Down on the Bayou, Auburn fans were ready to party like it was 1999. Unfortunately, Joe Burrow and the LSU Tigers had other ideas.
A battle of Top 10 thoroughbreds, playing on a sloppy wet turf, lived up to its billing, So, too, did the Auburn defense. The Tigers held second-ranked LSU and its Heisman frontrunner quarterback from ever going on a full-out gallop.
In a second half played mostly in the shadows of the Auburn end zone, there was only so much Derrick Brown and Co. could do. With Auburn leading 13-10, a third-quarter, goal-line stand snuffed four LSU runs inside the Auburn 3 to force a turnover on downs. An interception by first-time starter at cornerback, Roger McCreary, provided another reprieve on the ensuing drive.
But the inability of the Auburn offense to escape its own shadows after the turnovers proved damning in a 23-20 loss.
In short time, LSU was open for business again.
First, Burrow did nothing more than hand off to running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He covered 45 yards on four carries, giving LSU the lead.
After Auburn’s third consecutive three-and-out, Burrow let Edwards-Helaire do the heavy lifting again before covering the final 7 yards on his own to open the final quarter. In a span of 6 minutes of game time, the game completely flipped in favor of LSU.
Burrows did little to slow his Heisman candidacy, throwing for more than 300 yards and accounting for two touchdowns. But the biggest damage came up the gut, thanks to a worn-out Auburn defense that spent too much time on the field in the second half.
The news wasn’t all bad for Auburn.
Freshman Bo Nix continued to struggle with accuracy as a passer. But unlike the road trip to Florida, he didn’t look as flustered. Still, Auburn’s inability to sustain anything consistent offensively – in part, because of bad field position – proved costly.
The silver lining? True freshman running back D.J. Williams had runs of 41 and 70 yards, surpassing the century mark for the first time. With Boobee Whitlow kind of, sort of back – he made cameo appearances against LSU after missing two games with injury – Auburn has the building blocks for a devastating running game down the stretch.
Keep this in mind: Auburn held LSU well under its season average (50 points a game) and controlled the line of scrimmage until the dam broke.
For LSU, this was a resume-building win. For Auburn, it was another heartbreak in Baton Rouge, a string of losses that go back to the last win in 1999. But for three-plus quarters, Auburn was the equal, if not the superior team.
A legit Top 10 team in talent, Auburn’s hopes of reaching the College Football playoff are on life support. But the road to New Orleans once again goes through The Plains.
Alabama and Georgia, beware.