COLUMBIA, S.C. -- - Spencer Rattler had the best day of his unpredictable career, throwing for 438 yards and six touchdowns as South Carolina beat No. 5 Tennessee 63-38 on Saturday night, all but eliminating the Volunteers from the playoffs.
Tennessee (9-2, 6-2 Southeastern, No. 5 CFP) may have also lost Heisman Trophy candidate Hendon Hooker, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, falling and fumbling without being hit.
Even before the injury, the quarterback of the night was Rattler, who went from Heisman contender to the bench at Oklahoma in 2021.
"That was probably the best I've ever felt in a game. I felt unstoppable," said Rattler, adding he thought it was one of the best wins in college football history.
"This game and the next one could change the narrative of this program forever," Rattler said.
The junior came into the night with nine interceptions and eight touchdowns and averaging 198 yards a game passing. There were questions about whether the Gamecocks (7-4, 4-4) might want to test out the backup.
But Rattler was patient in the pocket, dropping passes into the narrowest of windows. He completed 30 of 37 passes and ran when he had to with five carries for 16 yards. And he even caught a pass in the red zone from Dakeron Joyner, who South Carolina typically uses as a running threat under center.
"He was on. You talk about players and being in the zone," South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said.
Rattler's best day before Saturday was 387 yards against Kansas State for Oklahoma in 2020 and five TDs for the Sooners against Western Carolina in 2021.
"Our whole mindset going into this game was attack. You weren't gong to win this game punting on fourth down," said Beamer, whose team converted both of its fourth down tries and were 8 of 11 on third down.
The Tennessee defense could do almost nothing to stop the 11th best offense in the SEC. The Gamecocks gained 606 yards after failing to get over 300 yards in three of their past four games.
The 63 points were the most the Vols have ever allowed in an SEC game, eclipsing the 62-37 loss to Steve Spurrier's Florida in 1995.
"This one needs to hurt," Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said at his news conference under the stands as shouts of "Game!" "Cocks!" could be heard from students who rushed the field.
Hooker was 25 of 42 for 247 yards and three TDs before his injury. He didn't have his typical crisp game, overthrowing receivers and missing a few wide open throws. There was no immediate word on the severity of his hurt leg, but he did not return to the game.
"We'll evaluate him when we get back," Heupel said.
(SAND)STORM THE FIELD
Beamer said before the game his youngest daughter Olivia texted him and said all she wanted for Christmas was to storm the field.
Sure enough, South Carolina fans rushed out of the stands after the win. It was so chaotic, Beamer couldn't find her. But he remembered.
"Santa will certainly bring you something, but Mom and I are certainly out of presents," Beamer said.
Tennessee: A promising season for Tennessee imploded when the defense could not make a stop. South Carolina scored touchdowns on nine of 11 drives. One of the unsuccessful ones was a one-play drive that ended the first half.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks beat a Top 5 team for only the seventh time. It was their biggest win since knocking off No. 2 Georgia 20-17 in 2019 in double overtime. The 63 points were the most in an SEC game by the Gamecocks since they beat Mississippi State 65-39 in 1995.
On a day when many of the top teams bent, but didn't break (see No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 TCU ), Tennessee got run over. The Vols likely will take a significant plunge in the new Associated Press Top 25 on Sunday.
Tennessee: The Vols head to Vanderbilt. Tennessee has a three game winning streak in the series after losing three in a row.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks head to Clemson, who have won seven in a row in the bitter in-state rivalry.