Nearly 24 hours after Auburn hung on to beat South Carolina 24-17, the win is starting to look a lot better for the Tigers. What Auburn accomplished in Columbia shouldn’t be underestimated. The Tigers went into a hostile environment and played against a team that had been practicing for them for more than three weeks.
Steve Spurrier’s offense was not what Auburn’s coaches had seen on film. In fact, Spurrier installed his new offense more than three weeks ago. He waited until Thursday night to unveil it. The move left defense coordinator Will Muschamp and his unit off balance for most of the night.
Give credit to the ole ball coach, he had been planning the ambush on the Tigers for weeks and nearly pulled it off. That’s what makes Spurrier one of the great coaches of all times. His five wideout sets were built around the mobility of new quarterback Syvelle Newton. And for the better part of the fourth quarter it worked. South Carolina is not the same team it was three weeks ago.
Kudos to Auburn and its coaching staff. By the end of the season, most of the college football world will look at this Auburn win differently. South Carolina is a much improved football team. Anytime you go on the road and beat a 3-1 SEC team at night, you’ve accomplished something. Beating Spurrier on the road is even tougher – even if his players wear burgundy and black now.
Tommy Tuberville probably did his best job of coaching this season. The onside kick that led to Auburn holding the ball the entire third quarter was a difference maker. The gutsy fourth down attempts were critical. Tuberville is smart enough to realize when his defense is in trouble. Last night, it was struggling mightily.
With cornerback Jonathan Wilhite out for a second consecutive game with a hamstring injury,Spurrier seized on the opportunity to exploit that weakness. Jerraud Powers, Patrick Lee and Zach Gilbert all struggled at times trying to cover a Gamecock wide receiver unit that looked like Auburn’s from a year ago.
As for the Auburn offense, you have to be pleased. Al Borges opened up the playbook while also sticking to his patented running game. Kenny Irons provided more than enough ground support and gave quarterback Brandon Cox an opportunity to get the ball to nearly every Auburn wideout who made the trip north .
The performance was a much needed confidence booster heading into the Arkansas and Florida games. While many will say that Auburn didn’t dominate the way it should, Thursday’s win will go a along way toward getting the Tigers ready for these next two conference opponents. And that’s really all that matters.