No. 16 Tennessee holds on to defeat South Carolina

Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano rushed for a touchdown and passed for another one as No. 16 Tennessee held on to defeat South Carolina 31-27 in the Southeastern Conference and season opener for both teams Saturday night in Columbia, S.C.

Guarantano threw a tiebreaking 32-yard touchdown pass to Josh Palmer with 9:35 to play on a 75-yard drive that lasted only four plays.

After each team punted, South Carolina faced fourth-and-12 at the Tennessee 28, and Parker White nailed a 45-yard field goal at the 3:16 mark. The Gamecocks regained possession with about 1:25 left, but Cam Smith fumbled on the punt return.

Guarantano ended up 19-for-31 for 259 yards.

Transfer quarterback Collin Hill threw for 290 yards on 25-for-39 passing for South Carolina. Shi Smith made 10 catches for 140 yards.

Tennessee threatened to pull away after Eric Gray scored on a 12-yard run to begin the second half, making it 21-7.

The Gamecocks responded with a pair of touchdowns on drives covering 75 and 71 yards. Hill threw 29 yards to Smith and later scored on a 1-yard run as South Carolina pulled even.

A 27-yard field goal for Brent Cimaglia put the Volunteers back on top with 2:18 left in the third quarter. Cimaglia had missed from 46 yards away earlier in the quarter.

White’s 35-yard field goal tied it at 24-24 early in the fourth quarter.

South Carolina struck first on Kevin Harris’ 3-yard run to complete an 11-play march on the first possession of the season.

Guarantano threw for 101 yards in the first quarter.

The Volunteers went ahead with two touchdowns in a span of less than five minutes. Guarantano ran in from 1 yard out to cap a 90-yard drive that consumed only 2:34.

Then early in the second quarter, Henry To’o To’o returned a Hill interception 32 yards for a touchdown.

Tennessee entered the season on a six-game winning streak, beginning with last year’s 20-point victory against South Carolina.

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