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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Final: Auburn 35, South Carolina 27

Another close game that came down to the wire. Here's how tomorrow's story starts:
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn lived dangerously again Saturday night, digging itself into a deep first-half hole against a talented team from the Palmetto State for the second straight week.

Somehow it's been a successful formula.

The No. 17 Tigers overcame a 13-point deficit against No. 12 South Carolina, using a strong second half to pull out a 35-27 win before a near capacity Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd.

Quarterback Cam Newton accounted for 334 total yards and five touchdowns and the defense forced four turnovers in the fourth quarter to help Auburn (4-0, 2-0 SEC) escape victorious in its third straight nail-biter.

"We are a special bunch," Newton said. "I'm just blessed to be on a team like this, with guys who want to get better each week and who aren't getting up on each other no matter the situation."

Auburn has won its last three games against Mississippi State, Clemson and South Carolina by a combined 14 points. It needed two fourth-quarter defensive stands and a missed field goal in overtime to finish September with a perfect record for the second time under coach Gene Chizik.

"Our guys responded," Chizik said. "It's not always pretty. But these guys are fighting, clawing, scratching, trying to find a way to win every week."
We'll cover the rest in bullet points:
  • Big night rushing for Auburn, which got 334 yards against a South Carolina defense that had allowed only 179 its first three games, a mark that put it first in the SEC and sixth nationally. Newton had 176 by himself, a career-high.
  • USC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson on Newton: "They found an itch and kept scratching it."
  • Freshman Mike Dyer added 100 yards on 23 carries, the first Auburn tailback to top the century mark in a game this year. "I asked him before the game, I said, 'Can you carry it 20 times? Can you carry it 20 times?'" Chizik said. "He just kind of laughed at me and said, 'You kidding me?'"
  • Chizik publicly challenged his offensive linemen this week to be more physical. Guess they got the message. "They got a beating from coach Chizik, to say the least," Newton said. "They did what they were coached to do and it showed."
  • Auburn wore South Carolina down in the second half. The Tigers ran 49 plays to the Gamecocks' 22 and possessed the ball for nearly 10 more minutes. "When we got them tired, I thought we could run the football more," Chizik said.
  • Direct quote from Steve Spurrier: "I did not think they would run it that well against us."
  • It cannot be understated how good Newton was in this game. In addition to his rushing effort, which resulted in three touchdowns, he completed 16 of 21 passes for 158 yards. "You just read Cam's numbers and they speak for themselves," Chizik said. "He was a huge reason we won the football game."
  • Of note: Newton completed passes to six different players. Terrell Zachery and Darvin Adams caught four passes apiece for 49 and 45 yards, respectively. And the coaches apparently introduced Newton to tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen at halftime. The sophomore caught his first passes of the season in the second half, finishing with three catches for 22 yards and a touchdown.
  • Defensively, Auburn thrived on turnovers. After forcing two their first three games, the Tigers had four in the fourth quarter alone, forcing two fumbles and intercepting two passes. "They’re a mystery," Chizik said. "Sometimes you can’t get one for eight or nine quarters, then you’ll get four in a half, like we did tonight."
  • The turning point came early in the fourth quarter. Auburn came away with no points after getting to the USC 1. Newton's touchdown plunge was negated by a false start on RT Brandon Mosley. Wes Byrum followed by doinking a 23-yard field goal off the upright. But Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia fumbled the ball on consecutive possessions. Newton capitalized with touchdown passes to Lutzenkirchen and Emory Blake, giving Auburn a 35-27 lead.
  • Auburn made a point to shut down Gameocks freshman Marcus Lattimore, who entered the night second in the SEC in rushing. He finished with 14 carries for 33 yards and a touchdown, averaging 2.4 yards per carry. "We stopped the run early," Chizik said. "That, in our opinion, was the key to them throwing the football and us having a chance at turnovers."
  • Lattimore's comment: "They’re real tough up front, and their linebackers are tough too;it was really tough to get it going, and we never did.”
  • The Tigers did not stop the pass early. Garcia was sharp early, hooking up with receiver Alshon Jeffery twice for touchdowns of 30 and 6 yards. Garcia threw for 158 of his 235 yards in the first half. Jeffery, the SEC's leading receiver, had eight catches for 192 yards. But Auburn started the interception parade once Spurrier pulled Garcia for his fumbling tendency (also, it turns out he was a little groggy after getting hit on the second fumble). Connor Shaw came in and threw picks on USC's final two possessions.
  • Linebacker Josh Bynes had one. Cornerback Demond Washington had one in the end zone with less than a minute left. That was the first pick by an Auburn defensive back this year, by the way.
  • Despite the win, Chizik can't be too pleased with the way Auburn came out of the gates. The Tigers have fallen behind at home by 17 and 13 points the last two games. Newton said it last week: that luck will run out eventually.
  • Mario Fannin gets one carry for 5 yards, fumbles, hurts his shoulder and doesn't get another carry (despite coming back into the game, so it appears his shoulder injury wasn't an issue). Dyer gets flipped over and fumbles, leading to a South Carolina touchdown and gets the ball the rest of the game. Just sayin'. I think it's pretty well defined who Auburn's No. 1 running back is.
  • The Tigers might have to re-evaluate their right tackle position after this game. Brandon Mosley started but had three penalties by my count: a false start in the second quarter, an ineligible man downfield one that negated a first-down pass and a false start on the fourth-and-goal play that wiped out Newton's touchdown plunge. The last one might have been more than one player, but being flagged three times has to get the coaches' attention.
  • Byrum: 0-for-2. Misses from 52 and 23 yards. Won't see that often. Had not missed a non-blocked field goal since the Tennessee game last Oct. 3.
  • Your defensive leaders: Zac Etheridge and Mike Blanc had seven tackles apiece. Sacks from Washington and Corey Lemonier (an odd duo there). Eight tackles for a loss overall and 15 quarterback hurries. Nick Fairley led the way in pressures with five. DE Nosa Eguae finished with five tackles, .5 sacks and 1.5 TFLs after starting in place of Michael Goggans.
  • We'll leave the last word to Chizik: "We've had three really, really tough games in a row. Not that we didn't at this point last year, but I think we've been challenged in a lot of ways. We've been challenged on the road in a tough environment to a very good football team and were able to win that. We were challenged last week to go down by 17 against another very good football team that played in the ACC Championship a year earlier. Tonight, we got challenged going down against a great SEC team going down by (13) in this game. I don't know what the difference is this time. Last year, I have no idea. I just know that we were 4-0 last time last year at this time where we are now. We are very happy with that, but I am going to say it again. We are not satisfied with where we are and won't be, but I am just excited about our team."

9 comments:

Jared said...

I have to say that I am very proud of team tonight. Outside of two early turnovers, the offense moved the ball very consistently. The defense played decently well, especially considering the DB's were outmatched. Our kickoff return team also did well, consistently getting the ball passed the 30. If we had not turned the ball over and made the short field goal, then the game may not have even been close.

Drew said...

Andy,

I hate to be picky, but I don't like your use of 'escaped.' I think Auburn played pretty well tonight. They certainly played better tonight (first half included) than they did last weekend. It did come down to the last quarter, but I don't think that they 'escaped' with a win.

Anonymous said...

Drew - you must not have seen that last interception. That's definitely an escape. Glad lady luck bounced our way for a change.

Andy Bitter said...

When you trail by double digits at home and come back to beat a team you're favored to beat, that's escaping with a win.

MikeP said...

These last two wins have been very fine indeed. We don't (yet) have the type of personnel that can go out and beat good teams 45-7. We have to tough it out and just be ahead at the end of the game.

Kind of reminds me of Auburn's great 1972 team. Just win baby, and that's what we are doing.

auhays said...

Andy, fantastic job as usual. You call it like you see it

auhays said...

Andy, fantastic writeup as usual. Thanks for the breakdown!

CrownsCaster said...

I don't care if we escape or get lucky! JUST WIN!

jbfloyd60 said...

Guys don't give your team to much credit. South Carolina made late game errors, pretty plain and simply. Sure Auburn moved the ball on the ground. But South Carolina drove down to deep into Auburn's territory 3 times in that 4th quarter with 3 turnovers as well, which is unacceptable. Keep in mind, Alshon Jeffery simply dropped the ball and the safety happend to scoop it up. Also, the fumble that South Carolina's defense bobbled out of bounds. Auburn moved the ball, but South Carolina blew this game with mistakes. Watch what happens another opponent doesn't make these mistakes. That game could easily have gone either way. Good win for Auburn and a strong showing by there D when they needed it.