Audio slide show
Tennessee Stat Book
COLUMBIA, S.C. - November has long been the kindest month for Tennessee football. Likewise, South Carolina has served as a reliable trigger for late-season UT runs.
This year, apparently, there's no refuge to be found for the stumblin', fumblin' Vols.
In short, the first night of November looked exactly like September and October.
The Gamecocks subdued hapless, turnover-prone Tennessee 27-6 Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium, further damaging head coach Phillip Fulmer's case to remain the dean of SEC coaches.
UT (3-6, 1-5 SEC) gave away three turnovers, two of which led to South Carolina touchdowns, the third a meaningless field goal.
The Vols pecked out a modest 207 yards of offense against the SEC's No. 1-ranked defense and mounted only one scoring drive. It produced a 1-yard Arian Foster touchdown dive after the Gamecocks were coasting on a 24-0 lead.
"There's no worse feeling in the world,'' said quarterback Nick Stephens of UT's frustrations, "and I'm sure that nobody who loves Tennessee football likes this right now.''
A crowd of 81,731 sure liked what it saw. South Carolina (6-3, 3-3 SEC) celebrated only its third win over UT in 17 tries since joining the SEC in 1992.
Two of them have come in the past four years. The other, in '92, was the catalyst for the ouster of UT coach Johnny Majors and the promotion of Fulmer.
"It was a struggle,'' said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. "Tennessee is tough and we're not very good.
"It was a defensive game where turnovers made the difference and we got all the good ones.''
South Carolina amassed only 255 yards and matched UT's 11 first downs. However, the Gamecocks graciously accepted two easy touchdowns from the Vols.
Tennessee's string of three turnover-free games ended with a clatter and a clang in the second quarter.
South Carolina had already posted a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Stephen Garcia hit tailback Mike Davis for a 12-yard touchdown to cap a fast-paced 82-yard drive.
As the second quarter began, UT's Stephens was riding a streak of 106 passes without an interception since he took over the job four games into the season. He'll never forget his first one.
The Vols had just converted their third first down of a rare promising drive when the quarter changed. Momentum changed as well, on one poorly thrown ball.
At the Gamecock 40, Stephens intended to hit Josh Briscoe but was intercepted by Stoney Woodson. Woodson had a clear path 68 yards to the end zone to make it 14-0.
After the ensuing kickoff, Jonathan Crompton showed up under center for the first time since he was benched after the Sept. 27 Auburn game.
Crompton made it through one uneventful - and unproductive series - but his second brought another turnover.
Tailback Lennon Creer caught a short screen pass then fumbled. Captain Munnerlyn, South Carolina's All-SEC cornerback, scooped up the ball and raced 38 yards to the Tennessee 4.
On the next snap, Garcia connected with Kenny McKinley on a touchdown pass good for a 21-0 lead.
"That's the story of our whole year,'' said Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson. "We're just our own worst enemy.''
Given UT's season-long offensive struggle, the chances of overcoming a three-touchdown lead were negligible.
And no one knew that better than Fulmer, who rated his consternation with the offense thusly:
"On a scale of one to 10, it's probably 11.
"We're just not making any big plays.''
The Vols actually did make one, but it was wasted. Stephens returned for the second half and on the first snap found Austin Rogers on a 49-yard pass to the Carolina 31. The threat died, however, on a fourth-down incompletion.
Stephens finished 10-of-24 passing for 134 yards.
The running game showed a pulse, not much more. Five sacks reduced the rushing totals from 76 yards to a net of 34.
After the Gamecocks expanded their lead to 24-0 on a 31-yard Ryan Succop field goal, the Vols showed a brief flourish of competency.
An 80-yard drive (aided by two South Carolina penalties) set up Foster's first touchdown of the year with 4:09 left in the third quarter.
A two-point conversion failed, but two plays later UT got the ball back on Eric Berry's 11th career interception.
Per usual, Berry weaved 45 yards on the return to the South Carolina 44. It went for naught, though, when UT couldn't move the pile on fourth-and-1.
The Vols saved one more turnover for the fourth quarter: Dennis Rogan fumbled a punt return at the Tennessee 14.
The Gamecocks scored a touchdown, but had it wiped off by an illegal-formation penalty. Succup hit a 31-yard field goal for the final score.
Tennessee is back at Neyland Stadium on Saturday to play Wyoming on homecoming, knowing it has to win out to get to 6-6 and be eligible for a bowl.
"We're putting the effort into it,'' said Clawson, "it's just not clicking.
"But it's never final. We've got three more games to try to get it on track.''