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Nov. 2, 2002

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AP Sports Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer thought he was taking a chance when he went for it on fourth down. Quarterback Casey Clausen knew changing the call was a sure thing.

Clausen rolled right on fourth-and-1 from the 5-yard line and dove into the end zone untouched for a touchdown that lifted No. 25 Tennessee to its 10th straight victory over South Carolina, 18-10 on Saturday.

Fulmer originally sent out kicker Alex Walls for a field goal that would have put the Volunteers (5-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) ahead by five. But when Clausen called timeout because of a substitution problem, he came to the sideline and asked his coach, “Are you sure you want to do this? I’ll get in.”

Fulmer said, “To heck with it. We’re going for it and we’re going to win the football game right here.”

Despite a sprained left ankle, Clausen carried the ball in behind tight end Jason Witten and Tennessee moved to 65-3 in November since 1985.

South Carolina (5-4, 3-3) has lost two straight for the second time this year.

The win also revived the confidence Tennessee lost with back-to-back losses last month against Georgia and Alabama, Clausen said.

Things had gotten so bad, ex-Tennessee stars like Heath Shuler were openly questioning the team’s heart. Then came this week’s news that star receiver Kelley Washington was out indefinitely because of a concussion.

“Obviously, things haven’t gone our way this year,” said Clausen, who was 17-of-23 passing for 175 yards and one touchdown. “Wins, losses, injuries, whatever you want to call it. This was special, important for us to have a big win for guys to feel good about themselves again.”

Especially, with No. 1 Miami coming to Knoxville next week.

“This is the best Tennessee has played so far,” Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz said.

Tennessee cornerback Julian Battle expects the momentum from another good November start to carry over.

“We’ve had things going our way and we don’t want that to stop,” Battle said.

Clausen connected on a 3-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Feyton in the first quarter set up by Jabari Davis’ career-best 62-yard run.

After South Carolina closed to 12-10 in the fourth, Clausen led a 17-play drive that put the game away.

Clausen threw a 4-yard pass to Witten for a first down to keep the drive alive. Then came Clausen’s scoring run with 6:19 to go that put the Vols ahead 18-10.

South Carolina got the ball twice more but could do little with it.

Vols cornerback Jabari Greer intercepted South Carolina backup Dondrial Pinkins with 2:05 to go, and Tennessee ran out the clock. Fulmer was high-fiving assistants in the final minutes, glad to at last achieve his 100th career victory.

“It hasn’t been easy the last couple of weeks with injuries, and some of our play hasn’t been what we want it to be,” Fulmer said. “Our football team has stuck together in the face of a lot of adversity. We just kept fighting.”

Cedric Houston rushed for 108 yards, 51 on Tennessee’s game-deciding drive in the final period.

Walls added field goals of 24 and 29 yards for Tennessee, which has only lost November games to Notre Dame (1990), Memphis (1996) and Arkansas (1999) in the last 17 years.

South Carolina quarterbacks Corey Jenkins and Pinkins combined to go 5-of-19 passing for 45 yards and three interceptions.

“I don’t think it’s just one thing,” offensive coordinator Skip Holtz said. “Obviously, we have to be able to throw the ball better.”

Neither team looked crisp early on. Davis ran into Clausen on the Vols’ first offensive play. Clausen scrambled to find Witten to keep one drive alive, then was sacked by Moe Thompson to take Tennessee out of field-goal range.

South Carolina wasn’t much better.

The Gamecocks took 14 plays – with help from a fumbled punt by Tennessee’s Mark Jones – to get to the Vols’ 8 and then settled for a field goal.

South Carolina had only 14 yards passing in the first half.