Trotter shows mettle during game-winning drive

Barrett Trotter, standing in the pocket and waiting for a slow-developing play to run its course, knew he was about to get creamed.

The Auburn quarterback, who had been wearing South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram like a jacket all day, heard the footsteps coming behind him and had a pretty good idea whose they were.

With the clock running out and his team down by 4, though, Trotter knew he just had to grit his teeth and bear it.

“When you look at what you’ve got to give up for what it’s worth, it’s not even close at all,” Trotter said. “I’ll take that every time if I have to.”

Tackle A.J. Greene had to break the news to Trotter, who was lying sprawled on the Williams-Brice Stadium turf: Philip Lutzenkirchen had just caught his pass for a 9-yard, go-ahead score with 1:38 to go, the eventual winning touchdown in the Tigers’ 16-13 win over then-No. 10 South Carolina.

Auburn — and its quarterback — showcased more of the struggles that have been plaguing them in the early going against South Carolina on Saturday, but still managed to pull out a touchdown drive when they needed it the most.

That, head coach Gene Chizik said, is the resilience he’s been talking about in repeated descriptions of his starting quarterback.

“Really proud of him for orchestrating that drive there at the end to get us a chance to score at the end of the game,” Chizik said. “There’s a lot to build on there with Barrett.”

And Trotter wasn’t the only Tiger who showed some raw material to build upon in that drive.

Going into the final drive, Auburn had run exactly 80 plays — offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s professed goal for every game — but had only 296 yards to show for them.

Trotter was having an even rockier day, completing only 9-of-18 passes for 82 yards and two interceptions.

A Quan Bray false start put the Tigers behind the sticks immediately, and a short Mike Dyer run and Trotter incompletion set up a third-and-13.

Trotter found DeAngelo Benton at the sticks for a 15-yard gain to keep the drive moving.

It was the second catch of the year for the oft-praised but seldom-used Benton, who was in on the series because Emory Blake was out with an injury.

“That was one of the plays of the game from an offensive standpoint,” Malzahn said. “All (Benton) needs is a little confidence, so I hope that that’ll propel him for the rest of the year.”

Another Dyer run and a Trotter dump-off yielded 8 more yards and set up a third-and-2.

Enter freshman Kiehl Frazier, who — after keeping on eight of his nine prior snaps in the game — most everyone in the stadium knew would call his own number.

Didn’t matter. The freshman burst 3 yards through the line for another first down, at the South Carolina 34.

“It’s good to see (Frazier) out there. Good change-of-pace type player,” Lutzenkirchen said. “When he comes in he can thrown the ball, he can run the ball, he can present the speed sweep.

“So he’s kind of a miniature Cam back there.”

An incompletion and a 1-yard Trotter scramble set up a third-and-9.

And Malzahn made one of those gutsy play calls he’s built his fame on, ordering up a draw to Onterio McCalebb.

It worked for 19 yards — just like one did for 14 yards on second-and-10 of the Tigers’ game-winning drive against Utah State — down to the Gamecocks 14.

“It showed a lot of confidence in us,” center Reese Dismukes said. “And we’ve got a lot of confidence in Coach Malzahn. He’s a real smart guy.”

Two more Dyer runs brought up a third-and-5.

Trotter rolled right, stood in the pocket, looked back left, threw and took the hit.

He had to be helped up from the turf.

He’d already picked himself — and his team — back up off the mat.

“Barrett’s one tough kid,” Lutzenkirchen said. “The shots he’s been taking trying to keep plays alive and getting rid of the ball. He’s just done a phenomenal job. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

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