10. 2013: Tennessee beats South Carolina 23-21
Head Coach: Butch Jones
At the time, this seemed like the signature victory Tennessee football needed. The Vols had suffered through three straight losing seasons under Derek Dooley, they hadn’t beaten a Top 25 team since 2009, and they were looking to build something in Butch Jones’s first year.
With a 3-3 record, they were coming off a close loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. Steve Spurrier was fielding his best team ever as head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, and they had a great shot at the national championship.
As they traveled to Knoxville for a noon game, Vols fans felt this could be the day they turn the corner. And turn the corner they did!
Tennessee jumped out to a 17-7 lead thanks to an early second half defensive touchdown. However, South Carolina fought back. They took a 21-20 lead late and had the ball.
Spurrier then let his genius get the best of him. He twice called timeout on fourth down contemplating a fake punt, then he punted it. With the ball down three, the Vols made the play of the year on 3rd and 10.
Marquez North made a one-handed grab on a deep pass from Justin Worley. The play put the Vols in South Carolina territory. It was the catch of the year and one that we thought would signal a bright future before North never worked out.
Anyway, Tennessee football was able to run down the clock thanks to Spurrier’s misuse of timeouts. Then Michael Palardy came in and kicked a game-winning field goal. Ballgame! The Vols moved to 4-3 and had their highest ranked win since Georgia in 2006.
It seemed like another brick in Butch Jones’s process at the time, which made it a great win. But they stumbled to a 5-7 record that year, losing their next four. And four years later, Jones was gone. Still, this was a great individual win for him his first year.