- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - An improbable victory slipped out of South Carolina’s grasp as soon as the ball was knocked out of Jerell Adams’ left arm.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin recovered Adams’ fumble at the Tennessee 13-yard line with 32 seconds remaining Saturday to preserve the Volunteers’ 27-24 triumph over South Carolina.

South Carolina, a 17-point underdog, was seeking a game-tying or game-winning score when Adams caught a pass inside the Tennessee 35 and started spinning away from defenders as he entered the red zone. Adams was trying to gain extra yardage when Malik Foreman knocked the ball out of his left arm.

“The guy’s sitting there in tears because it hurt him so bad,” South Carolina interim coach Shawn Elliott said. “You just tell him you love him. You pick him up and you move forward. … I don’t fault him. He was trying to make a play. He was trying to win the game. That’s what I want us to do.”

The frantic finish was fitting for an annual series whose last four games have been decided by a total of 11 points.

South Carolina (3-6, 1-6 SEC) won 38-35 in 2012 after Tennessee fumbled in the red zone with just over a minute left. Tennessee won 23-21 in 2013 on a field goal as time expired and won 45-42 in overtime last year.

“The guy just came up behind him and punched it out,” South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s just very, very unfortunate. I feel bad because Jerell’s such a good guy, and he played his tail off tonight.”

Aaron Medley’s 27-yard field goal with 9:14 left broke a 24-all tie after Tennessee squandered a 17-0 advantage.

“Good teams find ways to win when they don’t particularly play their best football,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. “We didn’t play our best football tonight.’

The start of the game certainly didn’t foreshadow a close contest.

Tennessee (5-4, 3-3) grabbed a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter as Alvin Kamara had a 4-yard touchdown run and Joshua Dobbs threw a 37-yard scoring strike to Von Pearson on the Vols’ first two possessions. Pearson finished with eight catches for 121 yards.

The Vols led 17-0 before South Carolina’s Elliott Fry kicked a 43-yard field goal with 1:03 left in the first half.

Orth rallied the Gamecocks by throwing touchdown passes on three consecutive third-quarter possessions.

“He lays it on the line day in and day out, play after play,” Elliott said. “This is a guy that nobody (outside our team) thinks should be playing for our football team. But he’s a great leader for us. Our players believe in him. I believe in him, our coaching staff. I think he did a good job. He put us in a position to win.”

South Carolina benefited from facing a Tennessee secondary that played most of the game without safety Brian Randolph, who was ejected due to a targeting penalty in the first quarter. Tennessee also played the first half without cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, who was penalized for targeting in the second half of a victory over Kentucky last week.

The Gamecocks also capitalized on some creative play calling.

South Carolina cut Tennessee’s lead to 17-10 on a 10-yard completion from Orth to Jonathan Walton, a linebacker who hadn’t played offense all season before lining up in the backfield Saturday.

On South Carolina’s next series, Orth threw a touchdown pass to Adams when the Gamecocks went for the touchdown rather than settling for a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 7.

The Gamecocks made plenty of plays to get back into the game. They just couldn’t quite close the deal.

“It just kind of rips you,” Elliott said. “That’s what sports (is) about. When you love something that much, it should hurt. It should hurt.”

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AP College Football: collegefootball.ap.org

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