"It was kind of deja vu from last year," Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We got off to a slow start, and the rest is history. We got beat up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage. When you can't control the line of scrimmage on the road you are in trouble."
The LSU rushing defense, rated No. 1 nationally, proved its worth as the group kept Carnell Williams in check and kept the Auburn offense off balance much of the night. The Cadillac was limited to 61 yards on 20 carries and Ronnie Brown had just 30 yards on seven runs in a reserve role. As a team Auburn netted just 50 yards on 34 carries.
Carnell Williams found the going tough on Saturday.
Auburn is definitely not out of the race for the divisional title, but Tuberville's team lost the inside track on the road to Atlanta. Auburn fell to 4-1 in the SEC while LSU improved to 4-1 in the conference and 7-1 overall. Both Auburn and LSU now trail surprising Ole Miss, which moved into first place in the SEC West with a Saturday night victory over Arkansas. Both Auburn and LSU will get a shot at the Rebels later this season.
"We just didn't make any plays offensively," Tuberville said. "Defensively, we put ourselves in a bind a little bit by what we played early in the game. We tried to play a lot of zone coverage and they ran a lot of quick screens on us and we couldn't handle the speed of their receivers.
"They have got real quick receivers and on the short passes they kind of turned into running backs. They did a good job. We have got no excuses. They lined up and whipped us on both sides. We couldn't tackle in the first quarter and offensively we couldn't make anything to work. We tried it all, both sides--weak, strong. We tried to run, we tried to throw it.They were the better team today."
LSU outgained Auburn 381 to 193 in total yardage as LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher kept the Auburn defense off balance and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's group was able to play with extra aggressiveness after the offense staked them to an early three TD lead.
Auburn won the toss but little else to open the game. LSU scored on all three of its first quarter possessions to take a 21-0 lead.
The first score was a 64-yard pass to wide receiver Devery Henderson on the sixth play of the game. On a third down, Henderson got behind Junior Rosegreen and was untouched on his way to the end zone.
Tuberville came out gambling, going for a fourth down and less than one on the opening offense series. Carnell Williams gained two yards at right end, but a second fourth down and one situation on the LSU side of the field backfired. Williams was stuffed for a five-yard loss as he was hammered just as he took the handoff.
LSU used the good field position to move 52 yards in just six plays to stretch its margin to 14-0.
A big play in the kicking game set up the third score. Skyler Green's 44-yard punt return put LSU in great field position at the Auburn 28. LSU converted a fourth and inches on a run by 235-pound freshman tailback Alley Broussard. He scored the TD at right end from five yards out one play later to put the Bayou Bengals on top 21-0 with 2:58 left in the first quarter.
Auburn put the brakes on the LSU point parade in the second quarter, but couldn't chip into the lead. Philip Yost missed a 35-yard field goal to end Auburn's best scoring threat, but two fumbled punts and a misplay on another punt by Tre Smith but extra pressure on the Auburn defense. The first came with 8:22 left in the second quarter. Chad White recovered at the Auburn 29, but LSU could not take advantage of it when Ryan Gaudet missed a 50-yard field goal attempt.
Smith's second misplay negated a Kody Bliss punt that pinned LSU at its own two-yard line. After a third down and one stop by tackle Spencer Johnson, Auburn looked to get the ball back in good field position. However, Smith chose not to field the punt and AU paid for that when the ball rolled to the Auburn 22, a 67-yard punt.
With 32.6 seconds left in the half, LSU got the ball back at the Auburn 31 when Smith fumbled on a punt return. LSU had two timeouts left and a chance to at least add a field goal, but Demarco McNeil intercepted a pass over the middle on a spy technique when the Tigers blitzed QB Matt Mauck. Auburn then hit the dressing room looking to regroup. However, LSU scored on its first possession of the third quarter.
Auburn managed just one first down on the opening possession of the half and got itself in a second and 24 situation on an intentional grounding call on Campbell. Auburn punted the ball to Green, whose 18-yard return put LSU in business at the Auburn 42. Seven plays later, on fourth and one, LSU kicked a 33-yard Gaudet field goal to make the score 24-0 with 8:28 in the third quarter.
After a three and out by Auburn on the next possession, LSU eliminated any doubt about the final outcome by driving 60-yards on six plays. The big play was a 33-yard run by freshman tailback Justin Vincent and the TD came on a 16-yard pass from Mauck to Henderson, who got open in the end zone against safety Donnay Young.
Auburn managed to salvage some pride with 6:10 left in the final quarter when Anthony Mix caught a six-yard slant pass for a touchdown to cut the gap to 31-7. The play on fourth down and four was the ninth on the 53-play drive.
"Their backs were against the wall," Tuberville said of LSU. "That is what I just told our players. Same thing as we were last year. We had losses in the conference and we came out and had to have the game. This year they had to have the game and they took it."
Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell said he believes his team will come back. "We are still in the SEC race, but we can't afford another loss," he said. "We didn't play well in the game, but at least we kept tyring to make something happen."
Auburn plays its final non-conference game on the 2003 schedule with a homecoming contest next Saturday vs. Louisiana-Monroe. Kickoff time has been moved from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.