No. 15 Auburn seeks offensive surge against South Carolina

No. 15 Auburn seeks offensive surge against South Carolina

No. 15 Auburn is hoping to see more good things from freshman running back Tank Bigsby when the Tigers play at South Carolina on Saturday.

Bigsby ran for 146 yards last week in a 30-28 escape against visiting Arkansas when the Tigers won on a last-minute 39-yard field goal that followed a wild sequence. Auburn needed a controversial no-call after a bobbled snap and a backward spiked pass just to get the chance to line up again to try for the winning field goal.

On that game-winning drive, Bigsby caught a pass for eight yards and ran twice for 17 yards.

“What has impressed me is just his physicality and determination,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said of the newest Auburn RB sensation. “He’s still learning the plays. He is still learning the schemes and the steps and everything that goes with it.

“But one thing he’s doing is he’s bringing the wood. He’s running angry with great physicality and with great effort. He’s really doing a good job in kick returns, too. We’re throwing him in the fire. … After the game slows down a little bit and he actually can read things and slow himself down, I think the sky is the limit.”

Bigsby’s emergence is a positive sign for an Auburn offense that mostly has struggled under new offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who served as the head coach at Arkansas the past two seasons. Part of that might be playing a defensive monster in Georgia — the Tigers lost to the Bulldogs 27-6 on Oct. 3 — but Auburn (2-1, 2-1 SEC) ranks just 67th out of 76 teams nationally in total offense (328.7 yards per game) and is 62nd in scoring (21.7 points per game).

South Carolina (1-2, 1-2) is coming off its first victory, a 41-7 triumph at Vanderbilt after opening with losses against Tennessee and Florida.

The Gamecocks, too, have an up-and-coming running back in sophomore Kevin Harris. Last season, he ran for 147 yards on six carries in his debut against Charleston Southern but was limited to just 15 more rushes and five games the rest of the way because of a groin injury.

Harris is a bull of a runner at 5-foot-10, 225 pounds, having posted back-to-back triple-digit games — 100 yards rushing vs. Florida, 171 against Vanderbilt.

“You get tired of hitting him, and there’s nothing really soft on his body,” said South Carolina coach Will Muschamp. “He’s a guy that wears on people as the game continues to go.”

South Carolina quarterback Collin Hall, a grad transfer from Colorado State, has completed 69 of 110 passes for 698 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. His former head coach at CSU, Mike Bobo, is the Gamecocks’ new offensive coordinator. South Carolina is ninth in the SEC in total offense at 397.7 yards per game.

It will be interesting to watch the Gamecocks’ defense against Bigsby; South Carolina has allowed an average of 96.3 yards a game on the ground, 13th best in the country.

Auburn, which reached No. 7 in the AP poll before the loss at Georgia, is waiting for a breakout game from talented dual-threat sophomore quarterback Bo Nix. He has 597 passing yards and 72 rushing yards in three games, but the potential for much more is there with Auburn’s fleet-footed receivers Anthony Schwartz and Seth Williams.

Auburn and South Carolina last met in 2014. The SEC cross-division rivals have met eight times in conference games, with the Tigers winning them all.

Auburn will be without preseason All-SEC linebacker K.J. Britt for the second consecutive game. He could miss most of the rest of the season after undergoing thumb surgery.

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