What Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said of Gamecocks’ performance, Spencer Rattler

Artie Walker Jr./AP

Any chance Tennessee had to make the College Football Playoff ended Saturday night.

South Carolina used a career night from Spencer Rattler to defeat the No. 5 Vols 63-38 at Williams Brice Stadium.

“This one needs to hurt,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said afterward. “For us to grow as a program, you have to look at this opportunity, understand what happened and let it hurt. We need to look at moving forward and help us grow.”

The Vols (9-2) have been one of the biggest surprises in college football this year, knocking off Alabama and LSU, then becoming No. 1 in the first CFP Top 25 of the season. Tennessee went on to drop its first game to Georgia.

Still, many college football analysts thought the Vols could make their way into the playoffs for the first time — if the Vols won their final two games.

Tennessee had a Heisman Trophy candidate in Hendon Hooker. The senior quarterback, who threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns, left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury. Heupel didn’t have any details on the injury.

But the Vols didn’t resemble that team on Saturday, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Gamecocks piled up 606 yards of total offense, including Rattler’s 438 yards and six touchdowns. Rattler resembled the quarterback who was a Heisman Trophy candidate while at Oklahoma. His 438 yards were a career-high and his six touchdown passes almost equaled his season total of eight coming into the game,

“Spencer is a talented guy,” Heupel said. “At times, when he has gotten hot, he plays hot. Tonight he was.”

USC’s 63 points were the most by an unranked team playing a Top 5 opponent.

USC was creative in its playcalling, using a wildcat formation with receiver Dakeron Joyner, a former quarterback. They also were able to run the ball effectively using tight end Jaheim Bell, who carried the workload in place of injured backs MarShawn Lloyd and Christian Beal-Smith.

“We played man, we played zone to try and find an answer to it — and we didn’t,” Heupel said. “They hit us with a wildcat, which we were anticipating, and the power read got us a little early. But at the end of the day, we didn’t defend anything like we needed to. And you can’t play in this league that way.”