LSU's 27-14 win over Auburn still gleamed from the scoreboard. The Bengals' band stayed in the stadium long after the game ended, taking requests from fans and playing LSU's fight song.
All across campus, burning cigars hung from the mouths of LSU fans in mockery of Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville, who lit one up here in 1999 after the Tigers beat the Bengals in his first SEC win at Auburn. Some fans wore T-shirts that said "Tuck Fubby" in reference to Tuberville.
As the game ended, Auburn players and coaches jogged into their tunnel as LSU fans pelted them with obscene words and gestures. "It's disappointing," said Auburn center Ben Nowland. "I don't know what else to say."
LSU's win over Auburn propelled the Bengals to the SEC title game as the co-Western champs with AU. Auburn could have won the West outright weeks ago. It needed only to beat two of four teams to clinch it. The Tigers beat Georgia, but closed out their season with losses to Alabama and LSU.
Tuberville said the Tigers had practiced hard everyday last week inside their stadium and entered Saturday night's game confident in their game plan. The team was enthusiastic, he said, and ready to play. He had hoped a win at LSU and the subsequent return to the SEC title game would console Auburn fans embittered over the embarrssing home loss to the Tide.
Jason Campbell threw for one touchdown and one interception as he returned to the starting lineup.
But things didn't go as planned. Though the defense held an explosive LSU offense to only 27 points, Auburn's offense couldn't move the ball. Freshman Jason Campbell started at quarterback for the Tigers, his first start in the last five games. Senior Daniel Cobb, who started the previous four games, never even put on a helmet. Auburn offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said Campbell is good, but young. "Jason did a good job," Mazzone said. "He learned a lot about the game of football tonight. But he still has a lot to learn."
Campbell completed 13-of-24 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. He was picked off once and sacked twice. Junior Jeff Klein, who hadn't played a down all year, relieved him for a series in the third quarter.
"I see the difference in the game being the third downs they made," Mazzone said. "They made big plays, and we didn't. We had the opportunities to make big plays, and we didn't. It's like any game. It comes down to four or five plays that could swing the game." Auburn converted only five of 14 third downs.
Mazzone said he can't explain how Auburn could upset then-No. 1 Florida earlier this season, then play so miserably against Alabama and be so unproductive at LSU. "I can't put my finger on it right now," he said. "I don't want to use the excuse that it's a young football team. "'Anytime you're not consistent at the quarterback spot, you're not consistent as a football team. You're just grabbing straws."