SEC: Gamecocks-Tigers-120410

No more living on the edge for Tigers

December, 4, 2010
ATLANTA -- Obviously, Auburn was tired of the drama.

Then again, maybe the Tigers finally decided that living on the edge wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Better yet, maybe there was something else in play Saturday, a deeper meaning to Auburn’s 56-17 destruction of South Carolina in an SEC championship game that was never really in doubt.

That is, unless you count the Gamecocks’ drive right before halftime to seemingly swing momentum to their side.

[+] EnlargeAuburn's Darvin Adams
AP Photo/ Thomas GraningDarvin Adams hauls in a 51-yard touchdown on the final play of the first half, a Hail Mary that put Auburn up 28-14.
That momentum was gone in a matter of seconds, thanks to Cam Newton’s 51-yard touchdown heave that Darvin Adams caught on a deflection on the final play of the half.

It’s the play everybody will remember from this game.

But this was Auburn’s game from the outset, the Tigers at their finest and the version of the Tigers they say everybody can expect to see when the stakes get even higher five weeks from now.

That’s right, and don’t think the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game wasn’t on anybody’s mind in and around that Auburn locker room as the Tigers celebrated their first SEC title since 2004.

It’s fair to say there were a few mentions of Oregon.

“If we play like this in the next game, I don’t feel like anybody can stop us,” said Auburn junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who was pretty unstoppable himself Saturday.

For that matter, Auburn’s entire defense was, and for a change, the Tigers didn’t wait until the second half to clamp down.

South Carolina did manage two touchdowns in the first half, but had the ball twice more inside the Auburn 35 and came away empty-handed each time.

“People say our defense is suspect. I’ve been hearing that all year,” Fairley huffed. “All that does is give us motivation to go shut people down.”

With the Tigers reeling off 28 unanswered points during one of their patented runs, all the Gamecocks could muster in the second half was a field goal.

“Coach (Gene) Chizik told us there was no need to be playing from behind this time,” said Adams, who set an SEC championship game record with 217 receiving yards. “This is a game we wanted to hit them from the jump.”

Sure enough, the Tigers (13-0) scored touchdowns on their first three possessions.

Even though the Gamecocks fought back, it was obvious they weren’t going to be able to match the Tigers touchdown for touchdown, especially with the defense playing one its most complete games of the season.

“We came out this game from the ground running,” Fairley said. “That’s the way you’re supposed to play, all four quarters. We wanted to let the world know that our defense is not a joke. That’s what we proved tonight, that our defense is no joke.”

[+] EnlargeAuburn's Cam Newton
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAuburn players carried quarterback Cam Newton on their shoulders following the Tigers' win over South Carolina in the SEC title game.
Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said it was refreshing just to finally be able to enjoy a fourth quarter.

“You don’t know how much that Alabama game aged all of us,” Malzahn said.

That comeback from 24 points down in Tuscaloosa was the fourth time this season the Tigers had rallied from at least a two-touchdown deficit to win the game.

“We weren’t going to put ourselves in that position again,” Auburn senior linebacker Josh Bynes said. “I’ve been saying that if we play like we do in the third and fourth quarter in the first and second, we can be the most dominant defense and the most unbeatable team in the nation.

“It showed today.”

Consider it a message sent, too.

From afar, Auburn has had its eye on Oregon for some time, and you can bet Oregon has caught a few of the Tigers’ highlights here and there.

The offensive approaches of the two teams are similar. Only when they hit the half-century mark do they even begin to think about shifting back into third gear. Their defenses have been maligned at times, and they like to play at a pace better suited for speed skating.

“They’ve been finishing their opponents off all year, just like us,” Bynes said. “It’s the two best teams in the nation going at it, and we’ll see who’s the best.”

And while nobody was taking for granted what an SEC championship would mean to everybody on the Plains, Bynes used a golf analogy to describe where it goes from here for the Tigers.

That’s despite Bynes admitting, behind one of his familiar smiles, that he doesn’t even play golf.

“This was like a nine-hole golf tournament,” Bynes said. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s nine holes you’ll remember for the rest of your life, and now we’re on the back nine. How are we going to finish the game? How are we going to finish this season?

“That’s what we’ve got to do when we go to Glendale. We finished that front nine. Now, let’s go finish this back nine and be national champions.”


Video: Auburn's Darvin Adams

December, 4, 2010

Chris Low talks with Auburn receiver Darvin Adams about his big day in the SEC title game.

Video: Auburn's Craig Stevens

December, 4, 2010

Chris Low talks with Auburn linebacker Craig Stevens after the win over South Carolina.

Outback Bowl eyeing Florida

December, 4, 2010
ATLANTA -- The bowl lineup won't be finalized until Sunday, but there were rumblings here at the SEC championship game that the Outback Bowl is thinking seriously about taking Florida.

What that would do is send South Carolina to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Gamecocks, who lost 56-17 Saturday to Auburn in the SEC championship game, would be making a return trip to the Georgia Dome on Dec. 31.

With Auburn headed to the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, that means Arkansas is likely ticketed to the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

The Capital One Bowl gets the first choice out of the SEC after the BCS selections are made and is expected to take Alabama. The AT&AT Cotton Bowl wants LSU.

If Florida does indeed go to the Outback, pushing South Carolina to the Chick-fil-A, that means Tennessee would probably wind up in the Gator Bowl, Mississippi State in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Georgia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and Kentucky in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
ATLANTA -- Auburn pulled away from South Carolina in the second half Saturday for a 56-17 blowout victory, winning its first SEC championship since 2004 and earning a trip to the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game. Here are some thoughts from the game.

How the game was won: Auburn scored 28 unanswered points and dominated the second half to pull away for its 13th straight win. Auburn led 21-14 late in the second quarter before going on its decisive run. After giving up an early touchdown, the Tigers were stifling defensively in one of their better all-around performances of the season.

Turning point: Auburn connected on a Hail Mary pass on the final offensive play of the first half to go ahead 28-14 after South Carolina had just driven for a touchdown to pull within 21-14 with 16 seconds left. Cam Newton’s 51-yard scoring pass, which Darvin Adams caught off the deflection, halted South Carolina’s momentum in its tracks, and the Gamecocks never recovered.

Player of the game: Newton tied Danny Wuerffel’s SEC championship game touchdown record with six -- four passing and two rushing. He finished 17-of-28 for 335 passing yards and also added 73 rushing yards.

Stat of the game: Newton became only the third player in NCAA history to pass for 20 touchdowns and rush for 20 touchdowns in the same season. Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick accomplished the feat earlier Saturday and Florida’s Tim Tebow also did it during his 2007 Heisman Trophy season.

Unsung hero: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley was a force in the middle, as he has been all season, and kept the Gamecocks from ever getting into an offensive flow.

What it means: The Tigers will play for their first national championship since 1957. The matchup will be officially announced on Sunday night, but it will be Auburn versus Oregon in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz.

Cam Newton makes history

December, 4, 2010
ATLANTA -- With that last touchdown run, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton joined Tim Tebow in the NCAA record books.

They are the only two players in NCAA history to pass for 20 touchdowns and rush for 20 touchdowns in the same season.

Newton now has 27 touchdown passes and 20 touchdown runs. Tebow had 32 touchdown passes and 23 touchdown runs during his 2007 Heisman Trophy winning season.

At the half: Auburn 28, S. Carolina 14

December, 4, 2010
ATLANTA -- Auburn, scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions, leads South Carolina 28-14 at the half Saturday in the SEC championship game.

Here’s a quick halftime analysis:

Turning point: South Carolina had just pulled within 21-14 in the final seconds of the half and appeared to have all the momentum going into the locker room, but Auburn quarterback Cam Newton heaved a Hail Mary toward the end zone that Darvin Adams caught on the deflection for a 51-yard touchdown on the final offensive play of the half. South Carolina’s DeVonte Holloman actually knocked the ball up, allowing Adams to catch the ball behind him in the end zone.

Player of the half: Adams was sensational for the Tigers. He piled up 217 receiving yards in the first half -- breaking the SEC championship game record for receiving yards in a game. He caught touchdown passes of 54 and 51 yards.

Stat of the half: The 42 points scored in the first half broke the SEC championship game record for most points scored in the first half.

What South Carolina needs to do: For starters, the Gamecocks need to cover somebody. Their tackling got a little better as the first half progressed, but their coverage and overall play in the secondary has been horrendous.

Auburn's 'D' coming through

December, 4, 2010
ATLANTA -- Usually, it's in the fourth quarter when Auburn comes up with all of its key defensive stops.

But the Tigers have held twice in the second quarter when the Gamecocks moved inside the Auburn 35.

The first one came after a Cam Newton fumble, and the second one came after a short punt and a South Carolina drive, which ended with Spencer Lanning missing a 51-yard field goal

For Auburn to hold South Carolina to no points on those two possessions was deflating for the Gamecocks.

Gus Malzahn one step ahead

December, 4, 2010
ATLANTA -- We already knew Cam Newton was a great player.

But the guy calling plays for the Tigers ain't bad, either.

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has been one step ahead of South Carolina to this point and has really attacked the Gamecocks' weakness in terms of being able to cover the pass down the field.

Three touchdowns in three possessions for Auburn is a bad omen for the Gamecocks.

Gamecocks unable to tackle Newton

December, 4, 2010
ATLANTA -- The South Carolina defensive coaches knew coming into this game they didn't have a chance if the Gamecocks didn't tackle better than they did the first game.

So far, the Gamecocks have missed several tackles and simply haven't been able to get Cam Newton on the ground.

Of course, who has this season?

Part of South Carolina's problem to this point is that the Gamecocks are going at him high, and Newton is too big and too strong to bring down when you hit him above the waist.

It hasn't been a great start for South Carolina "Spur" safety Antonio Allen, who's missed a couple of key tackles. He'd been playing his best football coming into this game.

Dueling crowds in the Dome

December, 4, 2010
ATLANTA -- It's not No. 1 vs. No. 2 like it was each of the last two years.

Still, the energy in this place right now is off the charts.

They just played "Space Odyssey: 2001," which is the music South Carolina enters Williams-Brice Stadium to every week, and the Gamecocks' fans obviously went crazy.

The loudest cheer from the Auburn fans came when Cam Newton's picture appeared on the JumboTron and he was introduced as a starter.

There are buttons and shirts everywhere among the Auburn faithful supporting Newton, who was ruled eligible to play by the NCAA on Wednesday.

One shirt read: Yes we Cam!

Just the start for Gamecocks?

December, 4, 2010
ATLANTA, Ga. -- The familiar visor is in place, and Steve Spurrier is back in the SEC championship game.

Hard to believe it's been a decade since he was last here.

Even harder to believe that he's here as the South Carolina head coach.

It's been a memorable season for the Gamecocks, who are making their first-ever trip to the SEC championship game. It could be a dream season if they knock off No. 1 Auburn.

Here's something else to consider: Maybe this is just the start of something really big for the Gamecocks.

I would have thought two years ago that Spurrier was pretty close to hitting the golf course full time. But when you look at the young talent on this team right now -- and some of the future talent the Gamecocks are in good shape to land -- the best might be yet to come.

In fact, the Gamecocks would be my pick in the East next season by a long shot, and I'd also have them among the top three teams in the league in 2011.

Yep, retirement can wait for the Head Ball Coach.



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