The Gamecocks dropped No. 5 Vols, hanging 63 in the victory

COLUMBIA, South Carolina — Spencer Rattler had the best day of his unpredictable career, throwing for 438 yards and six touchdowns as South Carolina upset No. 5 Tennessee 63-38 Saturday night, all but eliminating the Volunteers from the playoffs.

Tennessee (9-2, 6-2 SE) may also have lost Heisman Trophy contender Hendon Hooker, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, fell and fumbled without taking a hit.

Tennessee head coach Josh Heubel said he has no update on Hooker’s condition and that the team will evaluate him when he returns to Knoxville.

Even before the injury, the quarterback of the night was Rattler, who moved from the Heisman hopeful to the Oklahoma bench in 2021. The youngster finally lived up to the potential South Carolina fans were hoping for (7-4, 4-4) when he arrived.

“It was probably the best I’ve ever felt in a game. I felt unstoppable,” Rattler said, adding that he thought it was one of the best wins in college football history.

“This game, and the next game, could change the narrative of this program forever,” Rattler said.

Rattler came into the night with nine interceptions and eight touchdowns, averaging 198 yards per game. Questions were raised about whether the Gamecocks would like to test the backup.

But the young man was patient in the pocket, and down the passages in the narrowest of windows. He ran when he had to carry five carries for 16 yards. He even caught a pass in the red zone from Dacreon Joyner, who South Carolina usually uses as a running threat under center.

“He was playing. You talk about the players and being in the area,” South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said.

Rattler’s career highs prior to Saturday were 387 yards against Kansas State at Oklahoma State in 2020 and five TDs for the Sooners against Western Carolina in 2021.

Antwane Wells Jr. The Gamecocks caught 11 passes for 177 yards, and Josh Van and Jaheim Bell each caught two touchdowns for the Gamecocks.

The Tennessee defense could do almost nothing to stop the SEC’s XI-best offense. The Gamecocks gained 606 yards after failing to exceed 300 yards in three of their past four games. The 63 points are the most by an unranked team against a top-five AP opponent in the poll era, according to ESPN Stats & Information Research.

“Obviously, he’s very disappointed with the performance and results of the football match,” Heubel said. “Everyone involved, from myself to our assistant coaches to our players, had their opportunity here and didn’t take it, didn’t play well. Credit to South Carolina. They played well. Just frustrated we didn’t do better.” “

Hooker was 25 of 42 for 247 yards and three TDs before he was injured. There was no immediate word on the severity of his leg injury, but he did not return to the match. Joe Milton III took over at QB for the Vols’ sets when Hooker went down, turned the ball over on downs after driving to the red zone, then drove a 4-play, 75-yard drive in the final two minutes.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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