South Carolina (3-5, 2-4) had the lead and the momentum going into halftime. Neither lasted long as Tennessee (3-5, 2-3) blew past the Gamecocks in the second half for a 41-21 win.
“The second half, the way our guys responded was fantastic,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “We moved the ball offensively, got a blocked punt. Just really dominated the second half in all phases.”
Tennessee would open the second half with Jarrett Guarantano hitting Marquez Callaway for a 48-yard completion.
Tennessee’s drive would be fruitless as Brent Cimaglia missed his second field goal of the season as South Carolina held on to its 20-17 lead. However, the opening play of the half would be an omen for what was to come.
South Carolina went three-and-out on its first drive of the half as Darrell Taylor sacked Ryan Hilinksi for his second of two sack on the afternoon.
On its second drive of the half Tennessee moved into the South Carolina red zone again before facing a third-and-14. South Carolina brought the blitz and Guarantano got hit hard as he unleashed a rainbow to Jennings who hauled it in while taking a hit for a 19-yard touchdown.
“They were playing cover zero and they brought six or seven,” Guarantano said. “I knew I was going to have to get the ball out on a half roll-out and I knew I was going to take one. I didn’t know where the ball was going to go. I knew it was going to go somewhat in that direction after I saw him cut. Good thing it ended like that.”
Guarantano was knocked out of the game on the play with a broken wrist, meaning redshirt-freshman J.T. Shrout, who played the game’s first two series, would have to finish it for the Vols.
Guarantano played what was likely his best game of the season as the redshirt-junior went 11-for-19 with 229 yards and two touchdowns.
Shrout didn’t disappoint showing off his big arm on the next drive. After moving to their own 45, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney went play action and Shrout found Marquez Callaway for a 55-yard touchdown, the first of Shrout’s career
“It was definitely really fun to get out there tonight,” Shrout said. “Throwing that first touchdown pass was a really fun experience.”
Tennessee’s defense continued its stellar second half play forcing a three-and-out and getting a turnover on downs on the Gamecocks next two drives.
With a 10-point lead and a third string quarterback in early in the fourth quarter one might expect Chaney to try and run clock, but the Vols’ play caller had another idea as Shrout found Jennings for 37-yards into the red zone.
The catch was Jennings seventh and final catch of the night as the Vols’ senior recorded 174 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the win.
“I definitely think he’s probably one of the most hard-working players,” Shrout said. “He loves the game of football so it’s not hard for him. He wants that ball every play, so it’s just another play for him. He’s just an absolute dog out there. I’m glad I have him on my team and I don’t have to play against him.”
Tennessee would have to settle for a field goal on the drive extending its lead to 34-21.
South Carolina’s offense answered with its fourth three-and-out of the second half before Daniel Bituli put things to bed, blocking a Joseph Charlton punt and falling on the ball in the end zone for a game sealing touchdown.
“At the beginning of the week, we had an interior backer blitzing the A-gap on our punt block," Bituli said. "The first time we ran it, I jogged through it and I realized they didn’t block me. The second time he chipped me and he got yelled at for doing it. The third time, I timed it up, ran through that A-gap and just blocked it man and I’m grateful.”
The blocked punt was the Vols’ second special teams’ touchdown of the day as Calloway housed a punt for a touchdown in the first half.
Tennessee won the second half 24-0 allowing just 168 yards and forcing the Gamecocks to go 0-9 on third downs.
Additionally, the Vols 41 points were the most Tennessee has scored in an SEC game since scoring 63 in a 2016 win over Missouri.
Tennessee will return to action next week as the Vols host 7-1 UAB for homecoming. Kickoff at Neyland Stadium is set for 7 p.m.