USC fans have seen this kind of exploitation of their defensive unit in the past. Tim Tebow blasted them. Darren McFadden burned them. In the SEC Championship game Saturday against Auburn, Cam Newton annihilated them.
The junior front runner for the Heisman Trophy started his chiseling of the Gamecock defense early. On the second play of the game, he dropped a 62 yard bomb into the hands of Darvin Adams. Two plays later Newton connected with Onterio McCalebb for a 12 yard scoring pass, and the rout was on.
Sure, the Gamecocks scored on their next possession to tie the game, but there just was no stopping Newton and his band of scorchers. 589 total yards. 28 first downs. 351 passing yards. Nine third down conversions in 12 attempts. No team put more yards and points on the Gamecocks this season than Auburn did Saturday.
Of course, the Gamecocks knew what was coming. In their week four loss at Auburn, The Tigers had 492 yards with Newton rushing for 176 yards and passing for 158. Gamecock defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and his staff hoped they had the answer to stopping Newton and company. But the performance left them with many more questions.
One thing Johnson and his staff have not been able to cure this season…the secondary’s inability to cover the deep pass. Time and again Saturday cornerbacks were badly beaten giving Auburn easy throw and catch opportunities. That has been the achilles heel of a defense which has otherwise had an excellent season. If the Gamecocks are to get to win #10 in the bowl game, that problem has to be fixed.