5. South Carolina Gamecocks
Year: 1992 (Away)
Final score: No. 16 Tennessee Volunteers lose 24-23
Losing to the South Carolina Gamecocks in 2016 took all the mystique out of Tennessee football’s magical season and officially put Butch Jones on the hot seat. It was basically the end for Derek Dooley in 2012, and it got Phillip Fulmer fired in 2008. Meanwhile, the Vols ruined S.C.’s magical run in 2013 by upsetting them.
Simply put, the schools have a history of ruining each others’ magical seasons. But none did that more than South Carolina in 1992. Similar to Arkansas that was their first year in the SEC. And they had gotten off to an 0-5 start.
However, back to back wins against the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Vanderbilt Commodores gave them some momentum as UT came into town. Meanwhile, the Vols lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide after being stunned by Arkansas. So after a 5-0 start and top 5 ranking, their season was fading away under Johnny Majors.
It collapsed in this game. S.C. had not scored more than 21 points all year, and they scored single-digits in four of their seven games. But their offense went off against the Vols in this one, and late in the game, they had a 24-17 lead.
Mose Phillips brought his team to within one with an epic run late in the game to score a touchdown, one of the greatest in UT history. But to win the East, the Vols couldn’t afford a tie, so Majors decided to go for two. The Vols didn’t make it, and South Carolina held on 24-23.
This was a horrible loss in numerous ways. As part of a three-game losing streak, it resulted in Majors getting fired and Phillip Fulmer getting promoted due to his 3-0 start effective at the end of the year. Also, by losing to both conference newcomers by one point, both of whom would have losing seasons, UT went from national title contender to barely staying in the top 25.
As a result, there were many bad things that came out of this loss, but it comes as a packaged deal with the Arkansas loss. That’s why we have both of them together on this list, and they are UT’s worst loss to each school.