Final - OT
  for this game

Freshman kicker rescues Tennessee from near-epic collapse

Oct 28, 2007 - 5:44 AM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Throughout his career, Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer has been happy to see South Carolina on the schedule. Fulmer can thank freshman kicker Daniel Lincoln for providing another happy memory against the Gamecocks.

Lincoln connected on a late 48-yard field goal to send the game into overtime and made a 27-yarder in the extra session to send the Volunteers to a 27-24 Southeastern Conference victory over 15th-ranked South Carolina on Saturday.

Fulmer owns a 14-1 career mark against the Gamecocks, but his team needed some breaks late after establishing a 21-point halftime lead.

Lincoln, who was given a reprieve after badly hooking a 43-yard kick with nine seconds remaining because of a false start penalty, nailed a 48-yarder to knot the contest at 24-24.

"On the first kick, I heard the whistle and decided to hit it," Lincoln said. "Casey (Woods, the holder) had started to pull the ball up as I kicked it. We haven't not finished a rep all year, so I finished it."

The Volunteers (5-3, 3-2 SEC East) called on Lincoln again after losing the coin flip in the first overtime, and he rewarded them with a 27-yard field goal to move Tennessee ahead, 27-24.

"He's been wonderful to coach," Volunteers coach Phillip Fulmer said. "You don't know what Daniel has been through. I was unmerciful to him in the spring. I think, obviously, he's got a very great future. And the best thing about it is he's a football player. He's a tough guy."

On its overtime possession, South Carolina (6-3, 3-3 East) was unable to mount much of an attack, forcing kicker Ryan Succop to attempt a 41-yard field goal.

Succop's kick stayed right of the post, sending the Volunteers and their fans into a frenzy at Neyland Stadium.

"A wonderful team win by our football team," Fulmer said. "It wasn't pretty all the time, but it was a fine effort. This team has a really great spirit about it - a great effort team. A lesser team with a lesser spirit and a lesser will would have lost that game tonight.

"Somebody said on television that the next thing we have to look forward to is signing day and the (NFL) draft. That's stupid. That's just stupid. That's someone who has no idea what Tennessee football is about."

After Erik Ainge's five-yard touchdown pass to Josh Briscoe made the score 21-0 near the end of the second quarter, South Carolina completely flipped the script in the second half.

The Gamecocks scored on three consecutive possessions after failing to convert on fourth down at the Tennessee 4 on the initial drive of the third period.

Ainge finished 26-of-44 for 216 yards with one TD and one interception.

The Gamecocks' defense forced just their second three-and-out of the game on the Volunteers' initial third-quarter drive, leading to Mitchell's one-yard TD run on the ensuing drive to trim the deficit to 21-7.

"A lot of things we had called, they had the one defense called that could stop it, so you have to credit their defensive coordinator," Ainge said.

Penalties ruined each of the next two drives for Tennessee, allowing South Carolina to tie the game at 21-21 with 11:11 remaining after Cory Boyd scored from 29 yards out and Mitchell connected with Kenny McKinley for an eight-yard TD.

Succop handed South Carolina a short-lived 24-21 lead with 1:24 left.

LaMarcus Coker returned the ensuing kickoff 37 yards to the Tennessee 47-yard line, allowing the home crowd to keep hope alive.

"There will be a lot of talk about the two field goals, but the kick return by LaMarcus (Coker) was huge," Lincoln said.

Their optimism was almost ended on the Volunteers' game-tying drive, when running back Arian Foster broke a run off tackle to the left side but was stripped of the ball.

After the ball traveled 13 yards downfield, offensive lineman Jacques McClendon hustled to fall on the loose ball at the South Carolina 26.

Three plays later, Tennessee called on Lincoln from 43 yards out, but the freshman badly hooked it. However, Lincoln was given another chance from 48 yards out after the Volunteers were whistled for a five-yard false start penalty.

Mitchell went 31-of-45 for 290 yards and one TD with one interception in relief of starting quarterback Chris Smelley, who was ineffective before being pulled by South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier in the second quarter.

"We have to comeback strong," Mitchell said. "We showed we could come from behind. We just have to go out there and learn to finish."