It was an Auburn team effort of defense all day long and Tigers offense when it counted as Auburn upset No. 10 South Carolina 16-13 in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.
On 3rd and 5 from the South Carolina 9, Barrett Trotter threw a touchdown pass to Philip Lutzenkirchen with 1:38 left to give Auburn the lead for good. It was Lutzenkirchen's 10th career touchdown reception and tied the Auburn school TD record for tight ends with Robert Johnson (2000-02).
The winning drive started with 5:27 remaining in the game, and the Tigers took over on their own 43 after yet another three and out by its dominating defense on the day. On 3rd and 13 from the Tiger 40, Trotter threw a strike to DeAngelo Benton for a first down at the South Carolina 45. Onterio McCalebb rushed 19 yards to the Carolina 19 on huge 3rd and 9 play with 2:47 to go. The huge touchdown pass capped a 12 play, 57-yard drive in 3:49.
"We've got such great character on this team with these guys," said Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. "What a great win for Auburn tonight. I told them at halftime that I could see the tree falling – we've just got to keep chopping wood. I knew that at one point, offensively, we would make that tree fall."
That's when Auburn's defense made yet another outstanding defensive stand to win the ball game.
South Carolina took over on its own 20 and drove the ball down to the Auburn 42 with 12 seconds remaining. Marcus Lattimore rushed for 3 yards and a first down just after a 19-yard Stephen Garcia to Alshon Jeffery completion. After an incomplete pass with 8 seconds remaining, Garcia completed a pass to the Auburn 30 as time ran out.
Lattimore, who came in as the nation's third-leading rusher with 611 yards in four games (152.75 yards/game), was limited to 66 yards rushing on 17 carries. Auburn's defense caused four turnovers on the day, two interceptions and recovered fumbles each, and held South Carolina to a season-low 289 yards.
"My hat's off to our defensive coaches and players," said Chizik. "What an incredible night for those guys. I could not be more proud of them. They needed this, especially against a great running back and a great team. This is a great start. We are 2-0 in conference play. It's huge for us."
Auburn improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the SEC while South Carolina fell to 4-1, including 2-1 in the league.
The Tiger defense was outstanding in the first half – and even better in the second -- as it held South Carolina to 151 yards of offense at halftime. The tone was set on the opening drive of the game.
Auburn held South Carolina on three plays, and then let the offense take over. The Tigers drove 47 yards in 10 plays as Cody Parkey nailed a 21-yard field goal to give Auburn a 3-0 lead almost five minutes into the game.
"We just wanted to go out there and execute in the game and play four quarters of football," said defensive end Nosa Eguae. "We wanted to show everyone in the nation what we can do and we did it tonight. You hear all week how your rushing defense is atrocious, it gets to you. It hurts you on the inside. It makes you want to go out and prove them wrong."
On the Gamecocks' next possession, Lattimore fumbled and Auburn's Jon Mincy recovered it at the South Carolina 36. On a second down end around trick play, Auburn freshman wide receiver C.J. Uzomah threw an interception intended for freshman Quan Bray at the South Carolina 11 that was returned 10 yards.
That led to an Alshon Jeffery 50-yard touchdown reception from Stephen Garcia to give South Carolina a 6-3 lead with 6:57 left in the first quarter. Corey Lemonier blocked the extra point.
On the first play of the second quarter, Kiehl Frazier scampered 22 yards to the 1 yard line to set up a Mike Dyer touchdown dive two plays later in the Wildcat formation as Auburn regained a 9-6 lead. Parkey's point missed after hit the right upright.
Auburn's Ryan White threw an interception on a 32-yard fake field goal attempt with just over a minute to go in the half as the Tigers' went into the locker room with a 9-6 lead.
Lattimore put South Carolina back on top, 13-9, with a 15-yard touchdown run with 5:58 left in the third quarter on a 2-play, 50-yard drive that was set up on a Garcia to Bruce Ellington 35-yard pass reception.
Neiko Thorpe intercepted a deep Garcia pass at the Auburn 31 and returned it to midfield with two minutes left in the third. On 3rd and 13, Trotter was intercepted by C.C. Whitlock at the Carolina 42. Whitlock returned it just past midfield before Philip Lutzenkirchen laid a hit on Whitlock and recovered the fumble at the Auburn 48.
"That was the Auburn defense that we are all used to seeing over the years," said Lutzenkirchen. "We challenged the defense this week by telling them that Lattimore was the best runner in the country. It made them mad, and it made our offense mad because we think we've got the two best."
The change of possession gave the Tigers a big first down. The drive ended when Trotter threw an interception in the end zone for a touchback that was nearly broken up Auburn's Jay Wisner. Whitlock made the interception laying on his back in the right back corner of the end zone three minutes into the fourth.
The win was the first time since 2007 that an unranked Auburn team defeated an Associated Press Top 10 team. In 2007, the unranked Tigers defeated No. 4 Florida, 20-17, in Gainesville. It was also Auburn's 10th consecutive conference victory and 11 straight against SEC opponents.
Dyer finished with a school record-tying 41 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown. The 41 carries ties Cadillac Williams' record set at Georgia in 2001. Trotter went 12-of-23 for 112 yards and a touchdown while Onterio McCalebb finished with 9 rushes for 58 yards and 3 receptions for 33 yards. Steven Clark pinned two punts inside the 5 yard line as Auburn won the battle of field position and time of possession 35:47 to 24:13.