In a game that Auburn very much deserved to lose, the Tigers had one final chance to win stolen from them by the officials on a controversial ending to the game in the final three minutes. Auburn burst out to another big lead in the first half, and yet again gave things up and failed to produce anything of consequence in the second half.
Much like last week, Auburn began the game fast and efficient. The first quarter was all Tigers as TJ Finley led the offense to two touchdowns. The game began with a drive that ended in an Auburn punt after Finley missed on a couple of deep passes, but Auburn’s defense held the Gamecocks to a three-and-out and got good field position after a punt at the Gamecock 49. A combination of mid-range passing from Finley and hard running by Tank Bigsby ended up with a 10-yard scoring strike from Finley to Demetris Robertson.
After the score, Auburn’s defense allowed South Carolina to move into Tiger territory, but when Jason Brown went for the end zone and Donovan Kaufman picked the ball off at the goal line after playing center field and waiting for the ball. He returned it out to the Auburn 39, and the Tigers went to work again. This drive too 7 plays to span the 61 yards and Tank Bigsby finished it off with a 7-yard scoring burst off the right edge.
Unfortunately, we’d end up seeing a tale of two quarters in the first half. South Carolina got the ball after the two teams traded punts for their first full possession of the second quarter, and went to work. After a steady diet of Kevin Harris to reach Auburn territory, the Gamecocks elected to for the conversion on fourth and a yard, and Brown found Zaquandre White out of the backfield for a wide open touchdown to put South Carolina on the board.
Auburn moved out to its own 35-yard line on the ensuing possession, only to face a 4th and short, where Mike Bobo called an intricate pass route instead of trying to power ahead for a single yard, and the Tigers failed to convert. Only six plays later, Brown hit Trai Jones out of the backfield for a 3-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14-14. Auburn was able to move past midfield in the final seconds of the first half, but couldn’t get close enough for either a field goal or a hail mary throw.
In the third quarter, the Tigers forced a three-and-out to start with the defense refreshed after the intermission, and went on a 9-play drive highlighted by a 26 yard run from Tank. 63 yards later, the Tigers settled for a 37-yard Ben Patton field goal to take the lead at 17-14 with 8:40 to go in the third quarter.
After falling behind, South Carolina went back on the offensive, and took little time to drive 67 yards in just 6 plays, with Jason Brown finding Josh Vann for a 7-yard touchdown to put the Gamecocks on top for the first time at 21-17.
Auburn answered with a strong drive, led in large part by Tank Bigsby, and kept alive by a 4th and 16 conversion from Finley to Shedrick Jackson. The Tigers moved to a first and goal situation at the Gamecock 6-yard line, but on second down Finley fumbled the snap and a third down pass fell incomplete. As Ben Patton came on to attempt a 25-yard field goal from the right hash, he pulled it right and the Tigers got nothing after a 15-play, 67-yard drive.
On South Carolina’s next drive, a pair of runs from White netted 39 yards and put them in Auburn territory where they looked to extend their lead, but after a Gamecock timeout, the Tiger defense stood up with a third down sack to force a punt, which resulted in a touchback. After a couple of strong runs from Tank, Auburn bogged down around midfield, and a third down incompletion forced another punt with 8:24 left and the Tigers still trailing 21-17.
Auburn was able to force a fourth down and a punt from South Carolina, and started an offensive drive with more than five minutes left in the game. TJ Finley hit Shedrick Jackson on the opening play for 28 yards, but an end-around, an incomplete pass, and a bungled screen led to fourth and long and another punt that left little time. The Tigers had to use their timeouts, but eventually stopped the Gamecocks on third and medium. Auburn set up to receive a punt, and South Carolina went to recover the kick after they thought the ball touched Jaylin Simpson on a bounce.
After a review, the officials decided that the ball somehow touched Simpson, and the Gamecocks took possession and kneeled out the clock to win 21-17.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
It’s Tank. Come on. The dude was wild and ran for 164 yards on 22 carries, but didn’t even get the opportunities he needed to ensure that Auburn would win the game.
It’s the Iron Bowl. Oh boy. Next weekend at 2:30 pm CST on CBS at Jordan-Hare. What to expect? I have no idea how fun this will be.