Revenge factor at play vs. South Carolina

This Auburn defense needs to step it up and learn how to stop the run

Ryan White has never played a game at Williams-Brice Stadium.

The Auburn sophomore cornerback has a pretty good idea what to expect when he gets there Saturday, though.

About the same thing he saw at Memorial Stadium, 130 miles up the road in Clemson two weeks ago.

“They’ve got that big, huge revenge factor,” White said. “I think everybody just wants to beat Auburn this year for what we did last year. Anywhere we go is going to be hard.

“I’m not expecting this game to be too much different.”

The Tigers got the better of the Gamecocks twice last year, first in a tight, 35-27 win at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Sept. 25 and then a 56-17 drubbing in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta.

That second one, especially, still sticks in the craw of some South Carolina players.

“They did embarrass us that second game,” running back Marcus Lattimore said. “We want to come out and play like we’ve never played. We’re just trying to get that win.

“They did embarrass us that last game.”

South Carolina has only beaten Auburn once in 10 tries — in 1933 — going 1-8-1 against the Tigers all-time.

Big, huge revenge. And it’s just the beginning of an especially brutal four-game stretch for the defending national champs.

“We’re going to take it game-by-game, that’s all we can do,” White said. “We plan on being 4-0 after October.”

The odds, cold and rational as they are, seem to be against Auburn escaping this weekend 1-0.

The Tigers (3-1) are coming off consecutive weeks in which they lost to Clemson and beat winless Florida Atlantic in an underwhelming fashion. Their offense and defense are taking turns giving coaches plenty to fret over.

No. 10 South Carolina (4-0) enters the game with more fanfare, but nearly as many question marks as Auburn.

The Gamecocks’ loaded, experienced defense was unexpectedly average against their first three opponents, giving up 33.3 points and 372.0 yards a game.

But they got things going in a big way against Vanderbilt last week, holding the Commodores to 77 yards — including only 4 on the ground — and forcing three turnovers.

Lattimore, South Carolina’s all-everything back, has continued owning college competition in his second year on campus.

But senior quarterback Stephen Garcia has developed a serious case of indecisiveness this year, and he can’t seem to get the ball into hulking receiver Alshon Jeffery’s hands on a regular basis.

Jeffery, who averaged 6.3 catches and 108.4 yards a game last year, is down to 3.5 catches and 61.5 yards a game this year.

Auburn plans to throw a bunch of different defenders and looks at the Gamecocks wideout, and White said he thinks he’s picked up a tendency that can help when he draws the 6-foot-4, 229-pound Jeffery.

“You’ve definitely got to get your hands on him. From what I’ve seen, he can’t get off press,” White said. “So that’s what we’re coming in with. We’ve got to put our hands on him and different people on him.

“If we shut those two down — Alshon and Marcus — we’re going to come out with the ‘W.’”

He makes it seem so simple.

“(Gamecocks coaches) know that if you spend all your time trying to cover (Jeffery), it just leaves one less guy in the box to stop Lattimore,” cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley said. “Pick your poison.”

Even with all the talent on both sides, neither Auburn nor South Carolina has yet to show much consistency this young season.

Whichever team nails down that aspect the earliest Saturday could end up on top in the two sides’ third meeting in a year.

“The faces definitely look familiar when you look at the gameplan,” defensive end Nosa Eguae said. “Those guys have gotten better, but we feel like we’ve gotten better, too. I’m looking forward to going out there in primetime television and playing some great football.”

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