Or was he merely temporarily insane?
This question needs to be asked because if you watched the Auburn vs. South Carolina game last Saturday, you have to wonder what Steve Spurrier was thinking. Going into the game at Bryce Stadium in Columbia, Senior Quarterback Stephen Garcia had thrown seven interceptions and three touchdowns. This is not the player whose hands you want to hold the outcome of a key SEC matchup. The guy is an absolute turnover machine. Meanwhile, you have a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in beastly Tailback Marcus Lattimore, who had carried the ball 107 times for 611 yards and eight touchdowns. Going against the worst rushing defense in the SEC (third from the bottom in all of the FBS), you’d think Auburn would have been served a steady diet of Lattimore left, Lattimore right, Lattimore up the middle.
What does Spurrier do? He has Garcia throw the football 23 times and Lattimore carry it 17 times. Auburn beat South Carolina in a “who sucks less” game, 16-13. That’s about nine carries off of Lattimore’s average carries for the season. Why? Against a defense that couldn’t stop a ten-year old from running away with its lunch money, you let the wrecking ball named Marcus line up and let the bodies stack up like cordwood, don’t you?
This would have been spectacularly effective in the second half and particularly in the fourth quarter. Lattimore’s stat line in the second half? Eight carries. Thirty yards.
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn had the right idea. He has his own stud Tailback and wasn’t at all shy about using him. Michael Dyer gashed the Gamecock defense for 141 yards on a season-high 41 carries. Dyer hasn’t carried the ball 20 times in any of its previous four games. That means Dyer carried the ball more times Saturday than on any two of the other four games combined. That allowed Auburn to keep its defense off of the field.
Auburn deserves some credit for not wilting in a big-time SEC game and beating a previously undefeated South Carolina squad. They took care of business and won a conference game on the road—no small feat in today’s SEC. But you also have to lay a lot of the blame for Carolina’s loss at the feet of the Ol’ Ball Coach for one of the most bumfuddled game plans in the history of Gamecock football.
The SEC East is now a wide open race again. All Spurrier needed Garcia to do was hand the ball to Lattimore and he’d probably be at 5-0 and in the driver’s seat for a return trip to Atlanta. Instead, he’s still winless against Auburn in three tries over two years and stuck in a three way race for the East title. That’s insane.