COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina's Jaycee Horn was tired of hearing he didn't have the ball skills to be a truly exceptional cornerback.
His play against No. 15 Auburn proved he did — and led the Gamecocks to a breakthrough win over the Tigers on Saturday.
Horn had the first two interceptions of his career and his pass break up led to a third — all which South Carolina turned into touchdowns — for a 30-22 victory that was its first win over Auburn in 87 years.
Horn is a junior who's been a lockdown corner most of his career.
“If a team throws at him like that every game, he'll have a game like that every game,” Gamecocks receiver Shi Smith said of Horn, the son of NFL receiver Joe Horn.
Horn was assigned to Auburn receiver Seth Williams, one of the best receivers in the Southeastern Conference, averaging 18 yards a catch. Williams finished with four catches for 74 yards, but no scores.
“I heard a lot of people saying I (don't) have any ball skills, which is crazy to me,” Horn said. “I just knew the day would come when I'd have a lot of opportunities to make plays.”
South Carolina made plenty of them throughout to beat Auburn for the first time in 87 years.
Kevin Harris ran for two touchdowns, Smith added a 10-yard TD catch and Horn and the defense did enough to stop Bo Nix and the Tigers' attack.
Auburn (2-2) had won eight straight in the series and jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes. But Nix, the sophomore quarterback, threw three picks and the Gamecocks (2-2) cashed in each time to win consecutive games for the first time in more than a year.
Smith had eight catches including his score midway through the third quarter that put South Carolina ahead for good, 20-19.
Auburn was driving on its following series when Nix threw his third interception — and second to c Horn who brought the ball down the left sidelines to the Tigers' 8. Harris was in the end zone a play later for a 27-19 lead and Auburn could not recover.
The Tigers closed to 30-22 on Anders Carlson's 22 yard field goal with 6:39 left. Auburn got the ball back once more with 2:15 left and drove to the South Carolina 13. Nix, though, was called for intentional grounding trying to avoid a sack and the Gamecocks held on to beat the Tigers for the first time since 1933.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said his team will have to get past this quickly. “We’re just going to have to be big boys and we’re going to have to man up and put it behind us and go into next week and find a way to win," he said.
South Carolina had not won back-to-back games since defeating Kentucky and then-No. 3 Georgia last season. That win over the Bulldogs was the last time the Gamecocks had beaten a ranked opponent.
Auburn's offense looked unstoppable the first half and doubled up South Carolina in yardage (243-119) the first 30 minutes — except when Nix put the ball in danger.
Nix had 272 yards passing and was sacked three times.
Bigsby, the Auburn freshman, had 111 yards rushing and went past the century mark for a second straight game.
Auburn linebacker Owen Pappoe said the next week was critical for his team.
“We're just going to stay together,” Pappoe said.
Auburn: The Tigers have some offensive issues. Nix had thrown only one interception on the season before his three here. And Nix and receiver Williams looked to have some feisty words on the sidelines in the third quarter. Teammate Eli Stove said the two “love each other,” but things like that happen at times. “People want to win. It’s a competition. Seth’s trying to tell Bo something about what the DB’s doing, and Bo is trying to tell him what he saw,” Stove said.
South Carolina: If the Gamecocks felt good about defeating Vanderbilt last week, they'll be absolutely giddy with this ranked win before heading to LSU to face the defending — and struggling — national champions next week. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo yelled “Yes, sir!” as he left the press box area for the locker room.
HELP UP FRONT
The Gamecocks got a boost from defensive tackle Kier Thomas, a senior, returning to the lineup after not traveling to the Vanderbilt game due to COVID-19 issues. Thomas had two of the three sacks on Nix, including the one late where Nix was called for intentional grounding.
PROBLEMS FOR CHAD
It has not been a fun experience for Auburn offensive coordinator Chad Morris at Williams-Brice Stadium. Morris lost twice at South Carolina while he held the same job at Clemson, then was defeated in this one. Two of the three games, his offense had outgained the Gamecocks, including Saturday when Auburn had 481 yards to just 295 for South Carolina.
Auburn is at Ole Miss on Saturday.
South Carolina goes to LSU on Saturday night.
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