Auburn's punishing run game concerning for Spurrier, Gamecocks
Steve Spurrier had to feel a bit perplexed looking at his defense in practice this week.
Knowing the SEC’s worst front four isn’t going to be able to turn a complete 180 and dominate the trenches Saturday night against fifth-ranked Auburn, the Head Ball Coach went with the passive-aggressive approach when determining his team’s chances as a 17.5-point underdog.
“It is whatever it’s going to be,” Spurrier said on Auburn’s rushing attack. “We’ll use a bunch of guys up there and see if we can slow them down and stop them. They’ll obviously make some yards, but we beat Georgia. Georgia is actually number one in the conference running the ball and Auburn is probably two or three.
“You always have to have hope that good can happen like happened for us in the Georgia game.”
The Gamecocks have given up an SEC-high 15 rushing touchdowns this season and have accumulated just 23 tackles for loss through seven games, putting South Carolina 125th in the nation in stops behind the line of scrimmage.
“It seems like there’s a little bit of a transition,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “But they have talented players.”
The Tigers suffered their first loss of the season last time out and still haven’t found their offensive groove this season despite being in the thick of the SEC Championship and College Football Playoff picture.
Senior running back Cameron Artis Payne’s toted the football a league-high 126 times and is one of only two SEC ballcarriers averaging more than 100 yards rushing per contest.
Auburn’s hurry-up offense hit its stride during the second half of last season and Malzahn’s hoping for similar results during the home stretch. The Tigers haven’t been as efficient as they would like to be on first down, but that comes down to execution and establishing a rhythm according to Malzahn.
Malzahn said again this week he started wearing a visor in 2000 to mimic Spurrier, an offensive guru he idolized during the early portion of his coaching career. He doesn’t use the Fun ‘N Gun approach indicative of the HBC’s dominant offenses in the 1990s, but his run-heavy schemes can be just as potent when things go right.
While his primary focus is what other teams are doing defensively, Spurrier said he keeps up with happenings in the SEC and respects Auburn’s spread option approach.
“They have good blockers and a good scheme of things,” Spurrier said. “Some say they put a lot of guys in motion, but they’re blocking a similar scheme, and their quarterback is a runner too. When your quarterback can run, that’s a whole new thing for every defense. College football and a little bit in the NFL, they’re going to a little more quarterback runs.”