South Carolina — depending on when you were born — secured a once-in-a-lifetime upset of Auburn on Saturday.
The Gamecocks (2-2, 2-2 SEC) upended the 15th-ranked Tigers (2-2, 2-2 SEC) in Williams-Brice Stadium, holding off a late comeback to secure a 30-22 win, the program’s first over Auburn since Dec. 2, 1933, and first as an SEC member. It improves their all-time series record to 2-10-1.
Will Muschamp needed a full-team effort from his players to earn his first win over Auburn: Quarterback Collin Hill completed 15 of 24 passes for 144 yards and one touchdown with one interception, and added another score on the ground. A power run game led by Kevin Harris (25 carries, 83 yards, two touchdowns) and Deshaun Fenwick (12 carries, 68 yards) helped the Gamecocks to score crucial touchdowns as well.
But South Carolina’s defense had perhaps the greatest impact in the game: It limited sophomore quarterback Bo Nix to 24-of-47 passing for 272 yards and a touchdown, and it also nabbed three interceptions. Tigers running back Tank Bigsby was excellent, rushing 16 times for 111 yards and a score, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Nix’s turnovers.
A late Auburn defensive stop gave the Tigers a chance to send the game to overtime, but their 11-play, 71-yard drive fell short at the South Carolina 9 when Nix failed to convert on fourth down as time expired.
With that, here are three things we learned from South Carolina’s upset victory:
Bo Nix is struggling
The former five-star recruit and son of Auburn legend Patrick Nix has struggled mightily in the last three games, in which the Tigers are 1-2. He has two touchdown passes to four interceptions, a 53.9 completion percentage (62 of 115) and 5.5 yards per pass attempt. Nix, listed as a dual-threat QB, hasn’t been able to rely on his rushing ability, either: He has 41 attempts for 141 yards — a 3.4 yard-per-carry average — and one score.
Is that enough for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn to consider moving on from the sophomore? Perhaps it’s too early, but Malzahn’s offenses work best when they have a game-breaking quarterback running them. If Malzahn can’t get some improvement around Nix in the coming games, he’ll have to consider that option more with each passing week.
Thankfully for Auburn, it faces Ole Miss and LSU in its next two games: Those defenses have given up an average of 43.5 points per game.
Auburn is out of the College Football Playoff race
That much is given, even in this COVID-19-affected season: No team has ever lost two games and made the final four-team Playoff. That said, there’s still plenty left for Auburn to play for, as far as the postseason is concerned.
The last time Auburn started 2-2 was in 2016, and even then, three of the Tigers’ four opponents were ranked: No. 2 Clemson, No. 17 Texas A&M and No. 18 LSU. The good news is that, after starting 1-2 that year, Malzahn’s team responded with six wins to finish 8-5 and face Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
If the Tigers want to keep themselves in contention for a respectable bowl — perhaps even a New Year’s Day 6 bowl — then they have to respond similarly to that 2016 team. A controversial win over Arkansas on Oct. 10 keeps that a possibility, but any hope of salvaging this season starts with a trip to Vaught Hemingway to take on Ole Miss.
Jaycee Horn showed out at perfect times
Prior to Saturday’s game, the junior cornerback — despite garnering attention as a potential early-round NFL Draft pick — had no interceptions, two forced fumbles, 25 pass deflections and three sacks in two-plus seasons.
Horn was targeted eight times by Nix on Saturday, allowing only two completions and breaking up five passes. He also secured two of the Gamecocks’ three interceptions, even when matched up against Auburn’s leading receiver, Seth Williams.
It was the perfect time for Horn to pull down his first career INTs and for his stat line to match his level of play on the field.