Auburn, Alabama (Oct. 25) – We anticipated a one-sided, high-scoring blow-out with Auburn’s potent, multi-faceted offense capable of dominating South Carolina’s incapable defense. However, the Carolina offense stepped up to the challenge to make up for inept defensive play by the Cocks “D”once again. Led by QB Dylan Thompson (29 for 50, 402 yards, 5 TDS, 3 INTs), the Gamecocks totaled 535 yards in total offense, converted on five fourth down attempts, and did not fall until Thompson’s final pass attempt was intercepted in the end zone by Tiger DB Jonathan Jones with :07 left to clinch a 42-35 Auburn victory.
Auburn cheerleaders had much to cheer about on Saturday as well as on Tuesday as the Tigers were picked as the third seed in the first ever CFP poll.
Led by QB Nick Marshall who ran for three TDs and passed for another among his 225 yards of total offense, the Tiger offense rambled all night through the inept Cock defense. RB Cameron Artis-Payne ran for 167 yards on 25 carries for one TD, and WR Louis Ricardo garnered 102 yards on three carries including a 75-yard jaunt. The Tigers tallied 551 yards in total offense. Auburn fans were as shocked as was this fan that the Tigers did not take control defensively as well as offensively. That “Old Ball Coach”, Steve Spurrier, called for trick plays and took risks early and often to keep his team in this game. As for the Gamecock defense, it did not play as bad as it did when we saw them against A&M (lost 52-28) or as improved as it had seemed when we watched them play Missouri (lost 21-20), but it gave up big plays and had no answers to stop the potent Tiger running attack. The winning score came on a nine-yard run by Marshall on a read-option through the middle, but the Cocks knocked twice again on the end zone door before the game ended with an exciting finish for the hometown fans among 87,451 in attendance. On top of an exciting game, St. Laurie and I were treated to an enjoyable weekend by our friends and Auburn alum, Charlie and Lynda Murren. Charlie and I came up with great seats in section 10 at Jordan-Hare Stadium while Laurie and Lynda opted to watch the game on a big screen at a great Auburn tailgate party set up by their fellow Auburn fans and Alum Bill and Janet Duerk and their neighbor Bill, a dedicated, die-hard Auburn fan.
One of Spurrier’s trick plays called for a double reverse HB option pass to wide-open QB Dylan Thompson.
SC got off to a surprisingly easy 7-0 lead on the game’s first possession when Thompson connected with WR Shaq Roland who dove over the near pylon for a 33-yard TD catch and run. Even more surprising, the Gamecock defense forced Auburn to punt after their first possession. The Cocks were on the move again into scoring range, but AU LB Cassanova McKinzy’s INT at the eight thwarted a bigger SC lead. Marshall then capped a 92-yard drive as he fired an 11 yard touchdown past to TE Brandon Fulse to even the score going into the second period. On a fourth and two from the SC 33, Thompson rolled left and quickly pitched to a wide open Mike Davis for 18 yards and a first down. The drive finished with Thompson’s 16-yard TD pass to Pharoh Cooper (7 receptions, 127 yards, two TDs) to give the Gamecocks a 14-7 lead.
Gamecock WR Pharoh Cooper goes high for a 16-yard TD snag.
Auburn’s offense could not be stopped again as a 93-yard drive culminated in a two-yard TD run by RB Cameron Artis-Payne. The next SC series resulted in a punt, but three missed tackles later by SC, AU’s Quan Bray fumbled, and Chris Moody recovered to put the Cocks back in business at the Auburn 42. Tack on a facemask penalty to the 27 and Thompson hit Davis out of the backfield down the sideline for a TD pass and a 21-14 SC lead. Marshall reclaimed the playing surface at Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Tigers with a 37-yard TD gallop to tie the score before halftime. Neither defense seemed to have a solution against the other’s offense. It was exciting offensive action as the home crowd of 87,451 was raucous one minute and frustrated the next. It still makes us wonder if anybody teaches good defense anymore. The teams went into their locker rooms to make some defensive adjustments, whereas the offenses just had to keep on doing what they were doing. Would we see a difference in the second half?
Emotions swung back and forth from exhilaration to frustration throughout the game for the Auburn faithful.
Both schools’ bands performed at half time. South Carolina’s Power Sound of the Southeast Band performed swing music while the Auburn University Marching Band played themes from super heroes. I hoped both defenses would come out swinging in the next half and somebody could be the hero defensively to make some stops. Charlie wondered why former Auburn HC Pat Dye deserved to have the field named after him since he’d never won a national championship like Shug Jordan did in ’57. Gene Chizik is forgotten since the 2010 championship he won while current HC Gus Malzahn, who was the offensive coordinator in 2010, seems primed to bring another back soon. QB Cam Newton’s statue already sits outside of Jordan-Hare near likenesses of Auburn’s other two Heisman winners, Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan. Speaking of Heisman, he coached at Auburn from 1895 to 1899. A street named after him runs near the stadium.
A statue of Auburn Heisman Trophy winner stands outside of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
To start the second half, Auburn started deep from its 12 this time, but once again the Auburn offense went the distance as Marshall ran through the easily dissected Gamecock middle for a five-yard TD to now lead, 28-21. The Gamecock offense, however, wasn’t about to let Auburn start to dominate the second half as they had kept the game close throughout the first. On a slant pass over the middle to Cooper crossing from the right, SC kept pace once again for a 51-yard score, 28-28. The SC defense – what defense? On AU’s next play after a touchback, WR Ricardo Louis sprinted around left end on a jet sweep untouched for a 75-yard TD jaunt. Was the Cock offense finished? Not quite. HC Steve Spurrier gave his offense every opportunity to pull off the upset he wanted badly. To keep pace with the Tigers, he knew his offense could settle for nothing less than touchdowns. On fourth and six from the 40, a completion to cooper that almost got picked gave SC a first down at the 49. The gamble paid off as another slant pass to WR Nick Jones for Thompson resulted in six points from ten yards away. Spurrier needed a defensive stop to get the ball and take back the lead as the third period was about to end. He decided to put the ball back into his offense’s hands, and he did. His Gamecocks played the onside kick well keeping their bodies between the ball and Auburn as they waited for the kick to cross the 45. First down, Auburn. The Cocks were on the move again. They converted a third and three at the 25 into a first down. Under pressure this time, Thompson lofted a pass into the end zone where Jonathan Jones picked it to give AU possession from their 20 much to the satisfaction and relief of the Orange and Blue-clad fans in Jordan-Hare. What Spurrier feared though became reality. His defense entered the field of play and 80 yards later, Marshall provided Auburn’s go-ahead score from the nine in just six plays.
QB Nick Marshall led the Tigers on six touchdown drives against a porous Gamecock defense.
SC’s offense had to come back out to get seven, maybe eight this time to pose a bigger challenge and to keep the clock ticking to avoid playing more defense. Twice, Thompson and offense converted fourth downs into firsts. The third fourth down conversion attempt was not the charm as Thompson’s pass fell incomplete on fourth and eleven at Auburn’s 19. Spurrier probably considered a FG useless since his defense could not keep AU out of the end zone all evening. The Tigers took over on downs. The Cocks held them to a third and eight on the AU 38. At this point, I thought Spurrier should have taken one of his two remaining time-outs to get a defensive play called. He didn’t. He must have figured to leave that bullet in his chamber for the offense. That is if they could stop the Tigers here. AU converted. Using timeouts, the Cocks forced a punt at midfield. South Carolina had the ball on their 15 with only 1:08 left and no TOs. A completion and a hands to the facemask put SC on the AU 41 with seven ticks remaining. DB Jones made a diving catch in the end zone to capture Auburn’s sixth victory (6-1, 3-1) in an exciting yet “defenseless” seesaw battle that kept fans from both schools on edge. AU fans celebrated and eventually headed back to darkened tailgate parties as some fierce challenges lie ahead on the way to the College Football Playoff. But wait! They probably heard about some controversy after the game. Two Auburn defenders on the last play of the game both wore number one jerseys. It could have been a 15-yard penalty and another shot at the end zone for SC, but the penalty was detected after the officials had left the field. We can’t imagine how many overtimes there could have been had they tied. However, it was said by someone that Spurrier would have gone for two for the win rather than put his porous defense back on the field.
Auburn mascot Aubie the Tiger.
The Tigers head to The Grove next week to visit Ole Miss (6-1,3-1) , fresh off their 10-7 loss, their first, to LSU last Saturday. Ahead on November 15 and 29 respectively, they face two opponents on the road with major revenge plans for last season’s last-minute AU wins on memorable game-winning plays. They will first face No. 9 Georgia (6-1) in their traditional rivalry and then bang helmets with archrival Alabama, ranked No. 3 in the Iron Bowl. The Tide’s been waiting for this one. Even if Auburn wins their four remaining games, they may meet the Bulldogs again in the SEC championship, a difficult task at hand beating the same team twice in a few short weeks. If AU sweeps, it will be a shoo-in for the first CFP. SC hosts Tennessee and hopes to get back on the positive side of its 4-4, 2-4 record to become eligible for bowling. Florida, South Alabama, and a rivalry at Clemson remain on this year’s slate. CFF.com ventures to Boone, NC for the first time to witness the inaugural FBS season for two Sunbelt schools as the Appalachian State Mountaineers (2-5,1-2) host the Georgia State Panthers (1-7,0-5). Why is ESPN3 broadcasting this game, especially at 3:30?
Extra points: Arriving at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta, Charlie and Lynda picked us up there and we headed to Auburn to tour around and check out the campus. We finished up by bar hopping around the Plain that included stops at watering holes such as Moe’s Original BBQ (we liked the décor and music selections), The Halftime (largest and most diverse beer selections), and Fink’s (enjoyed the appetizers there). We had planned to check out the night-time atmosphere at the War Eagle Supper Club, but we got there at 8:30 and it didn’t open until 9 pm. We opted for dinner at a Logan Roadhouse before turning in. Our day started at 3:45 am and kickoff the next day would be at 6:30 pm after a few rounds of tailgating. St. Laurie was feeling tired. Not me.
Charlie parked us near the Auburn Ag Center at a place he and Lynda know where to catch up with Dave and Janet Duerk, fellow AU Alums and classmates. We hooved around campus again and met up with our friends from home in NJ, Bill and Jill Miller, who hosted a tailgate on a fraternity lawn on Thach Road with their daughter Carlye who will be graduating with her degree in Fashion Design from Auburn in December. Our original plan included having our daughter Alex join us from South Carolina where she is a senior and best friends with Carlye (a third friend who went to High school with them, Emily, is a senior at Alabama, so the three close friends will have rivalries that will last a lifetime), but Alex’s plans fell through to let her come down for a visit. We enjoyed their tailgate party with them and other friends at a BBQ they had catered by a local establishment, Jim and Mike’s. Good luck and “War Eagle!” to Carlye at the start of her new career in the world of fashion.
AU Dance Team
Laurie and I ventured back to meet Charlie and Lynda at their tailgate party hosted every game by the Duerks, and they intercepted us to head over to a big tailgate party hosted by the History Channel. They brought along a huge smoker on a tractor trailer, and gave out free food and soft drinks, had a few rides (a bucking alligator promoting “Swamp People”) and games. Laurie and Janet won gift boxes promoting “American Pickers” by picking out the prizes with large clamps. The History.com Tailgate Tour had already stopped this year at Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, and Florida campuses.
The History.com Tailgate Tour followed us to Auburn.
Dave and Janet along with their friend Bill have a fantastic BBQ set up! Dave and Bill rigged up a trailer on their own (see pic below) with everything they need to host a lot of AU friends (even some SC people were there). Their rig includes a smoker, grill, big serving table with all the fixings, an oven for warming, and a full ice chest. Living within a short distance from campus, they set up after 2 pm every Thursday as allowed by the Ag Center off Donahue Street. Bill gave me the official tour of their home-built tailgate trailer. He dedicates himself every home game to set up, cook, clean, serve, and host along with Dave –a labor of love. A die-hard Auburn fan, Bill usually sticks around the tailgate while the game is on and watches it all on the big screen set up under the canopies. Dave heads into Jordan-Hare more often than not, but has no problem hanging around just to tailgate like Bill. They start on Thursdays delivering the rig and setting up the generator. On Sundays, they pack it all up and bring it all back. First class all the way. Great BBQ and great Auburn hospitality! A “War Eagle” to all of the great people who met on the Plain this past Saturday including the fans Charlie and I sat next to in section 10, row 49. Auburn is truly a great football tailgating venue.
As friends watc Mississippi State play Kentucky on the big screen before the Auburn-SC kickoff, Bill and Dave’s homemade tailgate rig keeps the BBQ warm and the drinks cold.
Collegefootballan.com entered this season having seen the Gamecocks post an 8-0 record over our history starting with them in 1995. This season, they’ve lost all three games we attended. Spurrier is 0-6 as South Carolina coach versus Auburn, and SC is now 0-4 in games played at Auburn. The Tigers have won eight in a row over the Cocks since 1933.
Charlie predicts that Steve Spurrier will retire after the season. I say Defensive Coordinator Lorenzo Ward is gone or demoted, and the rest of his defensive staff are all goners. With all the attention on Jadaveon Clowney over the past few years, very little development was going on for others then or since. That defense needs some new coaching and/or better recruiting.
The Tiger defense stops Mike Davis of USC for a short gain.