COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 15 Auburn's 30-22 loss at South Carolina on Saturday was its first to the Gamecocks in eight tries dating all the way to 1933. Here are three things we learned:
1. Turnovers cost Auburn: Auburn dominated nearly every facet of the first half. It outgained South Carolina 253-119. It converted 6 of 9 third downs, compared to just 3 of 7 for the home team. It averaged 4.8 yards per carry to the Gamecocks’ 2.2. It committed fewer penalties for fewer yards. It didn’t have to punt.
But the Tigers lost the turnover battle 3-1, thanks to a pair of Bo Nix interceptions. One was his fault. He didn’t see Jaycee Horn charging in front of a well-covered Ze’Vian Capers on third-and-11 to start the second quarter. The second one could have gone either way — Nix threw a ball slightly behind Seth Williams, who was able to get his hands on it, but the ball deflected away and Jaylin Dickerson came up with it.
South Carolina started both ensuing drives in Auburn territory. Those were its only drives of the first half that crossed midfield, and both reached the end zone.
South Carolina quarterback Collin Hill threw an interception of his own in the third quarter, which linebacker Owen Pappoe made a great play to grab off a Christian Tutt deflection, but Nix threw his third interception five plays later.
The Gamecocks scored 30 points Saturday. Twenty-one came off turnovers.
"We got to execute way better," receiver Eli Stove said. "We put them (the defense) in a lot of bad spots. They had three interceptions inside the 50, so it’s kind of hard to play with that."
2. Inconsistency is killing the Tigers: Had you watched only the first quarter Saturday, you might be surprised to find out Auburn lost. Because it looked like the better team at the start. It marched down the field for scores on each of its first two drives to take a 9-0 lead. South Carolina’s first two drives netted minus-12 yards on seven plays and resulted in a pair of punts.
It looked a lot like last week’s home win over Arkansas. The Tigers led that game 17-0 early in the second quarter. The defense came up with stops on the Razorbacks’ first five drives. But the visitors outscored Auburn 28-13 from there. It took a field goal in the final seconds (after a near turnover on a spike) to survive.
This week, it was South Carolina that outscored Auburn 30-13 after falling behind 9-0 early. And there was no late-game magic to save the Tigers.
3. Tank Bigsby needs more touches: For the third straight week, Auburn true freshman running back Tank Bigsby was the best thing going on offense. He gained 111 yards.
But he carried the ball only 16 times. Nix attempted 47 passes and rushed 15 times. The Tigers finished the game with a 36-47 run-pass split despite leading for more than half of the 60 minutes.
"He ran extremely hard again this week, you know, for the third week in a row, broke tackles, ran with an attitude, so he did a really good job," coach Gus Malzahn said. "I mean, he’ll be a factor moving forward.”