AUBURN, Alabama — Steve Spurrier had already decided overtime wasn't an option.
The South Carolina coach was planning to go for a 2-point conversion and a dramatic victory, but never got the chance. The gambling Gamecocks couldn't produce a final touchdown and fell 42-35 to No. 5 Auburn on Saturday night in a game that went down to the wire.
"If we catch the Hail Mary and we make a 2-point conversion that might have been the greatest win in my entire life," Spurrier said. "If it had worked out. It was just a close loss. I thought maybe something good was going to happen, but they picked it off."
Instead of celebrating a huge upset, the 18-point underdog Gamecocks (4-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) left with another loss in a disappointing season.
The Tigers (6-1, 3-1) finally stopped the onslaught of Spurrier, Thompson and their fourth-down magic late in the game.
"They went for everything and they got just about everything," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "They executed when they had to and they did it time and time again.
"That's the reason it was a close game. That's the reason it went down to the end."
Auburn burned off four-plus minutes from the clock after the first unsuccessful gamble, but the Gamecocks made a stop at midfield for one more shot.
Thompson, who helped convert five straight fourth-down tries, took over at his own 15 with no timeouts and 1:08 left. Jones, who also had two interceptions in a loss to No. 1 Mississippi State two weeks ago, made the play to preserve the Tigers' SEC and national title hopes when Thompson threw into a crowd of players from both teams.
"We know that we can play with anybody," Thompson said. "I'm sure you have a lot of guys in there that feel like we should have won the game but there is no point in talking about it. We just have to get better for Tennessee. Auburn won the game, it's time to move on."
The Gamecocks converted an onside kick and four fourth-down plays in their own territory.
Spurrier finally busted on his last gamble. Thompson threw an incompletion on fourth-and-14 from Auburn's 19 that gave the Tigers the ball back with 5:28 left.
The Gamecocks got another chance, and moved into Auburn territory with a completion and personal foul against Jonathon Mincy.
Thompson also threw a pick to Jones in the end zone early in the fourth when he was drilled by Gabe Wright as he threw.
Auburn tied Florida State for the longest active streak with 14 straight home wins. South Carolina has lost three consecutive SEC games for the first time since the end of the 2009 season.
Auburn's Nick Marshall ran for 89 yards and three touchdowns and completed 12 of 14 passes for 139 yards and a score. He scored on a 37-yard sprint and on runs of 4 and 9 yards and said it was his best game of the season.
Cameron Artis-Payne gained 167 yards on 25 carries as Auburn's punishing running game countered South Carolina's prolific passing. Receiver Ricardo Louis ran for 102 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter.
Thompson was 29-of-51 passing but was also intercepted three times beyond or near the goal line. It was the most passing yards by a South Carolina quarterback since Steve Taneyhill threw for 473 yards against Mississippi State in 1995.
Pharoh Cooper caught two of his touchdown throws and had 127 yards on seven catches.
"We almost did it," Spurrier said. "We didn't quite make it but we messed up in the red zone a couple of times. We got the onside kick.
"It gave us a fighting chance."
It was quite a match between Spurrier and Malzahn and their differing styles. Both had their quarterbacks catch passes for first downs, and both stuck to what they do best.
Auburn racked up 551 yards, 395 on the ground. South Carolina had 416 of its 535 yards through the air.
The difference: Auburn scored four touchdowns on trips inside South Carolina's 20-yard line. The Gamecocks were 2 of 5 with the three picks keeping them out of the end zone.
"Their coach is one of the better coaches to ever walk the sidelines," Malzahn said. "I think everybody saw that with the fourth-down calls and the onside kick."
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