KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee has been looking for a signature win under first-year coach Butch Jones, and it finally came in a 23-21 victory over No. 11 South Carolina on Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.
Michael Palardy kicked a 19-yard field goal as time expired to give the Volunteers their first win over a ranked opponent since they upset No. 21 South Carolina in 2009. Tennessee broke a 19-game losing streak to ranked opponents and got just its third win in the past 19 SEC games.
"It's a great day to be a Vol," Jones said. "I thought our team showed some resiliency. All the things that happened throughout the course of the game -- a game can be decided by two or three plays, but you never know which two or three plays they're going to be."
It turns out, all those plays pointed in Tennessee's favor.
Marquez North set up the winning score with a 39-yard, one-handed reception of a pass from Justin Worley on third-and-10. That moved the ball to the Gamecocks' 26-yard line. The Volunteers ran the ball to the 2-yard line before Palardy came on for the winning kick.
Jones pointed to the play by North as a key and also gave credit to Worley for making the throw into tight coverage.
"Marquez North obviously made a big-time play, but hats off to Worley too," Jones said. "He was poised, stood in the pocket. Then Mike Palardy, it's been a long time coming. It was great to see there."
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was hoping his team could get off the field in that situation, but he gave credit to North on the catch over a Gamecock defender.
"It went to third-and-10 there and they hung a jump ball on us and their kid made a heck of a catch," Spurrier said. "Our guy was grabbing his arm, I guess, but he made a heck of a catch, and then they ran it on down to the (2) and kicked a field goal."
The three losses by the Volunteers (4-3, 1-2 SEC) had come against ranked teams: Oregon, Florida and Georgia. Two weeks ago, they took Georgia into overtime before losing on a field goal.
"It's just the next win -- a big one -- but it's win No. 4 and it gets a step closer to our goal," Jones said. "You find out a lot about your football team, and we made a play to win at the end of that game, and that's what I'm most pleased with."
But this time they were not to be denied. They limited the Gamecocks to 12 yards of offense in the fourth quarter after South Carolina (5-2, 3-2) took the lead in the third quarter with two long scoring drives.
Connor Shaw's streak of 177 pass attempts without an interception ended on South Carolina's opening possession of the second half. Cameron Sutton picked off Shaw's pass at the Tennessee 27-yard line.
But the Gamecocks answered with scoring drives on their next two possessions to take a 21-17 lead.
Mike Davis scampered in from 21 yards out for the first score of the third quarter. He ran for 137 yards on 21 carries, going over 100 yards for the sixth time in seven games.
"Mike did OK," Spurrier said. "He played pretty well with a couple of big runs. We ran a lot. We had some good plays here and there."
South Carolina took the lead on the next series when Shaw scored on a 1-yard sneak to complete a six-play, 70-yard drive with 2:50 remaining in the quarter. The Gamecocks gained 166 yards in the quarter before being shut down in the final period.
Tennessee got a 33-yard field goal from Michael Palardy with 10:11 remaining. The Vols missed on a chance to take a lead after the Gamecocks had a 23-yard punt that gave the Volunteers possession at the South Carolina 35-yard line. A personal foul penalty knocked them out of field goal range, and they had to punt it back to South Carolina with 5:44 remaining.
Tennessee jumped to a 17-7 halftime lead by winning the field-position battle. The Volunteers started drives from their 35, 47, 45 and 46 but could muster only a field goal in taking a 3-0 lead. Palardy connected from 37 yards with 9:14 remaining in the first quarter.
The best starting field position South Carolina had on seven first-half possessions was its 25-yard line. The Gamecocks held an 81-37 advantage in total yards. On their best drive of the opening quarter, Shaw fumbled a snap at the Tennessee 45-yard line a play after a 45-yard run by Davis.
The Gamecocks took the lead on the first play of the second quarter when Shaw hit Damiere Byrd on a 76-yard scoring strike.
The lead was short-lived as the Volunteers scored on their next two possessions. South Carolina aided the first scoring drive with a 13-yard pass interference penalty and a facemask penalty after seemingly getting stops on third-down plays.
Worley hit Pig Howard on a 6-yard scoring play to put the Volunteers back on top 10-7 with 10:12 remaining in the half.
After the Gamecocks had their third three-and-out of the half, Rajion Neal waltzed in from 5 yards out to complete a seven-play, 61-yard drive. South Carolina's Elliott Frye missed a 45-yard field goal with less than a minute remaining in the half.
NOTES: Shaw left the game in the fourth quarter with a left knee strain. Shaw was trying to scramble away from pressure when he went down in a heap. He left with 2:28 remaining and stayed on the training table the rest of the game. Shaw was officially listed as having a sprained knee. ... North finished with 102 yards on three receptions. He is the first Volunteer receiver to go over 100 yards this season. The freshman had 18 catches for 179 yards before Saturday ... South Carolina had just three players touch the ball more than one time on offense. Davis had 21 carries and two receptions, Shaw finished with 19 carries and Damiere Byrd had four catches for 121 yards and a score. It was Byrd's first-career 100-yard receiving game.