Auburn football: The one that got away
It was shocking how Auburn outplayed visiting LSU on Saturday but let it slip away in the final seconds. A couple of key pass interference penalties let the Bayou Bengals continue their winning drive and win it 22-21 on a last-second field goal as a stunned Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd looked in disbelief.
Auburn’s 13-game home win streak ended as the home team lost in this series for the first time since 2012. Only three times this century has the visiting team won the Tiger Bowl, with LSU winning all three.
For the second year in a row, Auburn blew what appeared to be a comfortable lead. Last year the Tigers led 20-0 before falling in Baton Rouge. Auburn hasn’t won at LSU since 1999.
A lot of things had to go wrong for Auburn to drop Saturday’s heartbreaker at home. But the Tigers did a lot of things right to rally from an early 10-0 deficit and take a 21-10 lead early in the third quarter.
Here are five things I liked about Saturday’s performance and three things the Tigers need to improve if they hope to climb back into the SEC West race like they did last season.
Things I liked
1. Play-calling: After not doing much on its first couple of possessions, Auburn finally got the offense moving. Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey made a few adjustments and dialed up some plays that took advantage of the aggressive LSU defense. Auburn scored on its final two possessions of the first half before kneeling on a 14-10 halftime lead, then extended its advantage with a touchdown drive on its first possession of the second half. The Tigers rolled up 196 yards of offense on those three scoring drives alone.
2. Poise: There was certainly no panic in the Tigers after they fell behind 10-0. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham remained calm, even after tossing his first of two interceptions that set up LSU for its first touchdown. Stidham drove the team for touchdown marches of 10, nine, and seven plays for a 21-10 lead.
3. Run defense: For the most part, Auburn held LSU’s run game in check. Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson led the defensive line with nine and six tackles respectively, and linebacker Deshaun Davis led the team with 13 tackles. Auburn limited LSU to 2.9 yards per rush, allowing only one running play to go for more than 9 yards.
4. Offensive line: The Auburn line pushed LSU around after stumbling through the first two possessions of the game. From that point on, Auburn ran fewer than five plays on any one drive just twice. On five possessions, Auburn ran off seven plays, as the Tigers moved the ball throughout.
5. Conference PAT record: Kicker Anders Carlson booted his first of three extra points midway through the second quarter as Auburn broke the SEC record for consecutive PAT kicks. The Tigers have hit 237 straight attempts, breaking Texas A&M’s mark of 234 from 2013-17. Carlson is 9-for-9 in his Auburn career.
Things that need improvement
1. Penalties: Nine penalties for 111 yards is a lot to overcome. Too much, in fact, against one of the best teams in the SEC. Four of those penalties occurred in the fourth quarter and each one was crucial. Two of those stopped fourth-quarter drives, while two others — for pass interference — kept LSU’s winning drive alive.
2. Slow start: A sluggish beginning resulted in a 10-0 deficit. LSU scored on its first drive, intercepting Stidham and capitalizing. It was the first opening period touchdown allowed by Auburn since the game against Louisiana-Monroe last November, and just the fourth time Auburn allowed a first-quarter touchdown in the past 22 games.
3. Final drive failures: Not only did LSU drive 52 yards in 14 plays for the winning field goal, but it chewed up the final 5:38 of the game. The Auburn defense failed to get off the field on two third-down plays, and another fourth-down play as LSU drove for Cole Tracy’s winning 42-yard field goal.