KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee defense played well most of the game but faltered down the stretch.
The Vols lost to South Carolina 15-9 Saturday, and the Vols gave up 12 of those points in the second half.
South Carolina came into the second half more focus and ready to play which made the difference according to defensive end Kyle Phillips after the game.
“Overall, we played solid as a unit,” Phillips said. “We knew going into the game it was going to be a defensive battle. They have a great defense and we have a good defense, too. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out as intense in the second half as they were.”
Phillips mentioned a few times he was “winded” because he played so many snaps in the game. Tennessee suspended indefinitely usual defensive end starter Darrell Taylor this week due to a practice fight with teammate Trey Smith.
The defense not getting too fatigued when on the field for long stretches will be a point of emphasis moving forward.
“That’s one thing we need to work on is sustaining our energy in the second half,” said Phillips who finished with 3 tackles.
There seems to be merit to what Phillips said. The defense played well through the first two quarters. South Carolina struggled to stay on the field and only one drive lasted more than six plays.
Nickleback Rashaan Gaulden seemed to be all over the field as a more disruptive force than usual. He finished with 10 tackles and 1 for a loss.
Things shifted in the second half as South Carolina put together longer drives. The Gamecocks had back-to-back drives going 12 and 16 plays.
Tennessee, on the other hand, had 3 3-and-outs in the second half and had only one drive last longer than 3 minutes.
“They came out with more energy and we were winded in the second half,” Phillips said. “Drives when we should have gotten off the field and then didn’t really impacted the rest of the drive. The first half, I thought we were getting 3-and-outs. We were fresh and well-rested. The offense was moving the ball well too, giving us time on the sidelines.”
The defense did hold South Carolina to a field goal on its last drive of the game. The final stand gave the Vols a chance to win the game at the very end, but the offense didn’t make the plays necessary.
Tennessee goes on the road to take on No. 1 South Carolina next week. Tennessee must find a way to bring the defensive intensity into the second half if the Vols are to have a chance.
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