Depending on when you were born, South Carolina had a one-time surprise for Auburn on Saturday.
The Gamecocks (2-2, 2-2 SEC) turned the Tigers upside down in 15th place (2-2, 2-2 SEC) at the Williams Brice Stadium and canceled a late comeback to get a 30-22 Achieving victory, the first of the program over Auburn since December 2, 1933 and initially as a SEC member. It improves her record in all series to 2-10-1.
Will Muschamp took a full team effort from his players to get his first win over Auburn: Quarterback Collin Hill completed 15 of 24 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown with an interception and added another score on the ground. A power run game under the direction of Kevin Harris (25 transfers, 83 yards, two touchdowns) and Deshaun Fenwick (12 transfers, 68 yards) also gave the Gamecocks decisive touchdowns.
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But the South Carolina defense had perhaps the greatest impact on the game: it limited second quarterback Bo Nix to 24 of 47, passing 272 yards and a touchdown, and also scoring three interceptions. Tigers running back Tank Bigsby were excellent, running 16 times for 111 yards and a score, but it wasn't enough to beat Nix's turnovers.
A late defensive stop at Auburn gave the Tigers an opportunity to send the game into overtime, but their 11-game 71-yard drive fell short in the South Carolina 9 when Nix failed to move down to fourth after time ran out converted.
Here are three things we learned from South Carolina's angry victory:
Bo Nix is fighting
Former five-star recruit and son of Auburn legend Patrick Nix has had big problems in the last three games the Tigers are 1-2. He has two touchdown passes for four interceptions, a completion percentage of 53.9 (62 of 115), and 5.5 yards per pass attempt. Nix, listed as a QB with Double Threat, couldn't rely on his urgency either: he's got 41 tries for 141 yards – an average of 3.4 yards per carry – and a score.
Is that enough for Auburn's coach Gus Malzahn to consider a change from the second year? Maybe it's too early, but Malzahn's crimes work best when led by a groundbreaking quarterback. If Malzahn can't improve on Nix in the upcoming games, he'll have to consider this option more with each passing week.
Fortunately for Auburn, the next two games will face Ole Miss and LSU: These defenses gave up an average of 43.5 points per game.
Auburn was eliminated from the College Football Playoff race
So much has happened in this season affected by COVID-19: No team has ever lost two games and reached the last playoff with four teams. Even so, Auburn still has a lot to play for when it comes to the postseason.
The last time Auburn started 2-2 was in 2016, and even then, three of the Tigers' four opponents were ranked: Clemson # 2, Texas A&M # 17, and LSU # 18. The good news is that Malzahn's team reacted after starting the 1-2 1-2 this year with six wins to 8-5 and faced Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
If the Tigers want to fight for a respectable bowl – maybe even a New Year's Day bowl – then they have to react in a similar way to the 2016 team. A controversial win over Arkansas on October 10th thinks it might, but any hope of saving this season begins with a trip to Vaught Hemingway to face Ole Miss.
Jaycee Horn showed up at perfect times
Prior to Saturday's game, the junior cornerback – despite attracting attention as a potential NFL draft pick in the early round – had no interceptions, two forced fiddles, 25 pass diversions and three sacks in more than two seasons.
Horn was targeted eight times by Nix on Saturday, allowing only two completions and five passes. He also secured two of the Gamecocks' three interceptions, even when facing Auburn's leading receiver Seth Williams.
It was the perfect time for Horn to finish his early career INTs and adjust his statistical line to match his level of play on the field.