Tigers ignoring doubters, playing confident

LaDarius Owens and the young Tiger D showed they can play in the SEC.

T’Sharvan Bell listened last week as a variety of sources came up with a variety of reasons for why Auburn would lose to South Carolina.

Marcus Lattimore was going to gouge the Tigers’ porous run defense. Alshon Jeffery was going to catch 35 passes for 750 yards.

The road atmosphere at Williams-Brice Stadium was going to eat the young Tigers alive, just as it did at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium two weeks prior.

Bell heard all that. He just chose not to believe it.

“All week you hear about how bad we are, how South Carolina is going to do this and how they’re going to do that,” Bell said. “Guys just took it to heart.”

That manifested itself in the lowest-scoring output for an SEC team against a Ted Roof Auburn defense (13 points) and the third-lowest yardage output (289 yards).

The same Tigers team that looked on the edge of implosion after the Clemson loss is back in the top 25 – No. 15 in the Associated Press, No. 23 in USA Today – and is, in Bell’s words, “on some Kool-Aid.”

Not literally.

“We’re hyped up. We have an edge about us,” Bell said. “And it just showed Saturday.”

That “edge” showed up on offense, defense and special teams against the Gamecocks.

The defense made up for some truly ghastly performances to start the season by stepping up in the Tigers’ biggest test to date.

The offense controlled the clock with 92 plays – 67 coming on the ground – and engineered the 12-play, 57-yard drive that won the game.

Auburn’s special teams made life even tougher on South Carolina’s already struggling offense, with Cody Parkey recording three touchbacks and Steven Clark downing five punts inside the 20-yard line.

In short – by beating the highest ranked team in the SEC East – Auburn made it seem not entirely out of the question that it can back up cornerback Ryan White’s stated goal of exiting the South Carolina-Arkansas-Florida-LSU gauntlet 4-0.

A team can dream, can’t it?

“The young guys realize that now: any game in the SEC we can win, and to not listen to what everyone is saying,” tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said. “I think it’s a good step forward for our team.”

No. 10 Arkansas will put that dictum to another test this week in Fayetteville.

South Carolina – for all the riches it possesses in the “playmaker” department – has yet to hit its offensive stride this year.

That’s not the case for the Razorbacks, who rank first in the SEC and 16th nationally in scoring (39.4 points a game), first in the SEC and seventh nationally in passing offense (351.8 yards a game) and first in the SEC and 15th nationally in total offense (471.8 yards a game).

Junior quarterback Tyler Wilson completed 30-of-51 passes for 510 yards and three touchdowns against Texas A&M last week, helping lead the Razorbacks back from a 35-17 halftime deficit to a 42-38 win.

Auburn fans may also remember Wilson as the guy who came in for Ryan Mallett last year and torched the Tigers secondary for 332 yards and four touchdowns in Auburn’s 65-43 win over Arkansas last year.

Roof knows him as one of the causes for his fitful slumber this week. He started fretting about Arkansas’ offense on the bus ride from the stadium Saturday.

“I saw where the kid had thrown for 510 yards,” Roof said. “That certainly got our attention.”

Auburn’s up for a whole new challenge, a whole new opponent, a whole new round of reasons why they can’t move to 5-1 on the year.

Just don’t expect them to take much heed.

“You ignore it and don’t believe it because you know what you’re capable of and working toward,” defensive end LaDarius Owens said. “But at the same time you work hard to prove them wrong and shut them up.”

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