COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Tennessee's Butch Jones said his second-year program has much more building left. Rallying past South Carolina in overtime, though, was a highly satisfying step in the process.
"We needed tangible results. We needed these kids to be rewarded for their hard work," the Vols coach said.
Tennessee was rewarded greatly Saturday night, coming back from 14 points down with less than five minutes left to tie the game on Joshua Dobbs' 9-yard pass to Jason Croom with 11 seconds to go in regulation before Aaron Medley's 32-yard field goal in overtime lifted the Vols to their first Southeastern Conference win this season, 45-42.
"We've been on the other side of this several times," Jones said. "We're going to enjoy this one tonight."
Why shouldn't they? The Vols players sprinted to the bright-orange Tennessee section to celebrate a most improbable win moments after South Carolina's desperation, 58-yard field goal try hit the ground well short of the uprights.
"I've done a lousy job of maximizing what we think we've got here," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrer, who left the podium without taking questions. "We've had three or four of these this year, so I guess I should be getting used to it right now."
Dobbs, the sophomore starting his first game this season, brought the Vols (4-5, 1-4 SEC) back after the Gamecocks (4-5, 2-5) looked like they'd locked things up with Brandon Wilds' 70-yard touchdown run with 4:52 remaining to take a 42-28 lead.
Dobbs, though, ended a 75-yard drive with his 3-yard run to cut into South Carolina's margin. Even after the Gamecocks recovered an onside kick, the Vols defense forced a stop and Dobbs took advantage with his pass to Croom in the final seconds.
South Carolina had hoped to save itself and answer Medley's field goal in their overtime possession. However, Dylan Thompson was sacked by linebacker Curt Maggitt and defensive end Derek Barnett on the first two snaps. Thompson threw out of bounds after getting chased on third down to set up the long-distance field that never had a chance.
"It was definitely a win that we deserved and we needed," Dobbs said. "It was a huge win for this team."
Dobbs was a big reason why Tennessee won. He had TD runs of 7, 36 and 3 yards. He had a 21-yard touchdown pass to Pig Howard before his game-tying throw to Croom.
Medley had missed field goals of 43 and 45 yards in regulation before his winning overtime kick. "After the game, I lost my voice," he said. "I was screaming so much."
Dobbs ran for 166 yards and was 23 of 40 for 301 yards. He set the school mark for single-game rushing by a quarterback, breaking the record of 106 yards by the late Jimmy Streater in 1979.
Hurd ran for 125 yards, giving Tennessee two rushers over the century mark for the first time in five years.
The Vols finished with 645 yards of offense to break their 0-for-SEC futility this fall.
The victory spoiled the record-setting show put on by South Carolina sophomore receiver Pharoh Cooper, who caught two touchdowns and ran and passed for two others. He had 11 catches for 233 yards receiving, breaking the Gamecocks mark of 210 held by NFL first-rounder Troy Williamson in 2004.
"I know I had a good individual game, but all that goes out the window," Pharoh Cooper said. "I'm not even thinking about that with the way we lost."
It's the second time in 2014 the Gamecocks had a player throw, run and catch a touchdown — former quarterback Connor Shaw accomplished the feat in the 34-24 win over Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl last New Year's Day.
It's also the second straight week the Vols gave up a school receiving mark to a Cooper — Alabama's Amari had 224 yards receiving last week to set the Crimson Tide single-game record.
Tennessee and South Carolina both came into this one hoping to end disappointing streaks and creep closer to bowl eligibility.
South Carolina called on its best offensive player in Cooper to tie things once more, the series ending on his TD throw.
The Gamecocks' suspect defense — the Gamecocks are next-to-last in SEC yards allowed — showed its deficiencies again right before the half when Dobbs, attempting to get the Vols in field goal range on fourth-and-3 from the Gamecocks 36, rushed through the middle of the line and found himself in the open for a touchdown with 7 seconds left before the break for a 21-14 lead.
The Vols, 13th in the SEC with 104.9 yards a game, had 157 yards on the ground by halftime and ended with 344 yards on the ground.