South Carolina finally fell off its tightrope Saturday.
After surviving four sometimes stumbling efforts, the No. 10 Gamecocks fell 16-13 to Auburn in Williams-Brice Stadium.
The day started poorly when the much-hyped Wounded Warriors jerseys by Under Armour were outlawed by the game officials moments before kickoff and ended worse when Tigers tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen caught a 9-yard touchdown pass with 1:38 left in the game on Auburn’s 92nd offensive play.
“If you get to try every play in the playbook, something is going to work,” South Carolina’s assistant head coach defense Ellis Johnson said. “It affects you mentally. You can’t have but so many bullets in the gun.”
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The Tigers (4-1, 2-0 SEC) extended their winning streak over the Gamecocks to seven games and 78 years. South Carolina’s only victory in this 11-game series came in 1933. The Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1 SEC) missed out on a chance to start the season 5-0 for the sixth time in their history.
“We were pretty sad, pretty sad the entire day,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “We lost to this team last year and still came back on won the Eastern Division. If we can regroup somehow offensively, we are going to be OK.”
That’s a big “if” at this point. The Gamecocks gained 289 yards against the NCAA’s 110th-ranked defense. Florida Atlantic, which has the least-productive offense in the country, gained 307 last week against Auburn.
“I thought we’d play pretty well against these guys,” Spurrier said. “We made them look about like the best defense in the league most of the night.”
Sophomore Marcus Lattimore had a season-low 66 yards on 17 carries.
“I thought we did keep trying (to run the ball) a bit, and it didn’t go anywhere,” Spurrier said. “We couldn’t get Marcus any room at all. We are not knocking anybody back much. They were right there waiting on him most of the night.”
And why not? There was no reason to fear South Carolina’s passing game. Senior quarterback Stephen Garcia was 9-of-23 for 160 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked three times.
Spurrier would not guarantee Garcia’s starting job after the game.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Right now, we are just going to lick our wounds, and we’ll watch the tape and see if we need to make some changes around here.”
One thing South Carolina won’t touch is the defense.
Auburn gained 358 yards, but it took them 92 plays to do it. It was the most plays by a South Carolina opponent since 1974, when Virginia Tech ran 93 and gained 442 yards. Tigers tailback Michael Dyer carried the ball 41 times (11 times fewer than the South Carolina offense touched the ball) for 141 yards, helping Auburn hold the ball for 35:47.
Johnson is not concerned about finger pointing from his unit despite how poorly the offense is playing, he said.
“I don’t think our players have that attitude,” he said. “If they ever do, we’ll get that fixed. We’re not playing good enough on defense to where we need to be worried about somebody else’s backyard.”
The Gamecocks’ Achilles heel was third-down defense. The Tigers converted 11 of 22 third downs compared to the Gamecocks’ 20 percent conversion rate (2-for-10).
South Carolina will play its fourth consecutive home game against Kentucky on Saturday at 12:21 p.m. Spurrier is not worried about his team being too disheartened to bounce back from the Auburn loss.
“We’re not heart-broken,” he said. “We haven’t played well enough to expect to win.”
|Score by quarters||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||FINAL|
Auburn: FG Parkey 21, 10:12.
USC: Alshon Jeffery 50 pass from Garcia (kick blocked), 6:57.
Auburn: Dyer 1 run (kick failed), 14:22.
USC: Lattimore 15 run (Wooten kick), 5:58.
Auburn: Lutzenkirchen 9 pass from Trotter (Parkey kick), 1:38.
|Time of Possession||35:47||24:13|
RUSHING: Auburn, Dyer 41-141, McCalebb 9-58, Frazier 9-48, Trotter 8-(minus 1). South Carolina, Lattimore 17-66, Garcia 10-62, Byrd 1-2, Ellington 1-(minus 1).
PASSING: Auburn, Trotter 12-23-2-112, Uzomah 0-1-1-0, R. White 0-1-1-0. South Carolina, Garcia 9-23-2-160.
RECEIVING: Auburn, McCalebb 3-33, Blake 3-16, Wisner 1-20, Benton 1-15, Lutzenkirchen 1-9, Carr 1-7, Bray 1-6, Dyer 1-6. South Carolina, A. Jeffery 5-86, Ellington 3-60, Wilds 1-14.