When Tennessee and South Carolina met for their annual late October matchup in 2009 the date fell on Halloween.
Lane Kiffin was in his first year as the Tennessee head coach and the Vols had stumbled out of the gate to a 3-4 record. The Vols had upset Georgia three weeks earlier, but had lost a heartbreaker the week before at No. 1 Alabama.
Tennessee fans were hoping the tide of the season would change.
South Carolina came into Knoxville 6-2 and ranked No. 22 in the nation. They came with what looked like Steve Spurrier’s best team in his four years at South Carolina.
There was speculation all week that Tennessee might break out black uniforms for the first time ever, but those seemed to be put to bed when Tennessee came onto the field for warmups in orange jerseys and pants.
However, 20 minutes later, when the team came running out of the T, they came with in black jerseys.
Tennessee’s play did not disappoint the rowdy Neyland Stadium crowd.
South Carolina received the opening kick. On the first third down of the game Stephen Garcia briefly found Justice Cunningham for a first down. However, Cunningham was quickly hit by freshman safety Janzen Jackson and the ball popped free. Tennessee recovered at the Gamecock’s 43 yard line.
Two plays later Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton found fullback Austin Johnson wide open down the middle of the field and Johnson walked in for a Tennessee touchdown.
On the second play of the ensuing South Carolina drive the Gamecocks ran a draw play to Kenny Miles, who ran for two yards before fumbling. Tennessee’s Wes Brown recovered at the Gamecocks 27.
Tennessee went to the ground on its second drive, handing the ball to senior tailback Montario Hardesty. On the fourth run Hardesty put a spin move on a Gamecock’s defender and scampered in 14-yards for a Tennessee touchdown.
Just like that Tennessee was up 14-0 in the first four minutes and the Vols upset bid looked good early in the game.
South Carolina started its fifth drive at its own 22 yard line early in the second quarter. On the second play Garcia scrambled out of the pocket and Savion Frazier put his helmet on the ball, forcing another South Carolina fumble. Tennessee recovered again, giving the offense a short field.
Tennessee worked the ball to the goal line where it faced a fourth-and-goal at the two. Due to injury Tennessee had a shaky kicking situation. Kiffin decided to roll the dice by keeping his offense on the field.
The Vols went play action and Crompton found fullback Kevin Cooper open for a touchdown. Tennessee had a 21-0 first half lead and two different fullbacks with touchdowns.
Both offenses struggled for most of the remainder of the second quarter. However, the Gamecocks found a little momentum before halftime driving 55-yards, allowing Spencer Lanning to boot in a 47-yard field goal as the half expired.
After forcing a Tennessee three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half the Gamecocks drove into the Vols’ red zone. It looked like they had something going before Monte Kiffin’s defense stiffened up, forcing South Carolina to settle for three points.
Tennessee would start its next drive at its own 46 and put together a balanced drive, taking the ball 54-yards on six plays. Hardesty capped off the drive with his second touchdown of the night, extending Tennessee’s lead to 28-6.
The Gamecocks would answer with a quick 77-yard touchdown drive of its own, but it was too little, too late for the Gamecocks.
Tennessee’s defense would tighten up in the fourth quarter and Tennessee would add a field goal, cruising to a 35-13 win on Halloween Night.
As former ESPN announcer Brad Nesler said on the call, “It’s been all treat, no trick for the Vols”.
The win marked Lane Kiffin’s second career SEC win and helped spark a 4-1 finish to Kiffin’s first, and only, year in Knoxville giving Tennessee a 7-5 record and a bid in the Chick-Fil-A bowl.
Tennessee has not worn black jerseys against since that night. Tennessee will play on Halloween again in the 2020 season as the Vols will travel to Fayetteville to face Arkansas.