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South Carolina stuns No. 5 Tennessee in Williams-Brice shootout

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On Nov. 12, 2022, South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer looks on before the start of a game against Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

On Nov. 12, 2022, South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer looks on before the start of a game against Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. (James Gilbert/Getty Images/TNS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Quarterback Spencer Rattler stood along the 25-yard line and pointed toward the sky.

As Dakereon Joyner plunged into the north end zone for South Carolina’s eighth touchdown of the night, converting the avalanche of white towels in the Gamecocks student section into a blizzard, South Carolina’s maligned, gun-slinging signal-caller could only glance skyward.

Call it divine intervention. Perhaps a prayer answered. Whatever it may have been, consider the lingering bad juju or chicken curses existing around Williams-Brice Stadium of years past exorcised.

South Carolina 63, Tennessee 38.

On a night showcasing college football’s most dominant offense this side of Joe Burrow, it was the Gamecocks’ previously anemic unit anchored by its tattoo-sleeved, dime throwing quarterback that slayed Heisman front-runner Hendon Hooker and the visiting Volunteers.

The South Carolina offense that mustered just 37 yards through the first quarter in last weeks romp at Florida flipped from a Ford Pinto to a Lamborghini Murciélago in a matter of seven days.

Rattler served as the conductor for the Gamecocks’ suddenly masterful unit, completing 15 of 20 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone as the Gamecocks rolled up more than 600 yards of offense on the night.

The former Oklahoma signal-caller looked the part of Heisman Trophy hopeful he was during his days patrolling the backfield in Norman, connecting on touchdown passes of 11, 18, 19 and 60 yards in the opening 30 minutes.

South Carolina jumped out of the gate with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that included a pair of third-down conversions and a fourth-and-6 connection between Rattler and Antwane “Juice” Wells — who paced the Gamecocks with 177 yards on 11 catches. Rattler capped off the drive one play later with an 18-yard pitch and catch out into the left flat to Jaheim Bell, who bowled his way over a pair of Tennessee defenders and into the end zone.

The one-time Sooner whose name will now be etched in Gamecocks lore followed with scoring connections to Josh Vann (twice) and Juju McDowell, sending South Carolina into the half on top of Rocky Top, 35-24.

As the Volunteers desperately clawed back, Rattler and Gamecocks offense delivered haymaker after haymaker in fighting off the nation’s fifth-best team.

First it was the end around touchdown rush by Wells. Then, as he did all night, Rattler delivered the dramatics as only a magician of his stature can.

Dancing to his right, Rattler hit an orange and white wall of Volunteer defenders. Flipping fields and darting back to his left, he scampered to the opposite side of the broken formation and flipped what functionally evolved into the game-ending 2-yard touchdown pass to Jaheim Bell.

Head coach Shane Beamer told reporters during his Tuesday press conference it was time South Carolina fans look past superstitions and curses. That, in Columbia, folks shouldn’t expect bad things to happen — despite nearly 120 years of history to the contrary.

As the clock struck zero and liquored up undergrads clamored over the hedges separating the student section from the playing surface to celebrate with their squad, the doom and gloom of a dismal effort in Gainesville dissipated.

At 10:57 p.m., Beamer, South Carolina and a stadium overflowing with garnet and white found only joy.

First down

South Carolina’s 35 points in the first half were its most in a half against SEC competition since 1995. South Carolina defeated Vanderbilt 52-14 in that contest.

The Gamecocks also set a high for first quarter points (21) under Shane Beamer on Saturday. The previous high (18) came in South Carolina’s win over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

Key stats

— 4 — Spencer Rattler threw four touchdown passes in the first half

— 2019 — the last time South Carolina beat a team ranked in the top five of the Associated Press Top 25

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