Auburn looks to rebound 'with a bang' vs Gamecocks
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) The Auburn Tigers want everyone to know they haven't faded from the scene.
The last college football fans saw of the fifth-ranked Tigers, they were limping away from No. 1 Mississippi State two weeks ago following a 15-point loss that left hopes for a repeat Southeastern Conference title and playoff berth diminished but still intact.
Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC) returns from an open date Saturday night against South Carolina (4-3, 2-3) hoping for a strong rebound against the 18-point underdogs.
Safety Josh Holsey says the Tigers want to come back ''with a bang.''
''This game right here is really just to show people that we're still the Auburn Tigers,'' Holsey said. ''The bang is just knowing that we're going to come out with a vengeance, we're going to come out and do what we do best.''
That means running the ball with quarterback Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne, throwing downfield to D'haquille Williams and Sammie Coates and playing solid defense. Every game from here on is pretty much must-win.
''We just know if we win out, we'll still be in great shape to accomplish all our goals that we still have set,'' Holsey said.
The Gamecocks' expectations of competing for titles have faded despite a win over No. 9 Georgia, a victory coach Steve Spurrier is hoping gives his team confidence.
Spurrier, though, is 0-5 against Auburn during his South Carolina tenure.
''You've got to believe you've got a chance if your team plays very well,'' he said. ''We're going with the idea that we're going to get into battle with them. We know we've got to play very well, offensively, defensively and on special teams. Hopefully, they will drop the ball a little bit, or something good like that will happen for us.
''But the only pressure on us is play the best we can, play the best we can, try to coach the best we can and see what happens.''
Here are some things to watch from Saturday night's game:
ON THE REBOUND: The Tigers aren't the only team trying to bounce back. South Carolina is coming off an easy win over FCS team Furman but has dropped back to back SEC games to Missouri and Kentucky by a combined eight points. The Gamecocks have not lost three straight SEC games since falling to Tennessee, Florida and Arkansas in consecutive weeks at the end of the 2009 season.
OVERLOOKED RUNNERS: They're often overshadowed by some of the SEC's star running backs, but Auburn's Cameron Artis-Payne is the league's No. 3 rusher and South Carolina's Mike Davis is eighth. Davis has run for 294 yards and five touchdowns in the past two games. Artis-Payne faces a defense that ranks 13th in the SEC against the run and has allowed a league-worst 15 rushing touchdowns. ''We'll get a bunch of guys up there and see if we can slow them down, see if we can stop them,'' Spurrier said. ''They'll obviously make some yards. But we beat Georgia.''
TURNOVERS: Both teams need to take better care of the ball. Auburn turned it over on its first two offensive plays of that loss to Mississippi State and four times overall. South Carolina has five turnovers in its last two games.
PASSING TIME: Auburn's Nick Marshall and South Carolina's Dylan Thompson might feel fairly safe dropping back to pass, since neither team has mounted much of a pass rush. The Gamecocks have produced a league-low eight sacks while Auburn is 11th with 12 sacks. Spurrier said defensive tackle J.T. Surratt is doubtful with a pulled hamstring injured in the Furman game.
HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE: The Tigers have won their four games at Jordan-Hare Stadium by an average of 33 points and are nursing a 13-game home win streak that's second-longest in the FBS behind No. 2 Florida State. South Carolina has five wins over Top 5 opponents, managing that feat only twice on the road.