4. 1992: South Carolina beats Tennessee 24-23
Speaking of bad Johnny Majors upsets, this was his final one with Tennessee football. It did him in and led to a decision that keeps the fan base divided now over 25 years later. But given the circumstances of everything, it’s understandable why the decision was made.
This year’s Tennessee Vols team started out 3-0 with huge wins over the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators to get into the driver’s seat of the newly formed SEC East in the expanded conference. But that was all under interim head coach Phillip Fulmer as Johnny Majors missed the early part of the season to recover from open-heart surgery.
Still, he returned to preside over the Vols moving to a 5-0 record and into the Top 5 with Heath Shuler leading the way at quarterback. But things then fell apart, as the Vols lost two straight, and fans started wanting Phillip Fulmer back.
We all know that part. But then this game comes into play. At 5-2, Tennessee was still in first in the SEC East. All they had to do was beat the Memphis Tigers and the three bottom feeders of the East, all of whom would have losing records, starting with the South Carolina Gamecocks.
So the Vols traveled to Columbia and expected to win. But instead, South Carolina gave them trouble from the start. Led by Steve Taneyhill, the Gamecocks built a late 24-17 lead. The Vols needed a historic run from Mose Phillips just to get their final touchdown with time running out.
Down 24-23 and with overtime not being an option, the Vols needed a win to stay on top of the SEC East. So they went for two and didn’t get it. They didn’t recover the onside kick either.
As a result, Tennessee football lost its third game, this one to a bad South Carolina team that would finish the year 5-6. And remember, it was their first year in the conference! So everything about this was embarrassing for Majors.
That’s what makes this all a bad upset. And following it, Majors was fired during the open week. He got to finish off the regular season as the Vols won their final three games to get to 8-3, and Fulmer took over. That firing dates back to this horrific outing.