South Carolina threw its best punches at its worst losing streak but remains 0-for-Auburn.
The Gamecocks gained 535 yards and converted 5-of-6 fourth downs but couldn’t outscore the fifth-ranked Tigers in a 42-35 loss. South Carolina (4-4 overall, 2-4 SEC) fell to 1-10-1 overall and 0-6 under head coach Steve Spurrier against Auburn. It has never won in Auburn.
A Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd of 87,451 watched the home team improve to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the SEC but not without getting a few gray hairs out of the deal.
It was an offensive night from the opening kickoff as Spurrier and Tigers head coach Gus Malzhan traded play-calling haymakers in a game that was tied five times before Auburn scored the decisive touchdown in the fourth quarter.
South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson celebrated his birthday with 402 yards and five touchdowns but also threw two interceptions in the red zone. Thompson also caught a pass. Gamecocks tailback Mike Davis had 88 yards rushing and 85 yards receiving. Pharoh Cooper had seven catches for 127 yards and completed his first pass of the season.
South Carolina had life until Thompson’s Hail Mary from the Tigers’ 41-yard line hit the turf in the end zone as time expired.
Auburn took the ball to start the second half and zipped 88 yards on 13 plays to take its first lead of the game, 28-21, when Marshall went untouched up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown with 9:30 left in the third quarter. South Carolina answered almost immediately when Thompson found Cooper for a 51-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 28-28 with 7:40 left in the quarter.
The Tigers answered that score even faster as Ricardo Louis took a handoff 75 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive to put his team back up 35-28 with 7:29 left in the third. South Carolina matched that with a 75-yard scoring drive that ended on a 10-yard pass from Thompson to Nick Jones to tie the game at 35-35 with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
The Gamecocks then stole a possession with an onsides kick that was recovered along the right sideline by Skai Moore, however South Carolina couldn’t turn it into points thanks to a diving interception by Auburn’s Jonathan Jones in the end zone.
The Tigers did take advantage of their opportunity, going 80 yards on six plays and taking a 42-35 lead on a 9-yard keeper by Marshall with 11:22 left in the game.
The Gamecocks took the ball to open the game and marched 75 yards on seven plays to take a 7-0 lead when Thompson found Shaq Roland down the right sideline for a 36-yard touchdown with 12:34 left in the first quarter. South Carolina forced a punt on Auburn’s first possession and quickly went back on the move. The Gamecocks had marched 63 yards in five plays when Thompson was intercepted by Tigers linebacker Cassanova McKinzy at Auburn’s 8-yard line.
Auburn went 92 yards from there and tied the game at 7-7 when tight end Brandon Fulse caught a 3-yard scoring pass with 1:33 left in the quarter. South Carolina answered with its most creative drive of the season, which included Spurrier deciding to go for it on fourth-and-2 from South Carolina’s 33-yard line and the Gamecocks converting on an 18-yard option run by Davis. Later on the drive, South Carolina gained 14 yards on a reverse pass from Cooper to Thompson. The Gamecocks capped that drive with a 16-yard pass from Thompson to Cooper with 12:14 left in the second quarter.
Auburn again responded with a long drive, this time 93 yards, finishing it off with a 2-yard run by Cameron Artis-Payne with 8:19 left in the second quarter. The Tigers threatened to take control from there, forcing a South Carolina punt, but Auburn’s Quan Bray fumbled after an impressive punt return to give the Gamecocks the ball back in Tigers territory. Auburn then extended that drive with a personal foul on a third-down stop, and Thompson found Davis on the next play for 16-yard touchdown to put South Carolina back ahead 21-14 with 5:05 left in the second quarter.
Auburn answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive that ended on a 37-yard scoring run from Marshall with 2:35 left in the half. The teams combined for 544 yards and two punts in the first half.