Key plays, game balls, and a burning question after South Carolina got bowl eligible with a win over Auburn.
Three key plays
1. White slips out of the backfield
South Carolina, down 14-0, was starting to show signs of life but still needed a spark.. Kevin Harris picked up a couple of first downs rushing, and Josh Vann had a first down catch. However, the Gamecocks faced a third and six from the 31. Zaquandre White carried up the middle for three yards, a sure sign that South Carolina was planning to go for it on fourth down. And they had the perfect call, a play that has worked all season. At the snap everyone rolled right, except for White, who slipped out of the backfield to the left. Jason Brown threw back to White for the first down and much more. White was so open that Nick Muse began celebrating while White was still around the 20. Fortunately for him, White scored on the 28-yard touchdown and South Carolina was back in the game.
“It was the same play we scored on against Missouri last week, we just doctored it up, jazzed it up a little,” Shane Beamer said.
2. PBU/Busted screen
It’s impossible to pick one of these over the other. Auburn’s last two drives ended on great defensive plays by South Carolina. The last drive ended when Brad Johnson blew up a bubble screen to Demetris Robertson, making a solid tackle for no gain on third and eight. The drive before, it was third and seven at midfield and TJ Finley tried to hit Ja’Varrius Johnson on the sideline. Carlins Platel made a perfect play on the ball to break up the pass. Auburn had to punt after both plays, and the Tigers were 0-3 on third down in the fourth quarter after going 6-11 in the first three.
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3. The previous play is under review
South Carolina had a chance to run out the clock but failed to do so after Josh Vann was unable to hold on to a third down pass. South Carolina gave Auburn all sorts of misdirection before the punt, first huddling with the offense and then having punter Kai Kroeger line up in the shotgun before dropping back to punter depth. The snap was a little low, but Kroeger was able to field it and get the punt off. It was short and took an Auburn bounce - off the leg of Auburn’s Jaylin Simpson. All the players saw it - and Simpson jumped away from the ball - and RJ Roderick picked up the live ball. The officials initially ruled it was Auburn’s ball. The play went to review, where the most compelling evidence was Simpson’s guilty reaction. But the officials saw enough to overturn the ruling on the field and give the ball to South Carolina, who was able to run out the clock.
“They obviously made the correct call, that’s what instant replay is for,” Beamer said.
Two game balls
White rushed 16 times for 99 yards and led the Gamecocks with three catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. He was explosive, with runs of 16 and 33 yards and catches of 28 and 40 yards, and there were several times he turned nothing into something, or losses into no gain.
“He brings great energy to our team on and off the field,” Beamer said. “It was awesome to see.”
Platel was pressed into duty after Cam Smith was injured in the first half. He responded with a pair of pass breakups, including the critical deflection in the fourth quarter to force a punt.
One burning question
Can they do it again?
Clemson is coming in off its best game of the season, a 48-27 win over #13 Wake Forest. Of course, South Carolina probably played its best game of the season against Auburn. It wasn’t always pretty (allowing almost 200 yards rushing to Auburn, including 164 on 22 carries for Tank Bigsby, or only passing for 157 yards), but South Carolina did what it had to do. White and Kevin Harris can chew up yards on the ground and occasionally break a big gain. The defense and special teams have a knack for big plays. Making a bowl game is quite an accomplishment, but in 10 or 20 years, a win over Clemson would be remembered a lot more.