Auburn Football: Defense Surprises in Huge Road Win

Matthew BrennanCorrespondent IIOctober 1, 2011

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 01:  Alshon Jeffery #1 of the South Carolina Gamecocks is tackled by the Auburn Tigers defense during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Auburn Tigers defense has been much maligned during the 2011 season, and few expected much to change heading into Saturday’s game against No. 10 South Carolina.

The Tigers entered Saturday’s game with one of the worst rush defenses in the nation combined with the presence of one of college football’s top running backs in South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore.

Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, the stats prior to a game sometimes don’t have the expected affect once the teams take the field. The Auburn defense found some momentum on Saturday in a 16-13 upset victory.

The win keeps Auburn’s SEC winning streak alive and also marks the third win over South Carolina in the past two years. The last time Auburn lost to South Carolina was in 1933.

On a day when Auburn’s own offense was also struggling, the defense came up big in several spots to help contribute to the win. The Tigers did an excellent job limiting Lattimore, holding the talented sophomore to just 67 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. The Gamecocks’ inconsistent passing attack also failed to make a dent against Auburn, with Stephen Garcia completing just 9-23 passes with two interceptions.

Auburn has had some success with forcing turnovers this season, and South Carolina was no exception. One of Garcia’s interceptions by safety Demetruce McNeal ended a drive that could have resulted in points, and the Tigers also forced a rare fumbling miscue by Lattimore. The end result was the Tigers’ best defensive performance of the season and a huge road victory.

The defense can stand tall after today, but there’s little in the way of rest. Next up is a strong Arkansas offense that hung 42 points on a ranked Texas A&M team, followed by two more talented teams in Florida and LSU. Despite the tough schedule, Auburn will now be able to head into those games with plenty of confidence after shutting down the Gamecocks on their home field.