Oct. 31, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Lane Kiffin gave his players a treat, letting Tennessee wear black jerseys for the first time in 87 years.
The Volunteers thanked their coach with a resounding victory.
Decked out in black jerseys for the first time since adopting orange tops in 1922, Tennessee turned three South Carolina fumbles into touchdowns and beat the No. 21 Gamecocks 31-13 Saturday night.
"It's a players' game, and our players had been begging for them for a while," said Kiffin, who got his first win over a ranked foe. "I think it gave us some energy. I think you saw that in the way the came out and played early."
Captains Eric Berry and Montario Hardesty approached athletic director Mike Hamilton on Wednesday, asking to wear an all-black uniform. A local Knoxville company quickly produced the black jerseys with orange numbers. Black pants couldn't be completed in time, so the Vols opted for orange bottoms.
And how's this for a twist: Tennessee helped Florida. The Gators clinched the SEC East and a spot in the conference title game when the rival Vols beat South Carolina.
After warming up in their traditional orange home jerseys, the Vols (4-4, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) seemed to take the Gamecocks by surprise as they took the field in Halloween-inspired uniforms.
"The guys were excited and I think it gave us a little extra excitement and had us ready to play," Vols defensive tackle Dan Williams said.
South Carolina (6-3, 3-3) fumbled on its first two drives on a rainy night, having entered the game with only five for the season. Tennessee, hampered by turnovers early in the season, did not give the ball away for the first time this season.
The Gamecocks began clicking on offense in the second half as the Vols sputtered. Stephen Garcia connected with Moe Brown on a 31-yard touchdown pass to cut the margin to 28-13 with 2:05 left in the third quarter, but it was too little too late.
South Carolina outgained Tennessee on offense 365 yards to 341 and had four more first downs. Garcia completed 25 of 50 for 300 yards and an interception.
Justice Cunningham coughed up the first fumble on the third play of the game, and 42 seconds later Crompton hit Austin Johnson on a 38-yard touchdown toss. Crompton completed 12 of 24 for 142 yards.
On the second play of the following drive, Kenny Miles lost the first fumble of his career, and Tennessee answered with a 14-yard run by Hardesty, who finished with 121 yards rushing.
"We had two fumbles in five plays, and it's hard to beat a team when you spot them those points," Garcia said.
Even when they weren't fumbling, the Gamecocks couldn't find much offense in the first half. They first made it to Tennessee territory with 9:29 left in the second quarter but stalled at the Vols 47.
An illegal block by D.J. Swearinger cost South Carolina a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown by Stephon Gilmore.
The Gamecocks drove 55 yards before halftime, but on third-and-3 at the Tennessee 25, Willie Bohannon dropped Miles for a 5-yard loss. Spencer Lanning kicked a career-long 47-yard field goal to cut the margin to 21-3 at the half.
Tennessee's woes on special teams continued. With Daniel Lincoln sidelined by a quadriceps injury, Chad Cunningham took over field goal duties. Lincoln had two field goals blocked in a 12-10 loss last week at Alabama, including what would have been a game-winning 44-yard shot at the end of the game.
Devin Taylor blocked Cunningham's first attempt, a 40-yarder in the first quarter. His second attempt, a 39-yarder with 4:23 left in the game, was good and drew a huge cheer from what was left of the Tennessee crowd.
Up 14-0 early in the second quarter, Kiffin opted to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line rather than attempt a field goal. Crompton found Kevin Cooper, who stumbled into the corner of the end zone.
The last time the Gamecocks were ranked as high as No. 21 was before the 2007 Tennessee game, when they were ranked No. 15. South Carolina _ which has never won consecutive games in the Tennessee series and only won in Knoxville once _ lost that game in overtime 27-24.
"Like I told the guys, if we want to win some of these games against good teams, we've got to play well," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "We had turnovers, had a punt return called back, had some opportunities here and there, but we didn't execute."