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Oct. 30, 2004

Final Stats

AP Sports Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Erik Ainge threw three touchdown passes as No. 11 Tennessee overcame early offensive problems to win its 12th straight over South Carolina, 43-29, on Saturday.

Cedric Houston added a career-high 190 yards rushing and a TD as the Vols (7-1, 5-1 SEC) rolled past the Gamecocks (5-3, 3-3), who were thought to be Tennessee’s last real roadblock to the Southeastern Conference title game. The Vols have beaten Georgia and only must get past league doormats Kentucky and Vanderbilt next month to get to the Georgia Dome on Dec. 4.

Not that it was easy. Tennessee trailed 8-0 and appeared shaky for much of the first half, compiling just 79 yards until three minutes before halftime.

Ainge and Houston, though, found their rhythm and the Vols took off. By the time Bret Smith ran a Gamecock onside kick in for a fourth-quarter touchdown to make it 43-22, there were only pockets of South Carolina fans amid the sections of Tennessee orange at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Ainge’s 21-yard touchdown pass to David Holbert, plus Brent Schaeffer’s two-point run, tied the game 30 seconds before halftime.

On Tennessee’s first possession of the second half, the freshman quarterback threw a 24-yard TD pass to Chris Hannon to go in front 15-8. Later in the third quarter, Ainge connected with a wide-open Chris Brown on a 20-yard touchdown throw. It was the third time this season Ainge, the nephew of former NBA star Danny Ainge, has thrown three TD passes.

Ainge finished 9-of-16 for 109 yards.

The Gamecocks continued one of the ugliest streaks in coach Lou Holtz’s tenure: they are 0-10 the past three seasons when needing a victory to qualify for the postseason.

South Carolina came in off a bye week. Giving Holtz two weeks to design a game plan is usually a dangerous thing for opponents. That’s how it looked at first.

South Carolina’s defense didn’t give up a first down until the second quarter and posted the first safety against the Vols in two years. The Gamecocks’ offense held the ball for nearly 12 more minutes than Tennessee in the first half, and three times drove inside the Tennessee 20.

All the Gamecocks came away with, though, were two Josh Brown field goals.

South Carolina’s Dondrial Pinkins, playing for the first time in almost a month because of a partially torn rotator cuff, was 30-of-42 for a career-high 306 yards.