KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway each scored two touchdowns and Tennessee threw for a season-high 351 yards without the services of injured quarterback Brian Maurer to beat South Carolina 41-21 on Saturday.
Tennessee (3-5, 2-3 SEC) won by outscoring South Carolina 24-0 in the second half.
Maurer couldn’t play Saturday after sustaining concussions in each of Tennessee’s last two games, which left former starter Jarrett Guarantano and redshirt freshman J.T. Shrout as the Volunteers’ only available scholarship quarterbacks.
Guarantano went 11 of 19 for 229 yards with a pair of touchdown passes to Jennings before leaving with an injured left hand midway through the third quarter. Shrout was 7 of 11 for 122 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown to Callaway.
Jennings ended up with seven catches for a career-high 174 yards and two touchdowns. Callaway had three catches for 102 yards and scored on a 65-yard punt return.
The victory provided a stunning turnaround for Guarantano, who was roasted around town and on social media after his fourth-and-goal fumble in a 35-13 loss to No. 1 Alabama last week was returned 100 yards for a game-clinching touchdown.
Guarantano has made 22 career starts but has endured a miserable season. He was benched three weeks ago and had that confidence-crushing turnover last week. He bounced back Saturday with one of the finest performances of his career.
Jennings, a former high school quarterback, actually took the first snap for Tennessee. Shrout was the main quarterback for Tennessee’s first two series. Guarantano came in after that and stayed in until getting hurt on the play that put Tennessee ahead for good.
Guarantano took a big hit from T.J. Brunson just as he threw a 19-yard pass in the back of the end zone to Jennings, who gave Tennessee a 28-24 lead by hanging on to the ball even after taking a shot from R.J. Roderick.
Although the hit from Brunson briefly sent Guarantano to the locker room, Tennessee still managed to extend the lead on its next series as Callaway caught Shrout’s first career touchdown pass.
Big plays enabled South Carolina (3-5, 2-4) to grab a 21-17 halftime lead.
South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who went 28 of 51 for 319 yards, connected with Shi Smith for a 75-yard touchdown on the game’s first snap. Late in the second quarter, Bryan Edwards reached his right arm overhead and made a spectacular one-handed, 18-yard catch on the right sideline to set up a Tavien Feaster 1-yard touchdown run. South Carolina also made a fourth-and-goal stand at the 1.
But it was all Tennessee the rest of the way.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks simply couldn’t cover Jennings and Callaway. Their offense also fell apart after halftime. South Carolina now can only lose once more the rest of the season to become bowl eligible with Vanderbilt, No. 21 Appalachian State, Texas A&M and No. 4 Clemson left on the schedule.
Tennessee: The Vols overcame Maurer’s absence and boosted their bowl hopes because their best players delivered big-time performances. Jennings and Callaway are Tennessee’s top two playmakers on offense, and both came up huge. Darrell Taylor, the team’s top pass rusher, had two sacks and broke up a fourth-down pass before getting hurt early in the fourth quarter. Daniel Bituli, the Vols’ top tackler in 2017 and 2018, blocked a punt and pounced on the ball in the end zone for Tennessee’s final touchdown.
South Carolina hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Tennessee hosts UAB on Saturday.