Rapid Reaction: Thompson delivers in grand fashion for Gamecocks, but defense disgusts
A few quick thoughts from South Carolina’s near upset of Auburn on Saturday night, a 42-35 loss on the Plains:
What it means: It’s not time to give up on this football team, because the players sure haven’t. Despite being a three-touchdown underdog, the Gamecocks matched Auburn touchdown for touchdown until the fourth quarter when a second turnover in the end zone led to the Tigers’ game-winning drive.
What I liked: Steve Spurrier’s game plan and Dylan Thompson’s career outing on his birthday. With a nothing-to-lose mentality, it was a near flawless effort offensively from the HBC who rolled the dice on several successful fourth downs and managed a gutsy onside kick decision in the third quarter. The Gamecocks ran 86 plays for 535 yards, 402 of those coming through the air from Thompson.
What I didn’t like: Bad tackling on defense and empty red zone trips. Lorenzo Ward’s unit didn’t hold up its end of the bargain with another embarrassing effort. Auburn racked up 395 yards rushing and five touchdowns, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt. Three times inside Auburn’s 20 yard line, the Gamecocks came away with nothing. Two interceptions and an incomplete pass on fourth down midway through the fourth quarter trailing by a touchdown summed up the missed opportunities.
Who’s the man: Thompson. Without his five touchdown passes and precision on several fourth downs, the Gamecocks would not have been within striking distance late in the game thanks to yet another shoddy performance defensively. Thompson was knocked to the turf several times, but stood in the pocket and stepped into almost all of his career-high 29 completions.
Key play: There were several plays down the stretch that could’ve gone either way, but a swing pass to Brandon Wilds in the final minute with no timeouts was a head-scratcher. Wilds lost a yard and 17 seconds drained off the clock before South Carolina’s next snap. It was a hectic situation, but the first play of the Gamecocks’ final possession was a potential drive killer.
What’s next: The Gamecocks host Tennessee next week in need of two wins over their final four games for bowl eligibility.