Following a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty before the opening kickoff when officials mistakenly thought the Auburn team was showing up LSU by stomping on the Tiger Eyes at midfield, LSU proceeded to take the bull by the horns and successfully completed an onsides kick that gave the home team all the life it would need to jump out to an early lead.
"I don't know what happened before the game," Auburn defensive tackles coach Don Dunn said. "It's the craziest call that I've ever heard of in a championship game. We always go down and cover the punt, they weren't even out on the field. I didn't even know about it until we were almost out of the locker room before the game. But we didn't stop them early. We played pretty well. We just couldn't get off the field on third downs."
The Auburn defense stood tall Saturday night but couldn't shut down the potent LSU attack.
Third downs and big plays were indeed the key for the LSU offense as it continually made play after play when it needed them most. The center of the attack for the Bengal Tigers was senior quarterback Rohan Davey. Coming up with several big runs on third down to keep drives alive, as well as passes to Josh Reed and Michael Clayton when it looked for all intents and purposes that he was sacked, Davey was indeed the difference-maker, and Auburn found that out the hard way.
"Players make plays in big games," Auburn defensive coordinator John Lovett said. "I have to give them credit. They did well and they've got some good players. They executed and they made good plays...Rohan Davey made some plays even when it looked like we had him sacked."
Living up to his billing coming into the game as the premier receiver in the conference, Reed did nothing to diminish that talk as he caught 10 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown. Throw in the running of LaBrandon Toefield, who had 120 yards and one score, and you have the makings of a dangerous one-two punch. Although Auburn kept them in check and out of the end zone the majority of time when they were in scoring position, when it came down to it, the Auburn defense just didn't make plays when the opportunity arose and LSU did.
"We played pretty good," rover Rashaud Walker noted. "But when you are in a tough environment you have to come out and make plays and attack the other team. It was pretty rough for us, but I think we came out and played pretty hard. It was just a tough environment and they have a good ball club. In places like this you have to make plays and we just didn't make enough of them."
Now the Tigers must get back to work and prepare for a chance to redeem themselves in a bowl game later in December. If that is the case, linebacker Tavarreus Pounds said the team has to regroup and give it its best effort one more time. With a berth to the SEC Championship Game on the line and a possible New Year's Day bowl in the making, the Tigers weren't able to come through when it counted and that is something that will be hard to deal with for this small senior class. Pounds probably summed it up as well as it can be done considering the circumstances.
"It's kind of hard to put into words now," he said. "There is no more tomorrow for us. We've just got to get ready for the bowl game. It's real hard to talk right now, but at the same time we've just got to get ready for the bowl game. They came out and shoved it down our throats and made us like it. There is nothing we can do about it now. It's all over."