Auburn takes a wild one on the Plains, 35-27

Four second half turnovers by South Carolina allowed Auburn to recover from a thirteen point first half deficit and emerge from Jordan-Hare Stadium with a 35-27 victory. The Gamecocks fell just short of the big road win despite the efforts of Alshon Jeffery, who finished with 192 yards receiving. The Tigers were led by Cam Newton and the ground game that picked up 334 yards rushing.

In years past, the Auburn Tigers were built two things: defense and running the ball. Although it was not quite the same defense as years past, this one managed to find itself in time, erasing a double digit deficit and forcing four second half turnovers that eventually decided the game. The Tiger running attack steadily wore down a Carolina defense that faced multiple threats carrying the ball for Auburn.

In the end, Auburn won its fifth straight against USC since the Gamecocks joined the SEC, and improved their all time record in the series to 7-1-1. In doing so, they defeated a team from the Palmetto State in nail-biting fashion for the second straight week.

"We played well tonight, but we were not good enough," said Spurrier following the close loss. "We had some good breaks here and there. It was a close game at halftime. We had our chances and we lost both of our fumbles. In close games against a good team, if we get good plays, we got to make them. We had a hard time stopping their quarterback from running and we could not run well. Auburn's defensive line got the best of us."

The Tigers scored 21 points in the second half as Newton continued to put on a show. The Auburn signal caller finished with 180 yards rushing and 158 yards through the air, and also accounted for five touchdowns.

"That is a great SEC win against a really, really good football team," said Auburn head coach Gene Chizik after the game. "You can just read Cam's numbers and they speak for themselves. He is a competitor. Cameron is a very humble guy who just comes to work every day. I am very proud of him and just proud of the whole team."

Steve Spurrier would pull an unexpected move in the fourth quarter, going to freshman quarterback Connor Shaw with the game on the line. Shaw was able to move the ball, but both drives ended in critical interceptions, the last one falling into the hands of Auburn defensive back Demond Washington in the end zone.

Auburn took one knee to end the game and sent Carolina to its fifth consecutive road loss dating back to last season.

In the early going, South Carolina quickly found out the difficulty of containing Newton, but it was USC's variety of offensive weapons, along with two key Tiger turnovers, that gave the Gamecocks a 20-14 halftime lead.

Auburn got the game started in the right way, taking the ball down the field after a USC punt on their first possession, and scoring on a 54 yard touchdown run from Newton. Newton would continue to flash that athleticism that has made him a budding star at Auburn, but his running back's inability to hold on to the football would be costly early on.

USC tied the game at seven apiece with a 30 yard touchdown pass from Stephen Garcia to Alshon Jeffery. Garcia looked like a different quarterback on the road than in years past, completing several tough throws and using the hard running of Marcus Lattimore and Brian Maddox to push the offense down the field.

Lattimore got the call early against the team he nearly chose, carrying eleven times for 31 yards and a touchdown in the first half. His counterpart in the AU backfield, Mike Dyer, was also relied on heavily, carrying eight times for 22 yards in the half.

In the second half, it would be Dyer breaking out as he hit the 100 yard mark on 23 carries, while Auburn's defense keyed on Lattimore to contain him to thirty eight yards rushing.

Carolina finished with just 79 yards rushing total on the night.

"There were some things that we did defensively where we gave up too many big plays, but we knew going into the game that we had to stop the run game without question," said Chizik. "We felt like we could get pressure on the quarterback and do some different things if we could get them to throw it and we stopped the run early. That, in our opinion, was the key to them having to throw the football and us having a chance for turnovers and that's kind of the way it unfolded."

Mike Dyer helped Auburn rack up their huge day against the league's top rushing defense coming in, as USC was just allowing 60 yards a game to their first three opponents.

Knotted at seven apiece, Chris Culliver gave the Gamecocks some momentum as he forced a fumble on a pass to Mario Fannin, and it was recovered by Shaq Wilson, who was getting his first start of the year in return from injury.

USC covered the short field of 44 yards in seven plays, culminating with Lattimore's TD to gain a 14-7 advantage. After the teams traded possessions, another fumble gave USC a short field with Wilson again making the recovery for his second turnover of the day of the Dyer drop.

Garcia and Jeffery made the Tigers pay once again, completing a six yard pass on third and goal to give USC another touchdown. The extra point was no good, but Carolina had silenced the Jordan-Hare crowd with a 20-7 lead.

But just like last week against Clemson, Auburn came up with a key drive at the end of the half, this time covering 76 yards in 12 plays. Newton torched USC with his legs, carrying for 36 yards on the possession, and scoring on a three yard run to cut the score and make it a 20-14 halftime deficit for the orange and blue.

Again hearkening back to the rally against Clemson, it was a tale of two halves for Auburn as they came alive for the three TD's in the second half. In doing so, they reversed the fortunes on Carolina, as this time two turnovers would translate to 14 quick points for the Tigers.

After missing a field goal on their first possession coming out of the locker room, Auburn forced a USC punt, and marched right down the field to take their first lead since the first quarter on Newton's third rushing touchdown of the night.

That lead would be extremely short lived, as Garcia hit a wide open Alshon Jeffery for a 69 yard gain and Tori Gurley scored two plays later to take the lead back. Both Jeffery and Gurley had excellent ballgames, with Jeffery leading the passing attack with eight grabs for 192 yards and two scores.

"Alshon had a great game," said Spurrier. "He is a big time receiver. Too bad we couldn't win it. We weren't good enough to win it." "What were his stats," questioned Garcia. "I mean, he played phenomenal. He caught pretty much everything that was thrown at him, but he normally does. We expect that from him now."

Not to be outdone, Gurley chipped in with a career high four catches for 36 yards and a score. However, that was the last time Carolina would put points up on the scoreboard as Auburn took a "bend but don't break" approach that allowed them to eventually outlast the Gamecocks.

After missing another field goal, Auburn forced the first fumble from Garcia as Daren Bates knocked it loose and it was recovered by T'Sharvan Bell.

Facing third and six from the Carolina seven yard line, Newton found Phillip Lutzenkirchen in the back of the end zone on a play action fake to give Auburn the lead for good at 28-27.

On a third and eight at the Auburn 43 yard line, Garcia was sacked and put the ball on the carpet again, and it was picked up by Mike Blanc to give Auburn the ball back.

The Tigers would cover 53 yards on nine plays and Newton hit Emory Blake on the screen pass for a twelve yard touchdown and a 35-27 AU lead.

With 6:23 remaining in the contest, Spurrier went with the young gun, replacing Garcia at QB with Connor Shaw. Whether it was a case of Garcia being shaken from a big hit or just a reaction to the turnovers, it will certainly be a hot topic among the Gamecock faithful for weeks to come.

"Connor has got to get a look," Spurrier said after the game. "He played well in there. We saw cover two defenses all night. We had our changes tonight but did not play well and again that is pretty much it."

Shaw was able to move the Gamecocks up the field, but was intercepted by Auburn LB Josh Bynes at the Tigers' eleven yard line. With a chance to run out the clock, Auburn was unable to gain a first down, giving the Gamecocks one last shot at tying the game.

They would come oh so close, but after once again moving the team into the red zone, a turnover went Auburn's way with Shaw's last pass bouncing off the hands of Jeffery before Washington grabbed it falling down to seal it.

"That's the reason I let it go, you know, find #1," said Shaw. "And you think he's going to come down with it but it just doesn't always happen like that."

Shaw was impressive after being forced into action, throwing for 70 yards on 4-8 passing but giving up the two costly turnovers.

After looking like an all-American at quarterback in the first half, Garcia would have a disappointing end to his night, but still finished 15-21 for 235 yards through the air and tied his career high with three TD passes.

USC falls to 3-1, 1-1 in the SEC after the loss tonight. The Gamecocks still hang onto second place in the SEC East as Florida moved to 2-0 in the league with a 48-14 domination of Kentucky.

South Carolina will have two weeks off before the Alabama Crimson Tide come rolling into Williams-Brice Stadium for another huge SEC game.

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