I realize this game wasn't really Steve Spurrier and Gus Malzahn directly calling plays against each other. This was Gus Malzahn against Spurrier's DC and Spurrier against Ellis Johnson - his former DC at South Carolina. It felt like a dual between the two though, as the game was such a back-and-forth for the offenses.
Auburn faced Spurrier's absolute best effort on Saturday night and came away with the victory. I've said it on Twitter a few times already, but not many coaches would go for it on 4th down as many times as Spurrier did last night. Not just on 4th and short, either. Spurrier went for it on nearly every fourth down. The only one they didn't go for resulted in them keeping the ball anyway by virtue of Quan Bray fumbling a very good punt return.
It wasn't pretty and it had many of us screaming at our defense, but I'm not too worried about this going forward to be honest. I may be in the minority and I may be crazy, but I feel good about the fact that we faced everything in Spurrier's considerable arsenal of tricks and plays and came away with the win.
Let's get into the Goods and Bads.
Nick Marshall. Marshall played a near flawless game on Saturday night. He had touchdowns throwing and running the ball and even caught a pass from Jonathon Wallace. He was 12-14 for 139 yards passing. He ran 10 times for 89 yards. He accounted for 3 touchdowns on the ground and one in the air. Marshall looked fantastic on Saturday night and I don't think we really could have asked anything more of him.
Jonathan Jones. Jones pulled in two interceptions Saturday night to bring his total to four in the last two games and five on the year. I think teams are going to start looking away from Jones very soon. He was also called for a pass interference that could have been a game-changing play for the second week in a row, but we'll get to that in a bit. Auburn's secondary could be very good if they just had a little help.
Cameron Artis-Payne. CAP is an excellent running back. I know many are wanting to see more of Roc Thomas (and we did last night), but CAP showed why he's the starting running back with 167 yards on 25 carries.
Brandon Fulse. It's hard to believe his touchdown grab in this game was the first of his career. Fulse caught two passes, but they were two very big passes. It was nice to see the Senior have such a good game.
Kris Frost. Frost played an excellent game at linebacker. It appears that Justin Garrett's move to linebacker and talk that he could supplant Frost as the starting Will LB may have lit a spark underneath Frost.
Auburn's Offense In General. The defense had a rough night, but the offense played about as well as we've seen it play this season. The pace and tempo were there, the sweeps were working, the zone read was run to near perfection, and the Tigers scored when they needed to score. It was a very well-called game by Auburn's offensive coaching staff.
The Officials. And I think both sides can speak to this. I still don't know what the referee saw when flagging Jones for pass interference in the end-zone late in the game. I don't know how in the world the official missed Josh Holsey getting straight tackled on one big South Carolina gain. Then they missed Auburn having two #1s in the game at the same time on the final play of the game. There have been plenty of questionable calls by referees this year, it seems.
Having Two #1s in the Game. Yes, the officials missed this, but why did it happen in the first place? How in the world did our coaches miss that we would have this issue if we put Duke in on the Hands team for a Hail Mary? Have we just not practiced Hail Mary plays this season? Was this a last second decision rather than a "hands team" package? I find it hard to believe Auburn hasn't planned for this and didn't have a set in place. It's just very strange that such a simple issue was missed by our own coaches.
No Pass Rush. Our DBs are not bad. We actually have some very good DBs this season. What we do not have is anything remotely resembling a pass rush with our front four. The DBs will get beat eventually if the QB has all day to throw the football. If we have to continuously bring pressure on blitzes, then we're going to hang our DBs out to dry with no help. Dylan Thompson is a good QB and South Carolina's offense averages scoring 30 points/game, so it's not like the defense was torched by a bad offense, but Auburn will see more good offenses going forward and are going to have to find some way to get a pass rush very soon or else we're in for a lot of nail biters and probably at least one more loss.
My Collared Shirt. I'm sorry. I wore a collared shirt with the goofy knickers outfit I had on yesterday because I really didn't think it would matter. If you remember our superstitions post from the beginning of the season, then you remember that my teams never win if I wear a collared shirt. I always intended to change out of it before the game because of the temperature prediction, but I just didn't do it until halftime.
I'm sure I've missed something, but those are my immediate thoughts. What are yours?