His 217 yards all come in first half
By CHRIS WHITE
ATLANTA -- There was time for only one thought as Auburn wide receiver Darvin Adams watch a deflected Hail Mary pass float his way as time expired in the first half of Saturday’s Southeastern Conference championship game.
“Just catch the ball,” Adams said. “That’s it. That’s all that’s going on.”
The 6-foot-3 junior leaned over a South Carolina defender and snagged the football as he fell to the ground in the end zone for his second touchdown of the game.
The catch sent No. 1 Auburn to halftime leading No. 19 South Carolina 28-14. Adams set a new SEC championship game record for receiving yards with 217.
In that instant, a play typically used in desperation marked a dominant one as Auburn built on the momentum taken from that halftime lead for a 56-17 victory.
“That was a huge momentum booster for us to just take it down there and score right before the half,” Auburn offensive lineman Lee Ziemba said. “I’m just glad we had coaches that were aggressive enough to try something like that.”
By the end of the first quarter, Adams had 140 yards on four catches, including a 62-yarder and a 52-yard touchdown play, on which he blazed by a South Carolina defender after faking a cut inside. At halftime, he had seven catches for 217 yards, more than his next two biggest games of the season combined.
The old record of 171 receiving yards, set by Florida’s Reidel Anthony, had stood since 1996.
Adams didn’t catch a pass in the second half, but by then he had done his damage and earned a new reputation. Several teammates said he was as well-known for his blocking as his big catches before Saturday’s game, and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton said he was pleased to see Adams’ abilities highlighted on such a big stage.
“Darvin is the definition of a complete football player,” Newton said. “He blocks. He catches. And whatever Coach (Gene Chizik) asks him to do, he’s willing to do it. And that just goes to show you, what he did today, just the little things that we see every single day out of Darvin Adams.”
Adams downplayed his own role in the game, offering credit to Newton, to his line and to the Auburn defense. But it was that tipped touchdown pass at the end of the first half that his teammates and Chizik cited as the largest shift of momentum in the game.
“I was just trying to make my catches,” Adams said. “It’s just my job to catch it when they throw it to me.”
On the Hail Mary play, the Gamecocks got little pressure on Newton before he fired it about 50 yards in the air. There were several Auburn receivers and USC defenders in the area and DeVonte Holloman was able to get a hand on the ball.
He tipped the ball in the air instead of knocking it down and Adams reached over a falling Stephon Gilmore and grabbed the ball for the score.
Gilmore was in front of Adams, but lost his footing.
“It was just a good play by them,” Gilmore said. “They threw it up and DeVonte tried to tip it down, but he ended up tipping it back. He was just in the right place at the right time. I was going down.”
Defensive tackle Travian Robertson blamed the breakdown to the entire defense.
“I was inside and Newton rolled out,” Robertson said. “Devin (Taylor) went inside and we didn’t have contain. We didn’t have a threat on him. He just threw the ball up and when I turned around all our guys were in position to make a play on it. We could have batted it down or caught it for an interception, but we choose to bat it and their guy was in the right position to make the catch.”
Holloman wanted to knock the ball down, but it so happened to go the other way.
“He (Newton) chucked one deep and I tried to knock it down, but it ended up popping up instead of down,” Holloman said. “I guess no one was really ready for it except for (Adams). He was sitting there waiting for it. We should have gone in down by seven but instead we go in down by 14. That was a big difference.”
-- The State contributed to this report
Chris White, 706-571-8571; follow Chris online at twitter.com/le_chriswhite and at facebook.com/lechriswhite