Auburn improved its record to 2-0 in the SEC and 4-1 overall with the 48-7 victory going into an offweek while the Gamecocks slipped to 2-3 overall and 0-3 in the conference.
South Carolina, trying to play with backup quarterback Antonio Heffner filling in for injured starter Blake Mitchell, was no match for a quick and aggressive Auburn defense by senior middle linebacker Travis Williams, truly a man on a mission Saturday night. He led the Tigers with 11 tackles, including nine in the first half when there was any doubt on who the winner would be.
The visitors managed one first down in the first quarter, another one in the second and just one more in the third before the Auburn starters were put on the bench for the final quarter.
They didn't move into Auburn territory until less than seven minutes remained on a scoring drive that featured a 45-yard pass to break up the shutout with 6:14 remaining in the game.
Williams said he wanted the shutout against his hometown team, who didn't offer him a scholarship five years ago, but he wasn't going to let the late TD spoil his special evening.
"I am not into the trash talk, but when I go home to Columbia (South Carolina), I can hold my head up high and wear my Auburn football gear," the senior said with a smile.
His position coach, Joe Whitt, said he was thrilled for one of his all-time favorites. "Travis is a tremendous football player and an even better person," Whitt said. "I couldn't be happier for him."
Head coach Tommy Tuberville told the team in the locker room to play hard for Williams as well as former Gamecock Kenny Irons, who was beaming after the victory. "I was hoping we would score 60 on them, but 48-7 is pretty good," he said with a gleam in his eye.
Tuberville said that Williams settled down and played his best game of the season. "Travis was all over the field," the coach noted. "He's getting better.
"He was trying to play everybody's position the first few games. He's just trying to coach too much. We've asked a lot of him. This game, our players said to play your game and we are going to help you out.
"We've come together as a team a lot more in the last few weeks. We still have some things to work out. We played a lot of guys tonight and it will play off. It is fun to see this team getting better and better."
After a quick three and out for the visitors, who burned two timeouts on the possession after winning the toss and asking for the football, the Tigers scored on their first possession.
"Our crowd was great tonight," Williams noted. "They gave us a big boost out there. Auburn fans are great."
Kenny Irons was given the honor of getting the ball on Auburn's first play, a 14-yard gainer on a swing pass, and he finished the eight-play, 50-yard drive on a one-yard run at right guard. The Auburn offensive line blasted a huge hole and Irons was untouched as he ran into the end zone at the 10:21 mark of the first quarter.
Ben Obomanu's touchdown catch with 22 seconds remaining in the first half gave the Tigers a commanding 31-0 lead at intermission.
The Tigers had to convert a fourth down and two play at the 28-yard line to keep the drive moving. Cox, working from the shotgun, saw left end uncovered and raced to the sideline for an eight-yard gain.
Another member of Auburn's Carolina connection, Travis Williams, set up the next points by stripping the football from QB Antonio Heffner at the USC 22 after a 58-yard punt by Kody Bliss had changed the field position. Wayne Dickens came out of a big pile with the football.
Auburn used twin deep return men, Tre Smith and Lee Guess, on several of the punt returns. It paid dividends when Smith raced 23 yards with a 35-yard punt to the USC 32 to set up Auburn's second touchdown drive.
From there the Tigers scored in four plays. The biggest one was a 19-yard pass over the middle to Courtney Taylor, who came off the bench for his first action since the opening series of the Ball State game.
Brad Lester, following a huge surge from the left side of the line, blasted into the end zone from four yards out on a handoff from Cox to stretch the lead to 17-0 with seven seconds left in the first quarter.
The Gamecocks, who had just one first down in the opening quarter, could manage only one more in the second quarter as the Tigers added a pair of second period scores to make the lead 31-0 at the break.
The first was a 55-yard play drive that took 10 plays. Kenny Irons blasted in at left tackle from two yards out with 7:45 left in the half.
The Tigers missed on their next scoring opportunity after Spurrier gambled on fourth and two inside his own territory. The center snapped the football to the QB who was in the shotgun formation and not expecting the ball. The Tigers took over at the ?? but couldn't move and Vaughn was wide left on a 46-yard field goal attempt.
The Tigers got the football back at their own 19 with 2:03 left and one timeout. They used one minute and 41 seconds to put the ball in the end zone.
At the break the Tigers held a 230-78 edge in total offense and had not allowed the Gamecocks to convert any of their six third down situations.
Both teams went three and out on their opening possession of the third quarter. Auburn drove 65 yards on nine plays the next time it got the ball, even though Cox missed a couple of open receivers. The lefty did connect with Anthony Mix on a third down play to set up the score.
Lester got his second TD of the evening, following Slaughter in at right tackle from a yard out with 7:43 left in the third period.
The kickoff coverage team and the defense set up the next points. With Zach Kutch kicking off for the first time in the game, he put the football near the goal and near the sideline. The return was only to the 10 and a block in the back penalty put the ball on the five.
The Gamecocks couldn't move against a fired up defense and AU got the ball back in great field position as Smith returned a punt to the 22. However, the Tigers were three and out from there and kicked a 39-yard Vaughn field goal with 4:17 left in the third quarter to make the score 41-0.
Four plays later the Tigers were ahead 48-0 as they moved 39 yards with Carl Stewart scoring at right guard from a yard out with 14:27 left in the game.
The Gamecocks avoided the shutout with a 45-yard pass from Heffner to Sidney Rice, who got behind cornerback Montae Pitts in the end zone. However, Blake Field and the reserves chewed up most of the rest of the time in the game as the Tigers now have two weeks to prepare for their first road trip to Arkansas.
Auburn improved its all-time record to 5-1-1 vs. South Carolina. First-year USC head coach Steve Spurrier said, "They are a pretty good team. They are better than us. Obviously, we could have given them a better game, but I don't what else we could have done. When you can't run or throw well, you don't play well.
"Offensively, we couldn't stay on the field. Defensively, we didn't tackle well."
Commenting on the Tigers, Spurrier said, "Auburn is a very good team. They have athletes all over the field. They had excellent protection on the quarterback. It seemed like we blitzed all around, but could never get to him."
In other locker room, the emotion was radically different. "This really means a lot to me," Travis Williams said. "It almost brings tears to my eyes. I have been waiting five years to prove a point and I am just happy for my team."