Derick Hall

Auburn's Derick Hall goes in for a tackle in the 21-17 loss to South Carolina

Just three weeks ago, Auburn defeated Ole Miss 31-20 and possessed a 6-2 record, along with control of its own destiny in the SEC West.

Oh, how quickly things can change over a three week span.

The Tigers lost 21-17 to South Carolina on Saturday, dropping to 6-5 and giving Auburn its first three-game skid since 2012. It was the second game in a row with blown double-digit leads.

“I mean, it sucks, to be honest with you,” linebacker Chandler Wooten said of the losing streak. “From where we were to where we are now – but, all you can do is man up, and come back to work on Sunday.”

In the first quarter, it didn’t appear that scoring only 17 points would be the final result. The T.J. Finley-led offense moved the ball well in the first 15 minutes of the game, scoring touchdowns on two of the first three offensive drives. The offense had 129 total yards on those drives, and Finley dished the ball out well. 

“T.J.’s a good playmaker, I knew that since day one when he came in, just working with him,” receiver Shedrick Jackson said. “I believe in him, the whole offense believes in him, (the) team believes in him.”

The game changed on a fourth-down call late in the second quarter. The Tigers had the ball on their own 35-yard line, facing a fourth and very short. Instead of running up the middle with either running back Tank Bigsby or the 6-foot-7-inch quarterback in Finley, the offense drew up a play in which Finley tried to hit receiver Demetris Robertson down the field. 

“You saw that we took a shot on that,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “Being aggressive, and trying to extend that drive.”

The ball fell incomplete, and the Gamecocks drove down the field to tie the game right before halftime.

“It didn’t go our way,” Harsin said. “If we hit that for a touchdown then it’s a great play. That’s just how it works.”

In the second half, the Gamecocks – now with full momentum – scored a touchdown on a six-play, 67-yard drive to take the lead and never looked back. South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said after the game that he felt like the Gamecocks had run the same handful of plays on offense in the second half.

Harsin brushed off the claim, but Wooten accepted it as the truth.

“They did run the dame plays,” Wooten said. “We had a couple of issues, fitting wise. I feel like we kind of shored up in the second half and got some stops when we needed to.”

A missed 25-yard kick by sophomore walk-on Ben Patton was the closest that Auburn came to scoring for the remainder of the night in Williams-Brice Stadium, failing to cross midfield on the final two drives.

“It just comes back to being consistent,” Jackson said. “I don't think they changed up anything or did anything special, it just comes down to us making plays.”

What is most shocking is that the Tigers rushed for 191 yards, 164 of those courtesy of Bigsby who ripped off some long gains, and outgained the Gamecocks in total yards 379-306. Ultimately, Auburn only came out with 17 points in its second loss in Columbia in as many years.

“I’m always surprised to see 17 points with what we’re trying to get done on offense,” Harsin said. “Rushing, throwing and all that – 17 points just doesn’t cut it. You gotta score points, you gotta hopefully put your team in a position where you make it more challenging for the other offense.”

With 2:11 left in the fourth, South Carolina punted the ball back to the Tigers to give them an opportunity to drive down the field to score. However, after review it was ruled that Jaylin Simpson touched the ball – something that will be talked about as questionable – and the Gamecocks recovered, draining out the clock.

“They turned it over, and decided that it touched him somewhere,” Harsin said. “At the end of the game, they made that decision. You can argue all you want, that’s the decision they made. It didn’t look like it on the field, but at the end of the day it didn’t go in our favor”

Auburn now moves on to face No. 2 Alabama in the Iron Bowl next Saturday in Jordan-Hare.

“At this point we have a one game season, so we’re going to try and lay it all on the line,” Wooten said

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