Donovan Kaufman

Defensive back Donovan Kaufman returns an intercepted pass against South Carolina 

Auburn just lost to South Carolina 21-17, giving the Tigers their first three-game skid since 2012.

Here are three takeaways from the loss to the Gamecocks.

#1: Questionable play calling proves costly

Late in the first half, coach Bryan Harsin’s offense was facing a fourth-and-short from its own 35 yard line. The Tigers went for it, and instead of running the ball with either of their two running backs, quarterback T.J. Finley unloaded a pass nearly 20 yards down the field to receiver Demetris Robertson that fell incomplete. The play was a momentum shift, and allowed South Carolina to go on a 21-3 scoring run.

Running back Tank Bigsby looked upset on the sideline following the play, and notably so. The Gamecocks drove down the field and scored a touchdown to tie the game at 14 just before halftime. 

Third down play calling was also questionable at times, highlighted late in the fourth quarter with the Tigers facing a third-and-8. The offense, which had not been successful in the pass game in the second half, decided to throw a screen pass to Robertson that went for no gain. Auburn finished 6-of-14 on third down.

#2: More special teams miscues

What was a solid group to begin the year has now become the least reliable unit on the field. A 20-yard kickoff return to the USC 45-yard line was wiped out by yet another holding penalty on the return. 

On the opening kickoff of the second half, placekicker Ben Patton had the kick come up short and go out of bounds, giving the Tigers a 15-yard penalty and good field position for South Carolina. The sophomore walk-on kicker later missed a 25-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

With under three minutes in the game, defensive back Jaylin Simpson was ruled to have touched the ball on a punt that was recovered by the Gamecocks. The call was questionable, but ended up doing the Tigers in. 

#3: Tank. Bigsby.

In what was a night of negatives, Auburn’s sophomore running back played like a man possessed on Saturday. Bigsby finished with 22 carries for 164 yards and a touchdown in the loss to South Carolina, averaging 7.5 yards per carry and had a long of 29. 

Bigsby had his highest rushing output of the season, and the second-highest output of his career. The sophomore accounted for 164 of Auburn’s 191 yards on the ground.

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