LSU Heading to SEC Championship Game

Baton Rouge, La.--Auburn's offense could not find the end zone often enough Saturday night as LSU defeated the Tigers 27-14 to earn a tie with Auburn for the SEC West title and a berth in the SEC Championship Game opposite Tennessee.

Next Saturday's game in Atlanta will be LSU's first appearance in the conference title game as it will play the Tennessee Volunteers, who upset Florida 34-32 earlier in the day.

"We played a good football team tonight," Coach Tommy Tuberville said. "I have to give LSU credit. They are a good football team and they deserve to go play in Atlanta. They have a lot of weapons and we just didn't play very well on third downs, on either side of the ball. I thought that was a big key."

LSU, like it has been doing all season, was tough to stop on third down when it had the ball. With fifth-year senior Rohan Davey making big plays as a passer and runner, LSU converted 8-17 third downs. Auburn, which has struggled with its third down conversions all season, made just 5-14.

That helped LSU roll up 431 total yards to 293 for Auburn, which ends its regular season at 7-4 and 5-3 in the SEC. LSU is 5-3 in the SEC and 8-3 overall.

Tuberville had praise for the all-around play of Davey, who he called a difference-maker for the Bayou Bengals.

The first quarter was a wild one with the action beginning 20 minutes before the kickoff when the Tigers drew a 15-yard penalty for a pre-game jumping near the purple and gold paint at the middle of the field. Tiger players said it is the same thing they do to close every pre-game practice when a Damon Duval punt is fielded and the team gathers around the return man in a group huddle before going back to the locker room.

LSU kicked off from midfield courtesy of a misguided SEC official and completed a successful onside kickoff. The Bayou Bengals drove 36 yards on six plays for a quick 7-0 lead with LaBrandon Toefield scoring at right guard from two yards out.

Auburn wasted little time in matching the LSU touchdown. With Jason Campbell making his first start since the Florida game, the Tigers scored in four plays on an 84-yard march. The big play was a 72-yarder catch and run by Tim Carter who got behind the LSU defense on the right sideline. Damon Duval's PAT evened the score with 11:05 to play.

That ended the scoring in the first quarter, but certainly not the big plays, including:

*Auburn tried an unsuccessful onsides kick after the touchdown, but didn't give up any points when LSU got a delay of game on a 46-yard field goal attempt and then elected to punt.

*Campbell and Deandre Green just missed hooking up on a long bomb on a third down play.

*LSU had another chance at a 46-yard field goal and the kick was blocked by defensive end , his third of the season.

*On the next play, a deflected pass thrown by Campbell was batted into the arms of LSU linebacker Jeremy Lawrence.

*Five plays later Karlos Dansby intercepted a deflected pass thrown by Davey and Auburn regained possession.

The visitors struggled in the second quarter and got little done on offense after gaining 115 yards on 13 plays in the opening period. By halftime, Auburn had netted just 158 yards on 30 plays.

A low line drive punt by Duval put the home team in great field position at the 50 when Domanick Davis raced 29 yards with the return. Five plays later the Bengal Tigers were ahead 14-7 on a 17-yard scoring pass to Reed, who pushed off against Hood and used that space to break free on a slant route into the end zone.

Another kicking game error was narrowly averted when a kickoff return was fumbled by Hood. The initial signal was that LSU had recovered, but freshman tight end Jay Ratliff was credited with the recovery.

Auburn managed just one first down on its possession and went three and out on the next one that set the stage for the third LSU score. The Bayou Bengals ripped off a seven-play, 79-yard march capped by a seven-yard run by Davis. That put the home team up 21-7 with 3:40 left in the half.

LSU took the second half kickoff and drove 73 yards in seven plays for a 21-yard field goal by Corbello after Carlos Rogers saved a touchdown by catching breakaway tailback Toefield.

Auburn responded with a drive deep into LSU territory before stalling at the 13. On fourth and eight, Duval's 29-field goal try was wide with 7:04 remaining in the third quarter.

After the defense forced LSU to punt after three plays, the Tigers just missed another disaster when Hood bobbled the punt. He managed to regain possession and Tuberville called on Jeff Klein and Chris Butler to provide some spark to the offense. Auburn ran for two quick first downs, but stalled at midfield when Klein was sacked and his first two passes of the season were incomplete. Then, on fourth down, Duval's pass from punt formation was intercepted by Demetrius Hookfin and LSU had possession at its own 39.

LSU drove the football for a field goal to stretch its lead to 27-7 with 10:39 left in the fourth quarter. A great escape from a sack by Davey and a third down pass interference call in the end zone were the big plays on the drive. With a first and goal at the AU two after the interference call, Auburn stuffed two runs and tailback Toefield tried a pass as Tavarreus Pounds was tackling the running back. His wounded duck pass was deflected into the hands of Davey and LSU was able to survive the bad play and get points out of the drive.

Auburn kept plugging away on offense until it finally found something that worked in the second half. Following a 19-yard Hood punt return and a 15-yard facemask penalty on LSU, Auburn got the ball at its own 49.

Third team tailback Chris Butler carried on runs of two, eight, 16 and then 13 yards for a touchdown with 3:50 to play. "I had some big holes to run through because the line was opening up running room for me," Butler said.

Duval's PAT cut the gap to 27-14 and Auburn still had a chance for some late heroics if it could recover the onside kick. That didn't happen and the visitors never got the ball back.

LSU coach Nick Saban said, "It was a very physical game out there and I'm pleased and proud of the way we executed. A lot of guys played a lot of good football and it was probably the best we played on defense all year although we gave up a long pass early in the game."


* * *

Subscribe to Inside The Auburn Tigers Magazine and Football Newsletter

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories