Rapid Reaction: Behind dominant D, LSU tames Auburn, states its case to be No. 1 in the country
Three up, three down. With all the drama a college football fan could want.
No. 2 LSU made its loudest statement yet that it deserves to be No. 1 when it rallied to beat No. 9 Auburn 23-20 Saturday at Death Valley. The victory was the Tigers’ 3rd in as many tries against top 10 teams.
Not impressed? Consider No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 15 Texas lost Saturday to unranked teams.
No, LSU’s prolific offense didn’t maintain its video game scoring pace, but Joe Burrow and Co. made just enough plays to put away the Tigers. The defense did the rest.
Just like in the bowl win over UCF, Burow took a vicious shot and then responded with a few haymakers of his own.
But just like in the bowl win over UCF, it was far from easy.
Auburn controlled the tempo for much of the first half. Burrow completed passes, but Auburn mitigated the yards after.
After Burrow was blown up and knocked out of bounds on a run midway through the 2nd quarter, he capped an 80-yard drive with a 20-yard TD toss to Terrace Marshall to give LSU a 7-3 lead.
LSU seemed to be taking control, but Derek Stingley fumbled a punt, giving Auburn possession at the LSU 22. Seven plays later, Bo Nix crashed into the end zone on 4th-and-inches to give Auburn a 10-7 lead.
LSU tied it just before halftime on Cade York’s 20-yard field goal.
To that point, LSU had outgained Auburn 238 to 106 yards.
Why was it tied? Auburn gained the 1 yard it needed for a TD, and LSU was stuffed on a 4th-down attempt to end one drive and stalled at the 2-yard-line to set up the field goal on another.
The 2nd half brought more of the same. After Auburn drove 73 yards and kicked a field goal to take a 13-10 lead, the Tigers stuffed LSU again on 4th-and-goal to maintain its momentum.
Auburn’s problem was it couldn’t sustain drives.
Eventually, Auburn’s defense broke.
After forcing another punt, LSU drove 45 yards on 4 plays — all runs. Clyde Edwards-Helaire accounted for every yard, the final 6 resulting in a TD that put LSU ahead 16-13. York missed the PAT, however.
No matter. LSU’s defense did the rest.
It forced a 3rd consecutive 3-and-out, putting the ball back in Burrow’s hands.
And LSU went marching again. This time they covered 70 yards in 11 plays, mixing the run and pass but ultimately just wearing down Auburn’s front.
Burrow capped it with a 6-yard TD run out of an empty backfield. York’s PAT made it 23-13.
That lead seemed larger, considering Nix’s struggles. He had completed just 8 of 22 passes to that point for 69 yards. The prospects of Nix suddenly finding his mark seemed dim.
He led the Tigers on another late TD to draw within 23-20. And Auburn almost came up with the onside kick.
Almost wasn’t good enough Saturday.
LSU was held to its season-low in points. It committed 13 penalties. It came up short several times on offense. None of it mattered. LSU’s defense play its best game of the year.
If LSU ever puts it all together on the same day, good luck dealing with that.