Posted by Jerry Hinnen
AUBURN WON: Under Gene Chizik, Auburn has repeatedly found ways to win when they don't play well, fall behind, or look overmatched. Under Steve Spurrier -- and, to be fair, nearly every South Carolina coach before him -- the Gamecocks have repeatedly put themselves in position to make national noise only to fall victim to the upset they should have been able to see coming. So it played out again today in Columbia, as a touchdown pass from Barrett Trotter to tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen with 1:38 remaining gave Auburn the win despite a terrible day from Trotter (12-of-23, 4.9 yards per-attempt, 2 INTs) and a bevy of missed Auburn opportunities in Gamecock territory. Michael Dyer outshone Marcus Lattimore, outrushing the erstwhile Heisman candidate 141 to 66--albeit with the help of a Lattimore-esque 41 carries.
WHY AUBURN WON: Because as terrible as Trotter was, Garcia was arguably even worse. The senior completed just 9 of his 22 passes for all of 160 yards, with one touchdown and two typically ugly interceptions. Remove a second-quarter 50-yard scoring bomb to an otherwise-quiet Alshon Jeffery and Garcia averaged all of 5.2 yards per-attempt against what few will debate is one of the SEC's most flammable secondaries.
With Garcia struggling, Auburn was allowed to tee off on Lattimore, holding the All-American to a pedestrian 3.9 yards per-carry on just 17 attempts. As for that latter number, Carolina fans will no doubt wonder why Lattimore wasn't fed the ball more often, particularly with the Gamecocks facing 1st-and-10 on their own 30 in the fourth quarter, up 13-9. Spurrier called for passes on both first and second down, with the result an incompletion and a sack. Carolina would have the field flipped on them following Auburn's next punt, starting at their own 12, and the Tigers would go on to start their ensuing possession on their own 43. Result: the game-winning touchdown drive.
To be fair to Auburn, though, they've made a habit of corralling Lattimore even when Garcia is playing well. (And to be fair to Spurrier, a first down handoff to Lattimore on that possession that began at the 12 lost two yards.) After three career games against the Tigers, Lattimore still has only 183 combined rushing yards--no doubt the biggest reason Auburn has gone 3-0 in those meetings.
WHEN AUBURN WON: Not until the Gamecocks' final desperation drive ended with Bruce Ellington being tackled in-bounds at the Auburn 30 and time expiring. But should it have? The gain was good enough for a first down and Ellington appeared to be tackled with 2 seconds left on the clock. But with the whistle blowing late, the officials elected not to put any time back on the clock for a last-gasp try. Gamecock fans will no doubt howl, though running the field goal unit on for a successful 47-yard try with no timeouts -- as would have happened if the play had been whistled correctly -- would have been quite the accomplishment.
WHAT AUBURN WON: Somehow, some way, Auburn's 11th straight game decided by a single possession. At 4-1 and 2-0 in the SEC, the Tigers have all but wrapped up a bowl berth -- not a given when the season began -- and could even crack the polls next week. The 13 points for Carolina is also a vindication for embattled defensive coordinator Ted Roof, whose unit had come under serious fire after their lackluster start to the season.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA LOST: With the Gamecocks' upcoming schedule (at Tennessee, at Arkansas, vs. Florida), any realistic hopes of wedging their way into the national title picture is almost certainly gone. Losing to a double-digit underdog at home won't do anything for their SEC East hopes, either; even after the win in Georgia, their margin-for-error in the divisional race is now eliminated. Oh, and Spurrier can only hold off the quarterback controversy for so long with Garcia playing like this. We think that's it.
THAT WAS CRAZY: No play more epitomized the often Keystone Cop-style display from both teams than the hideous interception thrown by Trotter into double coverage to Gamecock corner C.C. Whitlock (just three plays after Garcia's own wounded duck pick) ... only for Whitlock to get the ball stripped by Lutzenkirchen during the return, handing it right back to the Tigers. The drive would end, naturally, in a horrible lofted pass by Trotter to the back of Carolina's end zone, which was picked off by ... C.C. Whitlock.