South Carolina’s success at home continued on Saturday with a 38-35 win against Tennessee.
While this game will always be characterized by the gruesome knee injury South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore sustained in the second quarter, there were several other storylines (both good and bad) to take away from Saturday’s showdown in Columbia.
Let’s take a closer look at some of this week’s winners and losers.
After struggling the past two weeks, South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw came to play on Saturday.
Shaw once again silenced critics by having a career-best day throwing the ball (22-for-32, 356 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT) to go along with some decent rushing statistics (18 car, 33 yds, 1 TD).
Despite losing all-star running back Marcus Lattimore before halftime, Shaw did a masterful job of managing the game in the second half and making the tight throws in the big moments.
The past two weeks Shaw has forced some throws, so it had to be nice for the coaching staff and the Gamecock faithful to see their junior signal-caller get back to form.
Many analysts around the college football world have said from the onset that Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley was on the hot seat coming into the season.
The Volunteers’ record has done little to alleviate that pressure.
True, Dooley took over some unfortunate circumstances with Lane Kiffin jumping ship after just one mediocre season in 2009.
The fact remains, however, mediocrity is not the standard for Tennessee.
With just one bowl appearance since 2010 (a double OT loss to UNC,) it’s a safe bet that if the Vols fail to reach and win a bowl game this year, Dooley may be looking for work in the offseason.
Justice is a big, big man. Just ask the Tennessee secondary.
The 6’4", 264-lbs senior victimized the Vols defense, routinely giving open looks to Connor Shaw who looked for him often (6 rec, 108 yds).
Wes Mitchell, writer for thebigspur.com probably put it best with this tweet.
I don't know how many NFL scouts are here today, but they have to have liked what they've seen from Justice Cunningham.— Wes Mitchell (@WesMitchell247) October 27, 2012
While Cunningham failed to get into the end zone, his 108 yards were a career-high and his 45-yard catch in the fourth quarter set up what would prove to be the game-winning field goal for the Gamecocks.
The true freshman defensive back looked lost on several coverage assignments and was beat often.
Christian spent time covering both Tennessee receivers Justin Hunter and Vincent Dallas who combined for 11 catches and 168 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown catch by Dallas where Christian simply fell down.
Formerly a baseball standout, Christian has seen an increase in playing time after fifth-year senior Akeem Auguste's injury woes have continued into this season.
If Christian continues to struggle against good passing attacks, the Gamecocks may have to look elsewhere at defensive back.
Any time a player nabs three touchdown grabs in the same game, you have to qualify him as a winner.
Rogers was virtually unstoppable on Saturday, carving up the Gamecock secondary with relative ease.
He finished the day with six grabs for just over 100 yards, but the three touchdowns kept the Vols in the game.
Perhaps most impressive was his late fourth-quarter grab, when he was able to drag his toe out of the side of the end zone, making the score 35-38. You can see it above in the video courtesy of ESPN.com.
Rogers gave the Gamecocks fits, and though the Vols did not win the game, he was definitely not the reason why.
Every so often a player comes along that fans from all teams and walks of life pull for.
That player has been South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore.
When No. 21 went down late in the second quarter, it was as if the entire college football world gave a collective groan.
High-profile athletes, media members, fans and celebrities alike all took to Twitter to voice their admiration and concern for Lattimore.
If his career is over today, he will still finish has one of the all-time greatest players in South Carolina history.
The integrity he has shown on and off the field makes college football better for everyone, and while South Carolina will miss his production, the entire nation will miss his contributions to the sport.