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South Carolina vs. Auburn: Game Balls

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What. A. Game.

NCAA Football: Auburn at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

In my odds article published earlier in the week, I was talking about how I wanted a real statement win for South Carolina now that the Florida victory is looking very overhyped.

Say what you want about Bo Nix being out, but I believe this win qualifies as exactly that.

It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means, though. The Gamecocks did get some help from Auburn’s play-calling, a missed field goal, their inability to finish drives and maybe... the refs on that game-ending punt debacle.

Additionally, Jason Brown only threw 15 passes. Basically, Auburn knew what was coming — for the most part — and still couldn’t stop the Gamecocks.

“We literally lined up in the second half and ran the same two plays over and over and over and over and over again,” head coach Shane Beamer said in a postgame interview.

If you were watching the game, that quote sounds about right. The two plays Beamer referenced were later revealed to be a counter and a duo (inside run).

I also thought turnovers were going to be key in this game despite Auburn rarely turning the ball over. Although the Tigers only gave the ball back one time (the muffed punt), they indirectly had a turnover on that 4th and 1 call with just over three minutes left in the first half, which let the Cocks start their next drive with good field position.

If that *one play* didn’t happen and either Bigsby ran the ball or Finley snuck it past the line to gain, maybe South Carolina doesn’t tie the game there and we are having a different conversation right now.

In all, the Cocks only turned the ball over once, penalties were once again at a solid number, the run game was working and they were able to slow down Auburn when it really mattered.

USC may not get as lucky against a team like Clemson next week, but they still played with a lot of heart and well enough to secure the dub.

Anyway, on to the game balls!

Offensive Game Ball: ZaQuandre White

Congrats on your third straight game ball! Can anyone really argue with this decision either?

White led the team in rushing with 99 yards on 16 carries (6.2 YPC) AND led the team in receiving, taking in three receptions for 69 yards and a score.

It’s not only about the stats with him, though. Players who make the big plays in big moments are usually the ones I choose to award game balls to, and he was undoubtedly that guy Saturday night.

It was 4th and 3 from Auburn’s 28 yard line with just over six minutes left to play in the first half, and the score was 14-0, Tigers. If they didn’t convert here, it could have been game over (or at least it would have felt like it). Instead, White not only converts but takes it to the house as well on a 28-yard touchdown reception to cut Auburn’s lead to seven points.

Also, 37 of his 99 rushing yards came on those back-to-back touchdown drives. That’s a pretty solid time to catch fire, if you ask me.

It’s depressing to watch Kevin Harris take a backseat to White, but White has shown he is the guy in this running back room over the past few weeks.

Well done.

Defensive Game Ball: The USC Secondary

I feel like singling out one person here would be a sin, so I’m just going to include the whole group.

While the Gamecocks continued to struggle with defending the run, the pass defense was clicking.

Auburn quarterback TJ Finley killed the Cocks last season with LSU, but I guess a lot can change in a year!

He threw for only 188 yards — with 78 of those yards coming on both touchdown drives in the first quarter — and had a dreadful completion percentage of 53.1%.

We know the kind of year Jaylan Foster has been having, but Darius Rush and Carlins Patel each had a pair of pass deflections in this contest. Marcellus Dial played well, too.

Cam Smith may be sitting next week in the finale against Clemson after suffering a knee injury in the first half, so it’s good to see the secondary succeeding even without one of its best pieces in the unit.

Honorable Mention: Kai Kroeger

One of the reasons the Tigers struggled to put up points was because this man kept pinning them back deep in their own territory!

There were Auburn drives that started at their own 5, 8 and 17 yard lines.

It’s kind of hard to win a game when the opposing squad’s special teams unit forces you to drive the length of the field on multiple occasions.

Shall I say USC may be a punter factory? I know we don’t forget the legend of Joseph Charlton either!