The Auburn Tigers, led by QB Cam Newton, survived a late push by Carolina to survive with a 35-27 victory over the Gamecocks.
The SEC's number one rushing offense gashed the SEC's number one rushing defense for 334 yards on the ground. QB Cam Newton accounted for 176 of those yards and added three rushing touchdowns.
The Gamecock defense had no answer for Newton, as no one strong enough to bring him down, was fast enough to catch him. Freshmen RB Michael Dyer picked up his first 100 yard rushing game of the year.
Offensively for Carolina, turnovers proved costly in the end as the Gamecocks turned the ball over four times in the fourth quarter. Two Stephen Garcia fumbles allowed the Tigers to score two touchdowns to take a 35-27 lead with 6:23 left in the game.
Garcia was replaced by Freshmen QB Connor Shaw, who was able to lead Carolina down to the Auburn 43 yard line before being intercepted.
The Carolina defense held, providing one last shot for the Gamecocks. Shaw's pass to WR Alshon Jefferey was dropped in the endzone, and then intercepted by Auburn's Demond Washington to seal the Tiger victory.
Three Things We Learned About Carolina:
1) South Carolina's rushing defense was overrated.
The main reason the Gamecock defense was third overall in the SEC against the run going into this game was due to their previous opponents having to pass more because they were losing.
The Gamecocks were able to get out to solid lead in each game, forcing the opposing offense to throw the ball to stay in the game.
Cam Newton and Michael Dyer were able to expose the Gamecock defense by gashing them for almost 400 yards rushing.
For Carolina to have any shot at sticking with Alabama in two weeks, the defense as a whole will need some serious adjustments.
2) Gamecock QB Stephen Garcia can't get the job done
After three years in this Carolina program, Garcia is still struggling with the fundamentals of playing QB. He doesn't protect the ball or get rid of the ball when there are no open receivers.
Garcia is still missing wide open receivers and I'm convinced he just can't read the defense properly or can't see the play develop down the field.
A lot of the blame for this loss solely resides with Garcia and his two costly fumbles that led to two Tiger touchdowns.
I think at this point, Freshman QB Connor Shaw gives this team the best chance to win and the Gamecocks need to go with the future now.
Shaw did make a freshman mistake in throwing his first interception, but the second INT to close out Carolina's chances falls on WR Alshon Jefferey. If the ball hits you in the hands, you have to come down with it.
Call it an angry reaction to the loss, but after all this time, Garcia should be playing better than he is.
3) The offensive line is not as improved as Carolina fans had hoped
The o-line was not able to many holes for the Carolina backs as the Gamecocks gained only 79 yards on the ground.
The small creases that RB Marcus Lattimore was able to utilize against Georgia to great success were not there against Auburn.
Pass protection broke down too many times forcing the Gamecock QB's to scramble and nullified any chance for the play to develop.
Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott hasn't had the time to recruit and develop the type of line he wants, but given time I believe he will be able to improve the offensive line.
What cost Carolina the game?
This list could go on forever, but I think the three most important things that hurt the Gamecocks the most were the costly turnovers, their inability to stop Cameron Newton and the Auburn offense, and the abandonment of the run game, specifically their biggest weapon, Marcus Lattimore.
What positives can Gamecock fans take away from this game?
Despite the four turnovers in the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks still had a chance to win this game.
The Carolina offense was able to answer almost every Auburn score with a quick strike of their own.
Connor Shaw showed his playmaking ability and should be a good one for Carolina for the next few years.
How does Carolina get back on track?
In order for the Gamecocks to get this season back on the right track they need to recommit to running the ball. For that to happen, they'll need better play from the offensive line.
The defense has to play better. There were way too many missed tackles and blown coverages in this game.
Go with Connor Shaw at QB. The kid showed a lot of composure as a freshman leading the Gamecock offense to within striking distance.
He did make some mistakes, but what freshman doesn't. I think he gives the Gamecocks their best chance to win right now.
Carolina has a bye week this week before the big showdown with Alabama in Columbia. The Gamecocks really need this time to regroup, get healthy, and figure how to sure up the defense.
The Gamecocks can still accomplish what they set out to do before the season began. One loss does not ruin their season.
Look for Carolina to fix their issues and rebound with a strong performance against Alabama in two weeks.