After a sluggish start, the No. 6 41-point underdogs entering Saturday's game, nearly became just the second FCS team to defeat an AP Top 10 FBS opponent.scored a last-minute touchdown and held off an upset bid by Jacksonville State Saturday, leaving Jordan-Hare Stadium with a 27-20 overtime win. The Gamecocks bottled up Auburn's potent offense, with the Tigers needing a short field for the last two scores it needed to survive. The Gamecocks,
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson threw his second interception of the day in the fourth quarter with the game tied, and the Gamecocks pounced. Jax St. quarterback Eli Jenkins -- who had burned the Auburn defense with the read option throughout the game -- took Jacksonville State on an 11-play, 44-yard touchdown drive that featured eight running plays and gave the Gamecocks a late lead.
Auburn's offense finally found its footing on the next series, ripping off a pair of long runs and advancing to the Jacksonville State 20 yard line. But a Roc Thomas fumble kept the Tigers from the touchdown they needed. Auburn's defense held, and the Tigers got great field position off a shanked punt. With just 39 seconds left, Johnson foundin the corner of the end zone for a game-tying touchdown. The Gamecocks opted to take a knee and go to overtime.
Auburn running back Peyton Barber dominated the overtime, catching a swing pass and breaking three tackles to convert a 3rd and 9. Barber followed it with 4-yard touchdown dive to give the Tigers the lead. A pass interference call moved Jacksonville State inside the 10-yard line, but a Cassanova McKinzy sack left the Gamecocks with 4th and goal at the 20.
Jenkins' pass to the corner of the end zone found a receiver standing out of bounds, and the Tigers could finally breathe again.
Three things to know
1. Jacksonville State isn't your garden-variety FCS team. The Gamecocks showed size, speed and athleticism not typical of an FCS opponent. Lightly recruited quarterback Eli Jenkins outplayed Heisman Trophy contender, optioning Auburn's defense into submission and throwing for 277 yards and a score. Jenkins and running back Troymaine Pope, utilizing the read option throughout, combined for 122 yards on the ground against a Tigers defense that was thought to be stout in the front seven.
2. Auburn's problem was, surprisingly, on offense. With that said, the Tigers have a serious problem in the passing game. Johnson struggled to read even basic coverages all afternoon, allowing Jacksonville to focus on the Auburn running game and force Johnson to throw to win. And even with the Gamecocks loading up the line of scrimmage with defenders, fans had to expect more from an offensive line heavy on recruiting stars but light on experience. Late in the game, the running game found its footing just in time for the Tigers to eke out an overtime victory.
3. Turnovers cause upsets. Special teams can kill them. Auburn committed three turnovers Saturday, including two crucial giveaways in the fourth quarter that led to Jacksonville State's go-ahead touchdown and stopped a would-be touchdown drive to tie the game. But it was the poor Jacksonville State punt that gave Auburn the short field it needed to tie the game, and the Tigers took full advantage.