South Carolina registered an important SEC victory to snap a two-game losing streak. Read what the coaches and players from both sides had to say after the Gamecocks’ 38-35 win over Tennessee on Saturday afternoon.
Head coach Steve Spurrier
Opening Statement… I think it was good to win one like that. We figured they would come back. They're a very good passing team. They must have thrown for about 400 and something yards. It was good to hang in there. Tyler Hull hit a big punt and we covered it. Then we got a long ball picked to put it away. The guys played pretty well over all. We ran the ball decently. We had 500 yards. That's a lot for us, after not having many the last couple games. It was a game we had to throw the ball, and Connor (Shaw) threw the ball beautifully. We just barely missed about three long ones, two to Ace (Sanders), and Damiere (Byrd) had it in his hands and couldn't hold on or we would have had well over 500 yards passing. It was good to see Connor step in there and make the throws and not run all the time. He had to run a little bit. Good for him.
Jadeveon Clowney wins the game for us. Coach (Lorenzo) Ward and I had the same idea about the middle of the fourth quarter, let him rush from the inside. Sure enough, we put him on the inside, where that back did not double on him. I thought Tennessee would tell that back to wait on him inside, but he stayed on the outside. [Jadeveon] got two good pressures there at the end. I don't think we could have slowed them down much. That was the key to the ball game. He knocked it loose, and our guys fell on the fumble. It worked out, and we're a happy bunch of Gamecocks going into open date. Always more fun to win one when you've got a week you don't play. Plus, we haven't won one in a long time. It's good to get a victory. We look forward to taking this week off and recharging our batteries to get ready for Arkansas in two weeks.
On Marcus Lattimore's injury … Obviously Marcus has a severe knee injury. We'll let the doctors tell you exactly what all it is later on. He's such a good young man. Good things are going to happen for Marcus. I don't know exactly where or how, but good things are going to happen for Marcus Lattimore. He had a heck of a game going, too. A guy came knifing in there. The other guy hit him low. It is a very, very unfortunate thing that happened to Marcus. We'll all pray for him. Hopefully he'll be back. Maybe he'll be back next year. Maybe it won't be quite as severe as it appeared on the field out there.
On the running back situation … We've got two guys ready to go - Kenny (Miles) and Mike Davis. Mike is running pretty well. We'll look to see if Brandon (Wilds) can go play and help us out. Kenny had some nice runs. A guy just barely tripped him up there at the end. He almost broke that one. It was a day we could have done a little bit better. But I guess for us to score 38 is pretty good.
On both teams rallying around Lattimore on the field after his injury … I'm not sure if I've quite seen one like that. Everybody in the SEC and around the country has the utmost respect for Marcus Lattimore, mainly, as a person. We all know he's a great guy. As a person, there's no greater than him that I've ever met. It was touching. The Tennessee guys felt bad about it too. Us coaches all say let's hope nobody gets hurt today before the game. That's what I say before every game. We're all on the same page. It's a terrible part of the game that sometimes injuries occur, but players don't try to hurt other players in our league.
On keeping the team focused after the injury ... I think all of our players understand that no matter what happens you have to move on. You can't sit around and mope. At halftime, I said the best thing we can do is win this ball game and give the game ball to Marcus, which we did.
On the passing game … I think (it was good) because the ball got in the air today. (Rory Anderson) and Justice (Cunningham) had big games with nine catches. Justice got the ball down to the one-yard line. Bruce (Ellington) and Ace (Sanders) got six and five. We finally got the ball up. We dropped a few deep ones. Shaq Roland had his hands on one. Damiere Byrd had his hands on one. We're very fortunate to hang in there. Our defense finally made a play, (Jadeveon) Clowney made a play.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward
Defensive effort against Tennessee … They were trying to throw away from Vic (Hampton). I guess they thought that Jimmy (Legree) or Ahmad (Christian) were going to play soft, so they threw the ball over there. We tried to adjust by focusing on number 11 (Justin Hunter), but then they started going over to number 83 (Zach Rogers). So they had a good game plan.
On Clowney getting to the quarterback … The series before last we moved him inside because they were chipping with the back, and Tennessee did a good job with the offensive line. So we moved him in there to speed the technique.
Did you expect to get more pressure on Tyler Bray in the first three quarters? … I believe in our defensive front watching film you knew Tennessee was good and that their front was good. But I thought we could put some more pressure on them but obviously we couldn't.
South Carolina players
Quarterback Connor Shaw
On Marcus Lattimore's injury … I knew when I saw it his knee was kind of facing the other way and he was holding it; he just couldn't get his feet off the ground. I really feel like we rallied around him, there were a lot of guys including Tennessee players. If there's anybody who can overcome this its Marcus.
On how the team dealt with Marcus' injury … It was emotional on the sideline but I feel like we bounced back and really played for him. When you lose a guy like Marcus, he's such a leader on the team, he gets guys going so its hurts us but I'm just glad we were able to close this one out.
On having a career-high passing day … I just felt like we took with the defense good, playing in the zone so we were able to hit some spots. Justice [Cunningham] had a great day and I think we had two receivers over 100 yards, and Ace [Sanders] was right there with them. The offensive line protected really well, I just feel like we played pretty solid on offense.
Wide receiver Ace Sanders
[i]On what he said to Marcus …[i] I just tried to tell him to stay mentally strong; I saw the look in his eyes when he was on the ground and he was really heartbroken about his injury. We were just trying to keep him strong and tell him to relax and just let the medical staff do what they had to do to secure the injury.
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney … I looked in the backfield to see if they'd have a back that was going to chip me. I was going to rush him and knock down to see if I could get to the quarterback. I knew they were going to go five wide to attempt to get the ball down the field, so I just had do get off the ball full speed.
Cornerback Victor Hampton … Latt is a great person off the field, and it is just sad. It hurt everyone and got the morale down, but the good thing is we have some great leaders and everyone was going around saying that he wouldn't want us to be down, that he would want us to go win this game. And so we did what we had to do.
Tight end Justice Cunningham … Just took what they gave us, and we just got the ball out to the receivers and just tried to get the ball in their hands
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley
Well that was another tough finish. It was a great football game and I am proud of my team for the resiliency that they showed. We gave up a lot of big points. It's the same old song and dance in the SEC games, but we had a chance to win. They made a great play, got the ball out and turned it over. So all you can do is move on. We didn't really accomplish what we wanted to against these SEC top teams but we have to turn the page. There is a lot at stake down the stretch and we could still have a really good season.
The offensive line's performance against the USC defense … They did a great job. That's one of the top defenses in college football. We put 472 yards on them and 35 points, but it wasn't enough to win the game.
Tennessee's identity as a team … Our identity is to give up a lot of big plays, but keep fighting and try to hunker down at the end and win. So far that identity has gotten us 3-5. We need to fix our identity and reshape our identity.
Tyler Bray responding to challenge … He played a great game, but had an unfortunate end to a great game.
Marcus Lattimore's Injury … Everybody has a lot of respect for Marcus and what he has done. Nobody likes to see a player get hurt. So I think when [my players] saw the severity of it and went out there, it just shows the respect that everybody has for each other as athletes. Nobody wants to see that happen.
Wide receiver Vincent Dallas … [Jadeveon] Clowney is a good player, and he was coming off the edge really strong. They were just making plays when it counted.
Wide receiver Zach Rodgers … We had a lot of momentum going into that last one and I thought we were going to score no doubt. I felt like we were going to go up and win this ball game, and break the streak. But unfortunate things happened and it just didn't go our way.
Wide receiver Justin Hunter … The ball was thrown deep and on the inside a little bit, so I just tried to rush over there as fast as I could to jump up there and get it. I guess I jumped too late, and I had the ball in my hands but I guess he was able to make the play.
Quotes compiled by USC Sports Information