Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Auburn, South Carolina seeking a cure
By Chris Low
No coach would ever admit it, at least not publicly.
But you can’t help but wonder down deep if Auburn and South Carolina are both reveling at the thought of facing each other this weekend.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll help cure each other’s ills.
The Gamecocks’ passing game has been nonexistent, and their entire offense has suffered as a result.
The Gamecocks have leaned heavily on running back Marcus Lattimore, who has 111 carries through four games.
Without sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore, they’d probably be 1-3 right now.
Auburn, on the other hand, has played matador defense for much of this season. The Tigers were better last week in a 30-14 win over Florida Atlantic. Then again, it was Florida Atlantic.
In their first three games, they gave up a staggering 1,603 yards in total offense and allowed 34 or more points in all three games.
Auburn is ranked 110th nationally in total defense, allowing 477.5 yards per game.
Just a few spots ahead, though, in passing efficiency is South Carolina at 107th nationally. The Gamecocks are completing just 51.8 percent of their passes, and Garcia was intercepted four times last week in the 21-3 win over Vanderbilt.
Obviously, something has to give Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium when these two teams get together for the third time in the last two seasons. They played twice a year ago with Auburn winning both times, the second time coming in the SEC championship game.
Despite South Carolina’s issues on offense and Auburn’s issues on defense, it could be a lot worse for both teams.
The Gamecocks (4-0, 2-0) are ranked No. 10 this week in the Associated Press poll. The Tigers (3-1, 1-0) aren’t ranked, but have won their only SEC game. Their only loss was on the road to a red-hot Clemson team that’s ranked No. 13 this week.
What Auburn and South Carolina have both done is find ways to win games. It was a trademark of the Tigers last season on their way to a national championship.
The Gamecocks have followed that same pattern this season, although nobody in the Palmetto State is satisfied with the way they’re playing.
To this point, it’s been more about survival.
“We’re going to have to get better in all phases of the game if we’re going to have a big season,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “It remains to be seen what our team can do.”
The Gamecocks have leaned on Lattimore, and he’s produced. He already has 611 rushing yards and has scored nine touchdowns.
But as productive as Lattimore has been, Spurrier knows the Gamecocks can’t continue to lean just on him and expect to beat some of the teams they’re going to play the rest of the way. Lattimore has carried the ball 111 times, which is more than any other player in the country.
“You can’t just run Marcus up the middle or around the end on every play,” Spurrier said. “I think we did that against Navy. But we’re playing teams that are going to put eight and nine guys up there (in the box). Navy never really did put a whole bunch of them up there.
“Anyway, we’re working on throwing the ball and will see if we can get any better at it or not.”
Auburn coach Gene Chizik thinks his defense did get better last week against Florida Atlantic following a week of preseason camp-like practices that were heavy on live contact. Granted, it wasn’t against an SEC team, but Chizik said the Tigers tackled better and were in better position to make tackles.
“Were we perfect? No, but I think we certainly played better,” Chizik said. “We made some strides and will continue working in that direction, but this is going to have to be the best game we’ve played defensively for us to have a chance to win, no question about it.”