KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee fell 2 agonizing yards short of victory Saturday afternoon.
The Vols’ last-minute drive ended at the South Carolina 2-yard line as time expired, as the Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2 SEC) held on for a 15-9 victory at Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw three consecutive incomplete passes in the final nine seconds after driving the Vols to the brink of the checkerboard end zone.
Guarantano was 11-of-18 passing for 133 yards in his first career start, but prior to the final drive, he struggled to complete any passes downfield.
Tennessee took over at its own 25-yard line with 1:13 left and no timeouts, and Guarantano completed 4 of 5 passes for 72 yards to move the Vols into scoring position.
The Gamecocks pass rush got to Guarantano often on Saturday, sacking him on a critical third-and-5 at the Tennessee 18 with 4:25 left in the game.
The Vols surrendered 7 sacks on Saturday after giving up 5 total through the first five weeks of the season.
South Carolina had taken its first lead of the game at 12-9 with 5:17 left in the fourth quarter on Parker White’s 21-yard field goal. The kick capped a 16-play, 72-yard drive that took 9:10 off the clock, South Carolina neutralizing the home crowd with three third-down conversions during that set.
White added what proved to be a key 36-yard field goal with 1:13 remaining.
Tennessee’s last touchdown came in a 17-13 win over UMass on Sept. 23 when Tyler Byrd caught an 8-yard TD pass from Quinten Dormady with 25 seconds left in the first half of that game.
Dormady lost his starting job during the bye last week after the Vols fell to No. 5-ranked Georgia, 41-0, on Sept. 30.
• Tennessee nickleback Rashaan Gaulden had 10 tackles and was on the field most of the game, often lining up in the box as a linebacker, despite the 4-2-5 personnel designation.
• Punter Trevor Daniel had 4 punts of more than 50 yards, including a 72-yarder in the fourth quarter.
• Guarantano didn’t get a win in his audition, but he showed his upside with the last-minute drive.
• Dormady only took two snaps, both after Guarantano was forced from the game because his helmet came off. Dormady gained 13 yards on a read option and handed off to Ty Chandler on a play that went for 2 yards.
• Tailback John Kelly was once again the workhorse, and he generated 58 yards rushing on 16 carries and added 2 catches for 21 yards.
• Tennessee’s offensive staff struggled mightily in the red zone, unable to score a touchdown on four trips inside the South Carolina 25.
• Tennessee’s offensive line surrendered 7 sacks — two more than the Vols had given up all season entering the game.