Beating LSU a Rush for Unbeaten Tigers

Auburn is now the last unbeaten team in the SEC following an exciting 24-17 football victory over LSU featuring another great performance from Cam Newton.

Auburn, Ala.--Despite what would seem to be a preposterous total of 440 rushing yards vs. sixth-ranked LSU's defense that had only been giving up 83.6 yards per contest, it took more fourth quarter magic for Gene Chizik's Tigers to win the battle of the unbeatens as fifth-ranked Auburn improved to 8-0 with a 24-17 football victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Onterio McCalebb raced around left end with the winning score with just over five minutes left to play on Saturday. The sophomore running back raced 70 yards on the perfectly blocked play.

"As soon as I saw the hole I knew I was going to score and nobody was going to catch me," McCalebb said. "Give my teammates credit for doing a great job on that play."

Onterio McCalebb uses his speed to run past the LSU defense on his long touchdown run.

The Auburn defense, which did a solid job most of the game, continued that theme as the Tigers stopped LSU's final possession allowing Auburn to run out the clock in front of their wild and crazy fans who watched another amazing performance from quarterback Cameron Newton.

Chizik showed his faith in Newton as well as the defense by gambling with the score tied at 17-17 by going for a fourth down and six at the LSU 40-yard line. However, Newton missed on a pass to the sideline intended for Darvin Adams giving the visitors great field position.

Explaining his decision, the head coach said, "Well, we wanted to see what they were in, and if they didn't give us a look that we liked we could have run the clock out, backed it up and punted it. We weren't quite in field goal range.

"They gave us a look we like," Chizik added. "We thought we had the stop route over there in the boundary, and we just threw the ball a little bit high. We felt like it was really a win-win situation because they gave us what we wanted on it."

Chizik's faith in the defense was rewarded by a three-and-out as defensive tackle Nick Fairley was devastating to the LSU offense with a tackle for a three-yard loss on first down and a sack by the big junior on third down on which he body slammed quarterback Jordan Jefferson for a nine-yard loss.

However, as was the case all day the Bayou Bengals put Auburn in a hole with a dominant punting game. This time the Tigers were backed up at their own 10-yard line, but a first down run by Newton moved the football to the 26 and two plays later McCalebb went the distance.

LSU's last possession was a four-and-out as the visitors couldn't convert a fourth down and six at their own 30 and Auburn ran out the final three minutes and 20 seconds with Newton's running moving the ball to the LSU three.

"Going back out there after Onterio had scored, we knew that if we made the stop we were going to win," said Fairley. "We just ran our base defense and were at the right place at the right time to make plays."

Nick Fairley tackles LSU running back Stevan Ridley.

Fairley finished the game with six tackles with 2 1/2 sacks and another tackle for a loss. LIneacker Josh Bynes led the Tigers with 11 tackles and linebacker Craig Stevens added seven.

Newton's Heisman Trophy candidacy continued its upward spike as he rushed 28 times for 217 yards and two touchdowns. It was his fifth game of 170 or more rushing yards in eight outings. The previous best was four in a single season by Bo Jackson. The junior also hit 10-16 passes for 86 yards on a day the Tigers did not need to run much to outgain LSU 526-242 yards.

"Going into this game we knew it was the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 1 defense, the clash of the titans," Newton said. He could have added it was the Auburn offense that was the star of show, but that was understood by fans at a packed house at Jordan-Hare Stadium who saw Auburn knock off the first LSU team to start the season 7-0 since the 1973.

Auburn survived the battle and is the only remaining unbeaten team in the SEC. One of the reasons why the Tigers won was the strong inside running of tailback Michael Dyer who gained 100 yards on 15 carries. Auburn's quarterback was impressed with what he saw from the freshman.

"Mike Dyer is a special, special player," he said of the tailback who has been battling to get healthy. "Going into this game it was said many, many times that playmakers have to make plays...whoever you are on this team you have to do your assignment and Mike is one of those guys we depend on game in and game out to make plays."

Dyer said it was a thrill for him to contribute. "It feels great to win a big game like this," he said. "That was a lot of fun out there."

The Auburn standout who impressed LSU star linebacker, Kelvin Sheppard, was Newton. "He is a great player, about the best in the country. Plain and simple he's the best quarterback in the country."

Auburn's 440 rushing yards are the most ever for Auburn vs. an SEC opponent and the fifth highest total in AU history for any game.

Auburn's Chizik gave a big thumbs up to the performance of the offensive line that continues to play at an extremely high level after being challenged by the head coach in September to get more physical.

"I think the numbers speak for themselves," Chizik said of the 440 rushing yards. "I don't know what I need to say about that. I just don't want to lose sight of the fact our offensive line has become a really good offensive line.

"From left tackle to right tackle, those guys have played every snap now for eight games," Chizik said. "They are beat up. They are tired. They get beat up during the game. They find a way to continue to press on. Everything starts with those guys up front.

"When we got the ball on the perimeter tonight, Onterio McCalebb made a great run, but I am going to tell you something. Keep a close eye on the perimeter blocking from the wide receivers. That's what makes a team in my opinion. I think it is all working together and we are getting better."

Senior offensive guard Byron Isom, who had never beaten LSU, said ending that streak was the first thing he thought about as the final clock hit 0:00. "The script couldn't get much better for my senior year," Isom said with a big smile. "It means a lot to an offensive line to look at a stat like 440 rushing yards. That is what we hang our hat on. It means a lot to the seniors to play like we are doing."

Auburn got the ball first to start the game when LSU won the toss. Auburn went three and out on its first possession, but following an interception return of 33 yards by Zac Etheridge on a deflected pass the Tigers drove 54 yards on six plays.

Runs by Newton for 17 yards and Dyer for 16 put Auburn at first and goal at the LSU one. On the next play from the shotgun formation, Newton powered into the end zone at right guard to make the score 7-0 with 5:32 on the clock.

LSU responded to Auburn's score with a 48-yard field goal by Josh Jasper after moving the football 41 yards on nine plays.

The Tigers took the lead back to seven points by moving 42 yards on 10 plays before settling on a 42-yard Wes Byrum field goal on a fourth and two play at the LSU 25.

Auburn missed an opportunity to score three more points in the closing minutes of the second quarter. After being backed up to their own one-yard line, the Tigers kept the football for 13 plays before stalling at the LSU 22. Byrum's 39-yard field goal try sailed wide leaving the home team on top 10-3 with 2:45 on the clock.

The Tigers compounded their problem by allowing LSU to move the ball 78 yards to tie the game with 15 seconds left. A 15-yard facemask penalty on a sack called against Antoine Carter jump-started the drive.

Jefferson scored on a two-yard play as he broke free from a tackle attempt by Daren Bates that would have ended the half with Auburn up by a touchdown. Instead, the game was tied at 10-10. Bates, who suffered a shoulder injury, did not return in the second half.

Just before halftime Auburn was able to run two plays after a short kickoff. On the final play of the half, Newton showed his strong arm by launching a pass into the end zone, but none of a cluster of Auburn receivers could come down with the football.

At the break Auburn had 145 rushing yards on 22 carries and 49 passing yards as Newton completed 6-10 passes. It turned out that offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's guys were just warming up. LSU had 98 rushing yards on 24 carries and 65 yards completing 11-19 passes.

Auburn changed the momentum to start the third quarter forcing a three-and-out for LSU and then they raced 91 yards on three plays. Dyer got the Tigers off the goal line with a 29-yard run and Newton electrified the crowd with a 49-yard keeper as he weaved through the LSU defense before stretching the football into the end zone for a score. After a replay review the play was ruled a TD and Byrum added the PAT to put Auburn ahead 17-10.

While Auburn looked to be the superior team, Chizik's Tigers couldn't shake the Bayou Bengals thanks to some terrific punting by Derek Helton that kept Auburn backed up. The Tigers also hurt their cause with seven penalties and a lost fumble by Mario Fannin killed a drive when Auburn looked to be taking control of the contest in the third quarter.

LSU coach Les Miles went to his bag of tricks to find a way to get his team's only second half touchdown. A halfback pass from Spencer Ware found Reuben Randle in the clear behind the Auburn defense for a 39-yard touchdown with 12:16 to play.

However, Auburn found a way to win in the fourth quarter as the Tigers improved to 5-0 in the SEC going into next week's road game at Ole Miss.

Chizik said a key to his team's success has been not looking ahead and focusing on each opponent. He said his team will get back to work on Sunday preparing Ole Miss "the same way" the Tigers have prepared every week.

"This doesn't change anything for us," he said. "It doesn't change the way we prepare. It doesn't change the way we talk to our team. It doesn't change the way we practice. It doesn't change anything.

"This is a step-by-step, day-by-day process, and I know that sounds like coaching clichés, but that is what it is," Chizik added. "We are not going to talk about where we end up ranking-wise. We are not going to talk about being 8-0. We are not going to talk about any of that. We are going to talk about Ole Miss next week starting tomorrow, and that is how we will proceed."

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