Gamecocks fall Hail Mary short of upsetting Auburn

uscfoot-17whiteSouth Carolina went into Jordan-Hare Stadium and pushed No. 4 Auburn to the brink in a shootout, but ultimately came up short, falling 42-35, as redshirt senior quarterback Dylan Thompson tied a school record with five touchdown passes and threw for 402 yards.

The Gamecocks got off to a quick start after electing to receive to start the game. On their second play, junior tailback Mike Davis busted a 24-yard run to get the ball out to midfield. Three plays later, facing a third-and-nine, Thompson hit sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper for a 12-yard gain. After a one-yard run from Davis, Thompson hooked up with junior wideout Shaq Roland for a 32-yard touchdown along the right pylon.

South Carolina was able to force a punt from Auburn, and subsequently marched right down the field again with 32 yards on two receptions from Cooper and a 28-yard run from Davis. Facing a second-and-11 at the Tigers’ 12-yard line, Thompson was intercepted by Tiger Cassanova McKinzy. Aubrun took advantage of the Gamecock turnover and put together an 11-play, 92-yard drive that Brandon Fulse capped off with a three-yard touchdown reception to equalize the game late in the first quarter.

The Gamecocks answered back with a 10-play drive that ended with Thompson connecting with a Cooper for the third time on the possession, this time for a 16-yard touchdown. After an illegal block on the return, Auburn opened its drive inside its own 10-yard line for the second-straight possession, but the Tigers were able to move the ball 93 yards on 10 plays, eight via its ground game, including a two-yard touchdown run from Cameron Artis-Payne.

With the game level at 14-14 midway through the second quarter, South Carolina was forced to punt, but after a 28-yard return by Auburn’s Quan Bray, the Tiger had the ball knocked loose and redshirt safety Chris Moody jumped on the ball for the Gamecocks. Facing a third-and-10, a facemask penalty on Auburn kept the Gamecocks’ drive alive. On the ensuing drive, Davis scored on a 27-yard run. The Tigers though responded two-and-half minutes later as quarterback Nick Marshall found a seam and ran for a 37-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21-21 just minutes before the end of the second quarter.

Coming out of the half, Auburn grinded out a 13-play drive with 11 plays coming on the ground. Marshall’s four-yard run gave the Tigers their first lead of the game at 28-21. The back-and-forth affair continued as Carolina, on a second-and-four from midfield, saw Thompson connect with Cooper across the middle and the receiver was able to outrun the Auburn secondary for a 51-yard touchdown.

Just 11 seconds later though, Auburn’s Ricardo Louis gave the Tigers the lead back with a 75-yard touchdown return on the kickoff. Trailing midway through the third, and unable to stop the Tigers’ offense, the Gamecocks went for it on a fourth-and-six from their own 45-yard line. Thompson found Cooper for a nine-yard gain to extend the drive. Davis followed that up with a 23-yard run, and three plays later Thompson found redshirt senior wide receiver Nick Jones for a 10-yard score to level the game at 35-35 with 2:20 left in the third quarter.

The Gamecocks continued to gamble as they attempted an onside kick on the ensuing play, which sophomore linebacker Skai Moore recovered to give the offense a chance to regain the lead. Carolina moved the ball down into the red zone, but Thompson was intercepted for the second time on the night.

As they did in the first half, the Tigers capitalized on the turnover. After moving the ball 71 yards on five plays, Marshall ran for a nine-yard touchdown, his third rushing score on the night, to take a 42-35 lead with 11:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. Carolina was able to get back into the red zone on the ensuing possession, having extended the drive twice on fourth down, but Thompson was unable to connect with Roland on a fourth-and-14 from Auburn’s 19-yard line.

The Gamecock defense was able to stop the Auburn offense on the ensuing possession to give its offense a chance with 1:08 left in the game. Thompson and the offense was able to convert on two third downs on the drive, but Auburn’s Jonathan Jones came up with his second interception of the night on a 41-yard pass attempt as time expired.

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