The Gamecocks (2-2) kicked and sputtered through the opening quarter before shifting into high gear and racing past 15th-ranked Auburn, 30-22, at Williams-Brice Stadium, Saturday. Auburn found its groove first and shot out to an early lead. The momentum turned, however, with a pair of great plays from cornerback Jaycee Horn. Horn picked off Auburn’s Bo Nix, the first interception of his career, to set up running back Kevin Harris for the first Gamecocks touchdown. Just a few plays later, Horn batted a pass into the air and into the arms of teammate Jaylin Dickerson. South Carolina cashed in on that turnover when quarterback Collin Hill snuck into the end zone from a yard out to cut the lead to 16-14. Horn later intercepted another pass and returned it 34 yards to set up another score. Harris glided in from eight yards out on the next play to put the Gamecocks up 27-19.
The Gamecocks fed off the energy the three interceptions provided and needed every bit of it to fend off an Auburn comeback attempt in the game’s final minutes. In the end, South Carolina’s defense did just enough to turn the Tigers away at the 9-yard line as time expired. The Gamecocks were outgained 481-297, but the combination of turnovers and clutch plays were enough to pick up the win. Head coach Will Muschamp had confidence his defense was going to come through, “When we got in the red zone, we played really good. I felt good on the last drive the entire time. I kept telling T-Rob (defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson), make them spend time, they have no timeouts left. Really proud of how we stood up there.”
Horn has long been considered an elite talent, but due to a combination of opposing quarterbacks avoiding him and some missed opportunities, the junior had never registered an interception. Auburn, unwilling to avoid Horn as he was covering Nix’s top target, Seth Williams, was burned to the tune of two interceptions and four pass breakups. Muschamp said of Horn, “If there’s a better corner out, I’d like to see him.”
Offensively, South Carolina benefitted from the physical running styles of Harris and Deshaun Fenwick and dynamic play-making of Shi Smith. Harris and Fenwick combined for 153 yards and Smith (8 catches, 76 yards) made a pair of highlight plays, including a touchdown grab.
The Gamecocks will go for its third consecutive win next week at LSU. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.