Today is Friday, August 18, 2017

Finally!

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Joe Biddle

It's been a long time coming for Butch Jones and Tennessee's football team.

You could see improvement in previous games, but every time they had a chance to win, they came up short. It was wearing thin.

They lost at Georgia, 35-32. They lost to a demoralized Florida team in Knoxville, 10-9.

Jones kept his players' heads up. It is a young team relying on talented, but inexperienced, players pitted against nationally ranked opponents.

Jones planted the seed last week for his team to "do whatever it takes."

When it looked like the Vols would find another way to lose a game, quarterback Joshua Dobbs proved he is worthy of leading this team forward.

He led the Vols on two late fourth quarter touchdown drives to send the game to overtime.

South Carolina was stunned, their season spiraling out of control. The Vols rode the momentum to take a 45-42 win.

Veteran coach Steve Spurrier took it hard. His postgame press conference might have set an SEC record for the shortest time from start to finish.

"I don't need to answer any questions. You guys watched it. I need to get out of here," Spurrier said after seeing his defense surrendering a 14-point lead in the final minutes.

The pain was plain for all to see.

"This is a tough one. We've had about three or four (losses) like this this year. It takes awhile to get this out of your system. Spurrier said. "I guess I should be getting used to it by now, but I have a tough time getting used to these kind of things."

Butch Jones has been through much of the same misery. Jones has stayed the course, despite a number of Tennessee fans having been on his case.

The second-year Vols coach fought through all the "noise" that accompanies losing.

"Our perseverance, out resiliency was rewarding," Jones said after the game. "Being down by 14 with four or five minutes to go, there was never a doubt that we were going to win this football game."

It was a track meet, as both teams combined to ring up 1,275 yards - the Vols putting up 645 of them.

The Vols scored with 1:50 left in the game. It cut the margin to 42-35, South Carolina. Minutes later Dobbs took the Vols on an 85-yard march with 11 seconds to spare. That sent the game to overtime, where the Vols had a 32-yard Aaron Medley field goal. Then it was the defense's turn. Two sacks by Curt Maggitt and Derek Barnett left the Gamecocks a 58-yard attempt to extend the game. It never had a chance.

"We felt like we had new life," said Vols linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin. "We feel like you give us a place to stand, we can stop you. The offense gave us a place to stand."

Dobbs was the difference. He ran for 166 yards on 24 trips. In the air, the sophomore was 23 for 40 for 301 yards and two touchdowns. Seven completions went to Beech product Jalen Hurd, who piled up 58 yards and a touchdown, adding 125 yards on the ground.

Just when it looked as if the Vols were not going to be bowl eligible, they have a shot.

After an open date, they have home games against Kentucky and Missouri and close out at Vanderbilt. They need to win two out of three.

"Do whatever it takes," fits this Vols team to a T.

Contact Wilson Post Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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