Auburn, Ala.--Putting together its most complete performance of the 2014 football season, Auburn cruised to a 41-7 SEC football victory over LSU on Saturday night that included strong performances from numerous players on offense and defense.
Auburn went into the contest ranked fifth nationally vs. No. 15 LSU and managed to avoid being upset as five of the top eight ranked in teams in the AP Poll were defeated.
With the victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Coach Gus Malzahn’s team ended a three-game losing streak to LSU and improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the SEC. With a rash of upsets to Top 10 teams the Tigers are likely to find themselves ranked No. 2 in the country before they return to the practice field on Sunday night.
The margin of victory matches the largest victory in the history of the season, tying the “cigar game” in 1999 at Baton Rouge won by Auburn by the identical score of 41-7.
Nick Marshall played like the preseason All-SEC quarterback he was named this summer by rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for two more. The senior hit 14-22 passes for 207 yards and his backup, Jeremy Johnson, was 3-3 for 61 yards.
Marshall also netted 119 yards on the ground on 16 carries while senior Cameron Artis-Payne added 136 rushing yards on 24 carries.
Saturday’s game also marked the return to production by talented junior wide receiver Sammie Coates, who has been limited by a knee problem. He caught four passes for 144 yards and a touchdown.
Sammie Coates celebrates his touchdown catch of 56 yards.
Defensively, 20 different Auburn players were credited with at least one tackle with junior “star” rover Robenson Therezie leading the way with six solos. Johnathan Ford added five solos and one assist and Cassanova McKinzy, who was listed as questionable earlier in the week, came off the bench to make four solo tackles with two assists.
Senior defensive tackle Gabe Wright noted he was amazed that the LSU offense was 0-13 on third down conversions. “I had no idea,” he said. “They didn’t get one third down? I didn’t think that was possible. Wow. The defense just played lights out.”
“I think we were clicking as team,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “You know, that's probably our best performance overall, I would say, as a team. We played well in ertain units. It was an overall performance against a very good team and our seniors, I'm extremely happy for those guys.”
The head coach added, “I am very excited about our defense. We just played outstanding, holding those guys to seven points. On third down they were as good as I have seen. I think we stopped them three out of four times on 4th down. Hats off to defense just doing a wonderful job.
Kris Frost makes a tackle. The junior bounced back from a knee injury that limited him in practice during the week.
“Offensively, we hit some passes early on,” Malzahn said. “That kind of loosened up everything, running the football. I thought our kicking game was solid. We talked about getting better. We talked about improving each week. There is no doubt that we improved this week.”
LSU fell to 4-2 overall and 0-2 in the SEC on a night that first-time starter Brandon Harris struggled against the Auburn defense, which allowed LSU just 280 yards while the home team racked up 566. Harris completed just 3-14 passes for 58 yards and was replaced in the second half by former starter Anthony Jennings.
Senior cornerback Jonathon Mincy said his team did a good job of keeping Harris confused. “We knew we could come in and play man, disguise the coverage and give him trouble in his first road game. That was big. We came out and did our jobs.”
LSU head coach Les Miles pointed out his team was thoroughly out-played on offense and defense. “Congratulations to the Auburn team and Coach Malzahn,” he said. “The piece for us was that we took some first and ten’s and could not get a third down conversion. We kept putting the defense on the field.
“We tackled, we played hard, but offensively we did not execute,” Miles added. “We are a work in progress. Certainly a group of men that are committed to fixing things, but frankly we did not get it done today.”
Auburn deferred and kicked off, immediately putting the pressure on LSU freshman quarterback Harris, who was making his first college start. After a three-and-out by the AU defense, Auburn moved the ball 49 yards on eight plays before settling for a 46-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson.
After another three-and-out for LSU the first touchdown came on a 56-yard bomb to Coates on a perfectly thrown pass by Marshall.
After a third straight three-and-out for the visitors Auburn struck quickly for its next touchdown. Marshall’s lateral pass to Johnson, who was lined up at wide receiver, covered 38 yards on a perfect throw to Coates. That set up a seven-yard run by Marshall three plays later on a keeper at left end to put Auburn ahead 17-0.
LSU’s first big play came on the next possession when Harris lofted a deep ball to Malachi Dupre, which the freshman receiver pulled in for a 52-yard gain to the Auburn one. Kenny Hilliard scored on a run at left tackle on the next play to cut the lead to 17-7 with 1:24 left in the opening quarter.
Auburn responded with a 72-yard scoring drive that took just seven plays. The Tigers moved ahead 24-7 when Marshall rolled out right and threw a nine-yard pass to C.J. Uzomah, who was uncovered in the end zone with 14:27 left in the second quarter.
The next scoring drive was an even longer one. Auburn moved the football 81 yards with Marshall racing into the end zone from 29 yards out on a draw play with 2:12 left before intermission.
Halftime Numbers: Auburn out-gained LSU 379-170 in the first two periods with 247 yards coming in the opening quarter, a high for the Tigers in any quarter with Gus Malzahn as head coach. Auburn hit 13-17 passes for 220 yards and rushed for 159 yards on 24 carries. LSU rushed for 112 yards on 21 carries while hitting 3-12 passes for 58 yards.
Marshall completed 12-16 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 10 times for 81 yards and two more scores to help the Tigers build their 31-7 halftime advantage.
Auburn scored on its second possession of the second half on a 42-yard field goal by Carlson with 7:33 to play.
Malzahn said after the game he slowed the pace in the second half with Auburn’s defense in control. His Tigers got their only touchdown with 8:44 left when Corey Grant scored on a sweep at right end from 12 yards out to cap a nine-play drive that covered 76 yards.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Prior to the game Malzahn asked everybody on the team who played in a game vs. LSU that Auburn won to raise their hand. The only person to do that was fifth-year senior defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker. Malzahn repeated the question after the game allowing everybody to join in.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Auburn has scored 210 points this season, the second highest total in school history after five games behind 218 in 1995.
Worth Noting, Part 3: LSU’s Miles said he was impressed by Marshall’s quickness. “He seems faster too me,” the coach said. “He could get seven to 10 yards in a pretty comfortable fashion. I went up to our defense and said, ‘Hey guys, that guy is pretty fast.’”
Worth Noting, Part 4: After the game Malzahn and his players down-played talk of rankings following the lopsided win. Typical of the responses was the one from Artis-Payne. ""We aren't worried about making a statement," he said. "We're just worried about taking it one game at a time. We came out and performed well this week. After we get the corrections tomorrow, we start gearing up for the next week."
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