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Irons leads Auburn over South Carolina

Sep 29, 2006 - 3:32 AM COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Ticker) -- Kenny Irons was back in his home state but this time he was running all over South Carolina.

Irons rushed 117 yards and two touchdowns and Brandon Cox threw for 179 yards and a score as second-ranked Auburn held on for a 24-17 Southeastern Conference victory over the Gamecocks.

After transferring from South Carolina in 2004, Irons led the conference in rushing last year, racking up 1,293 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Tigers.

"Things happen for a reason; the Lord has a plan for you and you just have to follow that plan," Irons said.

Entering Thursday's contest, the senior running back again led the conference with 107.3 yards per game. He is looking to become the first player to lead the SEC in rushing in consecutive seasons.

Irons struggled during his time with South Carolina (3-2, 1-2 SEC East), rushing for only 50 yards on 19 carries in 2003. On Thursday, however, he wasted no time showing his old school the player he has become.

"This game meant a lot. I have a lot of people doubting me and everything, but I've got a great ball team," Irons said. "I came out here with a little chip on my shoulder, but I just came out and played hard."

The Tigers (5-0, 3-0 West) marched downfield on a nine-play drive to start the scoring, capped by Irons' one-yard touchdown plunge with 8:07 remaining in the first quarter. He added his second score on another one-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Auburn a 24-10 lead.

"It was a guessing game on defense. At times we played well and at times we didn't," Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville said. "Offensively, it almost cost us by going three and out the last time we had the ball.

"We have to step up. I was disappointed in that. That is part of it. It was a team win and we will take our second victory on the road."

However, the Gamecocks made a game of it. Syvelle Newton threw a 25-yard TD pass to tight end Jared Cook with 8:25 remaining, pulling the Gamecocks within 24-17.

Cook also should have had the tying score with under a minute remaining, but he dropped a wide-open pass in the end zone.

On the same drive, South Carolina reached the Auburn 5 before it was stopped on fourth down when Newton's pass into the left corner of end zone was batted down.

"Man, it was scary. It felt like the LSU game all over again," said Auburn cornerback David Irons, Kenny's brother. "We knew that they were going to go to Sidney Rice on that last play, and I had faith in (cornerback) Pat Lee. It was the toughest game they have played all season. They gave it to us."

With the defense keying on Irons, Cox threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Trott on a play-action fake in the second quarter, giving the Tigers a 14-3 lead.

Auburn controlled the ball in the third quarter, chewing up the clock and taking a 17-10 lead on John Vaughn's 25-yard field goal. The Tigers have outscored their opponents, 38-0, in the third quarter this season.

"The third quarter killed us. I'm going to stop talking about it," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. "I don't know what we need to do. We may blitz the first five plays in the third quarter from now on and either stop them or let them score."

Newton was 21-for-35 for 240 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target was Kenny McKinley, who had eight catches for 110 yards and a score.

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