Tray Matthews (above) made six solo tackles with three assists vs. LSU.
Auburn, Ala.--Last season the Auburndefense was embarrassed by Leonard Fournette and the LSU Tiger offense. The players were admittedly distraught about how they performed in Baton Rouge and they knew there was a chance to rectify all the mistakes that were made in 2015.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s unit did just that, containing Fournette throughout most of the SEC football game and holding LSU to 13 points on 338 total yards and 14 first downs as Auburn found a way to win 18-13 without scoring an offensive touchdown.
One Auburn player in particular who doesn’t have any fond memories of the contest in Tiger Stadium last year is safety Tray Matthews. The junior had this matchup circled on the calendar since Fournette’s 19 carry, 228 yards, three TD outing last September.
“It was a great feeling,” Matthews said about the defensive performance. “This is just great momentum, and we can just keep going on and keep getting better. Coach Steele has a lot of confidence in us even when we lose confidence in ourselves and make a bad play. He just (says), ‘Man, you’re good. You’re a ball player. Play like a pro. Keep on going.’
Matthews admitted that this game vs. LSU meant a lot to himself after last fall’s contest after a year of being featured in Fournette highlight films of being overpowered by the big LSU tailback.The safety led Auburn in tackles Saturday night with nine and had a number of stops on Fournette.
“It was a very big game (for me),” Matthews expressed. “There’s two games that I have (marked) on my calendar. I told the team, ‘There’s (LSU) and there’s Georgia.’”
The game didn’t come without its fair share of controversy, including a reversed targeting call in the second quarter that saw linebacker Tre Williams ejected. Fellow linebacker Darrell Williams said that Tre “looked disappointed” about his dismissal, but had belief in his teammates to finish the job.
“He really didn’t say anything to us,” said Darrell Williams. “They took him right away (from the field). After that play we knew he was hurt, and you can see that series how we stopped him. We stuffed them right there and that just showed how we felt about them taking him away from the game.”
In the absence of the junior, linebackers Montavious Atkinson and T.J. Neal stepped up in their first crunch time moments for Auburn and proved they belonged on the field in big moments. Williams didn’t seem surprised at all by his teammates proving their worth.
“In practice we train for stuff like that,” said Williams. “We’ve got depth. Any guy behind us can play so there wasn’t any question about it. We weren’t nervous about putting them in. They weren’t nervous. We knew their ability. Those are two great athletes. (To us) it was next man up.”
The ending of the game was one that will go down in the history books as yet another wild finish to a contest in the Auburn-LSU rivalry. For Williams it was a moment of satisfaction seeing the hard work he and his teammates have put into this year finally pay off with a win over a top-25 SEC team.
“I knew (LSU’s late touchdown) couldn’t be true,” said Williams. “We worked too hard so I knew it wasn’t true. I knew we had to win.”
From Matthews’s perspective it was almost “like having a heart attack,” he pointed out.
“We thought we lost, and then the next thing you know we won. It’s mixed emotions.”
Auburn finishes its five game homestand to start the season as the team plays host to the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks next Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CDT. Television coverage will be provided by the SEC Network.