. Our fans are incredible. Thank you to the students that stayed and our band is a part of us. So, to be a part of that is a way to say thank you. Our players, the Marlon Walls, the Corey Millers, I could go on and on, Ja’Wuan James, all of these seniors, Stone (James Stone), just on and on and on, I let them enjoy it and celebrate it. We believe."

On Breaking The 19-Game Losing Streak To Ranked Opponents

“Well, you’re the first to have brought that up. I don’t really concern myself with what’s going on with the past. All I know is this is Team 117 and we’re building our football program and getting it back. I think it helps in the matter of belief. I thought our team took a valuable step forward two weeks ago. It was gut wrenching, but also our kids believed and they built confidence. Confidence is a powerful thing. Belief is a powerful thing."

Steve Spurrier Post-Game Quotes

“First of all, give Tennessee credit. I think they outplayed us, although we were within a play or two of winning, but we didn't do it. They hit a couple of deep balls which happens to us occasionally, and we didn't play well offensively at all. Tennessee had a good plan. Their defense played very well. They won the game." 

On Connor Shaw's Injury

“The trainer called it a sprained knee. I think he sort of got tackled on it and it collapsed under him a little bit, he said. How serious it is, we'll have to wait an evaluate, but they're calling it a sprained knee right now.”

On The Strong Third Quarter

“We had a good drive there in the third quarter and we scored on two out of our first three possessions. Obviously you always go back and wish you'd ran here or thrown there. We only attempted 22 passes, but we dang sure called a lot more than 22. I don't know if the pressure got to Connor or what. He made some good runouts, I'll say that, and then other times it was like we had some guys open but he got some pressure."