Despite impressive stats, No.15 football Auburn fell to South Carolina after making a series of costly mistakes.
The 30-22 loss was the Tigers’ first loss at the Gamecocks since the 1930s. Defensive penalties, interceptions and big drops all played a part in the loss. The Tigers fall to 2-2 while the Gamecocks rise to 2-2.
Auburn’s two losses this season are on the road, and his next game is also a road game. The Tigers will need to put the loss behind it and build on the positives. But before we turn to Ole Miss, here’s how each individual position was scored at the end of the game:
If it hadn’t been for three interceptions, Bo Nix would have had a fantastic game. However, those three interceptions were critical in Auburn’s loss. They led to 21 points and Auburn lost just eight. Nix continued to compete and finished the game with 272 passing yards and 69 rushing yards. Its completion percentage was only 51%, but that doesn’t take into account any drops in its recipients or the time it had to throw it away. There are things he can lean on, but it was another poor performance on the road.
Running backs: C
True rookie Tank Bigsby had his second straight 100-yard game. Bigsby finished with 111 yards on 16 carries, averaging 6.9 yards per carry. He bounced off the defenders and pushed his way through piles of bodies, leaping to the other side to pick up several more yards. DJ Williams also ran for 17 yards and had two catches for 26 yards. There are still improvements to the running game, as the offensive line seeks consistency and running backs are factored into the game plan more.
Tight ends: C
Luke Deal made his first career reception, adding to the list of tight ends that took the passing game into account. Other than that and JJ Pegues’ appearance on the failed two-point conversion, the tight ends were much less noticeable than in previous games. John Samuel Shenker continued to hit the field as a tackle, where he helped open up some passing lanes, but they were otherwise silent.
Wide receivers: D
The wide receivers played a role in helping Nix rack up 272 passing yards, but they also made some big drops that lowered his completion percentage and blocked the drives. Wide receiver Eli Stove said there were just a few communication issues and small details to be worked out. Stove played well in his first game since being injured against Georgia, but Seth Williams was held to four catches on 12 targets. Williams also tipped the ball which was intercepted. Anthony Schwartz had six catches for 59 yards as well as a few drops.
Offensive line: D
To open the second half, the offensive line was called up for a false start. Linemen also had several other penalties that hurt the offense. They helped give Nix more time in the pocket than previous games, although that started to crumble as the game progressed. Nix has been sacked three times this game, and he’s had to make a number of runs on the run. Although the players have returned from injury, it doesn’t look like the top five have been settled yet.
Defensive line: C
The defensive line put more pressure on the quarterback, putting his hand on Colin Hill’s face, but he was unable to put his arms around the quarterback, finishing with zero sacks. The pass rush is critical, and it’s something Auburn has tried to focus on, but it hasn’t led to many results yet. The line improved its defense against the run, especially in the first half. He held the Gamecocks to 41 yards on 19 rushing attempts. South Carolina managed to find some shortcomings in the second half and finished with 153 yards.
Once again, Zakoby McClain and Owen Pappoe led the team in tackles, finishing with 13 and 10 tackles, respectively. McClain also made the team’s only sack, while Pappoe made the only interception. McClain and Pappoe helped stop the running backs who found holes, and they also made a few pass saves. They appear to be trying to keep the defense together from the center.
Corner half: D
The penalties really hurt the defense in the second half, Pappoe said. Two of those big penalties involved cornerbacks. Roger McCreary was called up twice for defensive pass interference, which sent the Gamecocks back on the field. Several of South Carolina’s big catches came just over the cornerbacks’ heads. Certainly those made by Shi Smith were just fantastic pieces. Overall, the high school held South Carolina to just 144 receiving yards. It will also improve once the pass rush is established. But the penalties were critical to the loss.
To add to the cornerback penalties, Smoke Monday added a face mask penalty and defensive pass interference in the second half. Both penalties helped the Gamecocks score records. The securities were also beaten on several large holds. They helped stop the race, but they also missed tackles and let the Gamecocks go. Jamien Sherwood finished with five tackles and Smoke Monday with one.
Special teams: B
Like the last game, kicker Anders Carlson must have scored a lot of points from Auburn. He threw three field goals, all within 40 yards, as Auburn couldn’t finish in the red zone. He did all three. He also had four touchdowns on six kickoffs, and the cover team allowed only one 16-yard kickoff return. Aidan Marshall only had to pitch twice, but averaged 45.5 yards per punt. The Gamecocks’ only punt return lasted just three yards. Bigsby had only one kickoff return and carried it 23 yards.
Auburn’s struggles in the red zone continue, and not all the blame can be placed on the execution of the players. Auburn relied solely on Nix and the passing game, rather than trying to start the running game. Instead of making the infamous half-time defensive adjustments, Auburn actually gave up more in the second half, which is becoming common for this 2020 squad. Clock management also left something to be desired.
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Auburn’s 30-22 loss to the Tigers in South Carolina