SOUTH CAROLINA LOSES SHOOTOUT …
By FITSNEWS || University of South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier pulled out all the stops in search of a season-changing upset victory over fifth-ranked Auburn on the Plains Saturday night … and it almost worked.
After converting an onside kick on special teams and five straight fourth downs against the Tigers’ shaky defense – South Carolina came up short on its final fourth down conversion attempt (the one that mattered most).
Quarterback Dylan Thompson – who threw a career-high five touchdown passes – couldn’t connect with Shaq Roland in the end zone on South Carolina’s next-to-last possession of the game. Then Thompson’s Hail Mary attempt on the final play of the game was intercepted by Jonathan Jones – the third pick thrown by the fifth-year senior on the night.
For the Gamecocks (4-4, 2-4 SEC), there just wasn’t enough magic in the dice … although the 19-point underdogs were throwing to the bitter end against the defending Southeastern Conference champions.
Why all the gambles from Spurrier? Easy: The complete and total inability of defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward‘s unit to even slow down – let alone stop – Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn‘s offense.
After being forced to punt on its first possession, Malzahn’s offense reeled off six consecutive touchdown drives – each one looking easier than the last. Those six straight scoring drives provided enough points to enable the Tigers (6-1, 3-1 SEC) to escape with a 42-35 victory.
Auburn’s offensive juggernaut moved through the Gamecock defense like a hot knife through butter – amassing a whopping 551 yards (including 395 yards on the ground). The blitzkrieg was paced by senior Cameron Artis-Payne – who racked up 167 yards on 25 carries.
Quarterback Nick Marshall added 89 yards on ten carries – scoring three rushing touchdowns. He also completed 12 of 14 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown.
The latest evisceration of Ward’s SEC-worst defensive unit squandered a gutsy effort by Spurrier’s offense – which racked up 535 yards (including a career-high 402 passing yards courtesy of Thompson’s right arm).
Thompson, who slipped to 7-4 as a starter, easily had his best game of the season – although his interceptions were tremendously costly (two thrown in the end zone and another in the red zone).
Of course it’s impossible to win on the road in the Southeastern Conference when you’ve got to put up seven points on literally every single drive … which was the untenable position in which Spurrier’s offense found itself on Saturday night.
As a result the “defenseless” Gamecocks – who rank last or next-to-last in every defensive category – have now lost as many games over the last two months as they lost during the previous two seasons. They’ve also lost three straight SEC games for the first time in five years.