The Opening Drive: Auburn at South Carolina

AUBURN, Ala. – With two games remaining in the regular season, the focus for Auburn hasn’t changed. It doesn’t matter if the Tigers are coming off a big win or a gut-wrenching loss, the focus heading into the next week has always been 1-0.

That’s the mindset again this week as Auburn looks to bounce back at South Carolina. 

What does that mean for new starting quarterback T.J. Finley

“It’s putting in the work, putting in the time, studying,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “It’s your show this week. Take responsibility. It’s a big responsibility, being a quarterback at any level, especially in this league, and if you want to win on the road in this league, you’ve got to have good quarterback play to do it.”

Finley is stepping in for Bo Nix who broke his ankle last week at Mississippi State and will miss the remainder of the season. It will be the first time since the 2018 Music City Bowl that somebody other than Nix will be starting under center for Auburn. The Tigers will also be without kicker Anders Carlson who is also out the rest of the year with a torn ACL. 

“Both of those guys are in good spirits, and it’s unfortunate what happened to them,” head coach Bryan Harsin said. “They’ve handled it well. Guys on the team know what we need to do to have guys step up and be able to fill those roles and get ourselves ready to play in this next game.”

The Tigers are looking to avenge last year’s loss at South Carolina. Ironically, Finley’s first start at LSU last year came against South Carolina. He accounted for three touchdowns. 

Auburn (6-4, 3-3) and South Carolina (5-5, 2-5) will kick off at 6 p.m. CT from Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. The game will be televised on ESPN with Mark Jones, Robert Griffin III and Quint Kessenich on the call while Andy Burcham, Stan White, Ronnie Brown, Brad Law and Paul Ellen will describe the action on the Auburn Sports Network. 

Football: Auburn vs Ole Miss
 

THREE QUESTIONS WITH … QB T.J. FINLEY

Q: What has this week been like for you finding out that Bo Nix is done with the ankle injury and knowing that you’re the next guy up at quarterback? 

A: It’s been a roller coaster. You never want to see your best friend go down with an injury, but he’s done an amazing job supporting me throughout the week. We’ve been supporting each other throughout the season. Emotionally, it’s been hard because I feel for him. I know how that feels. I broke my ankle as a young kid, and I know how bad that hurts. To see him finish that game is amazing. But I have to prepare to be the starter this week and be the guy. I’ve been doing everything in my power to stay focused and stay locked in for my team. 

Q: How much does your mind go back to your start against South Carolina last year at LSU? 

A: It goes back to it a lot. Although it was a different team, different coaching staff, different schemes – it goes back to it because I don’t believe in coincidences. I think God has a plan for everybody, and everything that happens is in God’s plan. The fact that my first game starting last year was South Carolina, it’s crazy that my first start this year is South Carolina. 

Q: This won’t be your first pressure-packed situation at Auburn. You led the game-winning drive against Georgia State. What went through your mind in that drive? 

A: I prepare day in and day out to be the guy – whether it’s in practice, whether it’s in the film room. So me going in that game, it was nothing new for me. The guys already knew if I got in, I knew what I was doing, I understood the scheme, I understood what we wanted to get done. So me going in, it was no different. I think the team had a lot of energy when I went in, and we just turned it around completely. 
 

INSIDE THE SERIES: SOUTH CAROLINA

This will be the 14th meeting in the all-time series and the 10th matchup between the teams
since the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992. Auburn leads the series, 10-2-1, and is 3-1 in all games played at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Last season, South Carolina was a 30-22 winner at home, which ended an eight-game winning streak for Auburn. 

Playing two straight years in Columbia, this is the first pair of true road games for Auburn at an
SEC opponent in consecutive years since 1958-59 (at Georgia Tech).

Auburn has outscored South Carolina 366-225 in the series, including 294-176 in the nine meetings since 1996. However, five of the last six games in the series have been decided by eight points or less, including last year’s 30-22 result. 

Series: Auburn, 10-2-1
At Auburn: Auburn, 4-0
At Columbia: Auburn, 3-1
At Neutral Sites: Auburn, 2-1-1
First Meeting: 1930 (Auburn, 25-7)
Most AU points: 56 (2010, SEC Championship)
Current Streak: South Carolina, W1
 

BY THE NUMBERS

34: For the first time in nearly three years, Auburn will start somebody other than Bo Nix at quarterback on Saturday. Nix, who suffered a broken ankle against Mississippi State, started 34 consecutive games for the Tigers and is among the top three in nearly every school career passing category. At 34, he’s tied for second in most consecutive QB starts at Auburn.

337: John Samuel Shenker has 337 receiving yards this season, putting him just 12 yards shy of breaking Auburn’s single season record for receiving yards by a tight end. With 27 receptions, he’s also two catches shy of breaking the AU record for receptions in a season.  

14: Per PFF, Roger McCreary leads all cornerback with 14 forced incompletions this season. McCreary also has the highest PFF grade (90.2) among cornerbacks in college football. The senior is one of 18 semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award.

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