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Tennessee scored on the last sequence of the game to defeat South Carolina 23-22 and capture the SCRC conference title. The Volunteers capped off a very impressive 9-0 fall campaign with the victory at the ACRC Bowl Series.
South Carolina got on the board first through Jared Magill but Andrew Sayers responded with two quick penalties. That would be a theme in this game. Each time one of the teams scored, the other would respond immediately with points of their own.
“It was a well matched game. When we had possession we were moving the ball and when they had possession they were moving the ball,” said Tennessee club president Logan McNeil.
Ben Mather regained the lead for the Gamecocks but Tennessee stormed back thanks to a try from Kerry Robberts. Robberts had an incredibly strong game for the Volunteers, breaking the gain line and scoring a pair of tries.
“He played really great and was hitting the line really hard,” McNeil said of Robberts.
After the Robberts try, Tennessee still trailed 12-11 but added another score from broken play to take an 18-12 lead. The Gamecocks responded immediately, however, pouncing on a grubber kick and cutting the lead to 18-17 at the break.
The second half featured a number of missed opportunities for both sides. South Carolina spent a lot of time in Volunteer territory but only managed one score. The Gamecocks took a 22-18 lead and managed to hold off Tennessee until extra time.
Tennessee managed to get several penalties to get out of its own half. It went back to its bread and butter, the driving maul to work its way down the field. With no time remaining, Tennessee had an attacking scrum inside South Carolina territory. Two phases later, Robberts nabbed his second try of the contest to give Tennessee the 23-22 victory. It was an emotional victory for Tennessee, against its rival and after a year of hard work.
“It is just great. All the guys worked so hard out in the morning practicing at 6AM. It is just a great feeling to have worked so hard for something and reach the goals we had set for ourselves at the beginning of the season,” McNeil indicated.
It is always a close match between USC and Tennessee, so it is only fitting that this game comes down to the final play. Both matches this season came down to the wire.
“Those were probably the two most physical games I have seen in a long time,” said USC coach Mark Morris.
For South Carolina, it was a solid season but the disappointment still lingers. With a strong group of core players and a number of younger guys, the Gamecocks will group for next season.
“That’s how it played out. We will move on to sevens season and friendly’s and get all these freshman and sophomores some playing time reload for next season,” Morris added.