South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler toppled the No. 1 spot. 5 Tennessee

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Spencer Ratterer had the best day of his unpredictable career as he threw for 438 yards and six touchdowns as South Carolina beat No. 1. Saturday night 5 Tennessee 63-38, nearly eliminated the Volunteers from the playoffs.

Tennessee (9-2, 6-2 Southeast) may also lose Heisman Trophy contender Hendon Hooker, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, fell and fumbled without being hit .

Tennessee head coach Josh Heppel said he doesn’t have Hooker’s latest status and the team will evaluate him upon his return to Knoxville.

Even before the injury, the quarterback for the night was Rattler, who went from Heisman hopeful to backup in 2021 Oklahoma. The junior finally lived up to the potential South Carolina (7-4, 4-4) fans hoped for when he arrived.

Rutterer entered the night with nine interceptions and eight touchdowns for 198 passing yards per game. Someone asked if Gamecocks wanted to test backups.

But the teenager was patient in the pocket, delivering passes into the tightest of windows. He ran for 16 yards when he had to run five times. He even caught a pass in the red zone from Dakereon Joyner, who South Carolina typically uses as a run threat at center.

Ratterer’s career highs before Saturday were 387 yards against Kansas State in 2020 for Oklahoma State and five touchdowns against Western Carolina for the 2021 Suna.

Antwan Wells Jr. caught 11 passes for 177 yards, and Josh Vann and Jaheim Bell each had two touchdowns for the Gamecocks.

Tennessee’s defense does little to stop the SEC’s No. 11 offense. The Gamecocks added 606 yards after falling short of 300 yards in three of their last four games. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, 63 points is the most points scored by an unranked team against an AP top-five opponent in the poll era.

“Obviously very disappointed with the performance and the outcome of the football game,” Heppel said. “Everyone involved, from myself to our assistant coaches to our players, had an opportunity here but didn’t take advantage of it, didn’t play well. Credit to South Carolina. They did play well. It’s disappointing that we didn’t perform better.

Hooker was 25-of-42 for 247 yards and three touchdowns before the injury. There is no word yet on the severity of his leg injury, but he did not return to action. Joe Milton III took over at quarterback for the Vols when Hooker went down, turned the ball over after getting into the red zone, and then led four plays with a 75-yard score in the final two minutes.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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