COLUMBIA, SC — Spencer Rattler had the best day of his unpredictable career, passing for 438 yards and six touchdowns as South Carolina beat No. 5 Tennessee 63-38 on Saturday night, nearly knocking the Volunteers out of the playoffs. .
Tennessee (9-2, 6-2 Southeastern) could also have lost Heisman Trophy contender Hendon Hooker, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, going down and fumbling without taking a hit.
Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said he did not have an update on Hooker’s condition and the team will evaluate him when he returns to Knoxville.
Even before the injury, the quarterback of the night was Rattler, who went from Heisman hope to the bench at Oklahoma in 2021. The junior finally lived up to the potential South Carolina fans had hoped for (7 -4, 4-4). When he arrived.
Rattler entered the night with nine interceptions and eight touchdowns and averaging 198 passing yards per game. Questions were asked as to whether the Gamecocks would want to test the backup.
But the junior was patient in the pocket, dropping passes into the tightest of windows. He ran when he had to with five carries for 16 yards. And he even caught a pass in the red zone from Dakereon Joyner, who South Carolina normally uses as a run threat under center.
Rattler’s career highs before Saturday were 387 yards against Kansas State for Oklahoma in 2020 and five touchdowns for the Sooners against Western Carolina in 2021.
Antwane Wells Jr. caught 11 passes for 177 yards, and Josh Vann and Jaheim Bell each hauled in two touchdowns for the Gamecocks.
Tennessee’s defense could do almost nothing to stop the 11th best offense in the SEC. The Gamecocks gained 606 yards after failing to pass 300 yards in three of their last four games. The 63 points are the most by an unranked team against an AP top-five opponent in the polling era, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
“Obviously extremely disappointed with the performance and the result of the football match,” Heupel said. “Everyone involved, from me to our assistant coaches to our players, had an opportunity here and they didn’t take it, they didn’t play well. Credit to South Carolina. They played well. Just disappointing that we didn’t.” I don’t perform better.”
Hooker completed 25 of 42 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns before getting hurt. There was no immediate word on the severity of his injured leg, but he did not return to the game. Joe Milton III took over at quarterback for the Vols when Hooker went down, turning the ball over on downs after driving into the red zone, then leading a four-play, 75-yard scoring drive in the final two minutes.
Associated Press contributed to this story.