While there were no nickel Cokes or 25-cent game programs in the stands, for 60 minutes on the gridiron at Jordan-Hare Stadium Auburn and LSU squared off in a old-fashioned football game that looked like a throwback to the 1950s.
Auburn prevailed, 7-3, surviving a late charge led by LSU's whopper-sized quarterback, JaMarcus Russell, that came up six yards shy of victory on the final play for the Southeastern Conference showdown. Junior safety Eric Brock tackled Craig Davis on the sideline as the clock hit 0:00 setting off a massive celebration from a packed house at Jordan-Hare.
On a day when the Auburn offense struggled against a fast and physical LSU defense, Auburn won with the brilliant punting of senior Kody Bliss, hard-nosed defense of its own and just enough offense to get the job done.
A quarterback sneak by junior Brandon Cox provided the only touchdown as Auburn gained the inside track for the SEC West title. Earlier the QB feared he had been seriously injured, but he didn't miss a play in one of the more physical games ever seen at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"I told him sometimes you just got to will a win," Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "Sometimes you just aren't hitting on all cylinders. Sometimes you just have to tough it out and a find a way."
Even though the offense only totaled 72 yards on the ground and 110 through the air, AU enjoyed a 33:34 to 26:26 edge in time of possession. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said that was vital in keeping dangerous QB Russell on the sideline most of the game.
"We ran the ball and sustained drives to give our kids rest on defense," Muschamp said. "That was the key part of the game."
Muschamp, who has experienced the Auburn vs. LSU rivalry on both sides as a coach, said, "That was two well coached teams, two teams that recruit hard and recruit well. They play with class. They play hard. That is the typical game you are going to get out of our guys."
Muschamp said that the punting of Bliss, which kept LSU backed up much of the game, was huge. "Eddie (Gran) told the kids if we win the special teams battle and the field position battle we will win."
Muschamp said he was proud of his defense that included third team cornerback Jerraud Powers, who played much of the game when starter Jonathan Wilhite was lost due to a hamstring injury in the second quarter. Top backup Pat Lee was unable to go after becoming ill in the pregame.
"Jerraud stepped up and played just like I knew he would play," said Muschamp, who is also the secondary coach.
Tuberville singled out Powers for coming through. "Actually, he is an inside guy and we put him at corner and we had to play a lot of base things," the coach said. "He is a redshirt freshman and had hurt a shoulder in two-a-days. He had to come through today and he did. He played real well. It is really tough to play these guys without your starting corners."
Tuberville was right on target with his postgame comment that it was a "very violent game." In addition to Wilhite, Auburn lost starting tight end Cole Bennett, who has a broken bone in his ankle.
Tuberville had high praise for LSU. "That (defense) is about as tough as it gets. They weren't going to let Kenny (Irons) run the ball and we weren't going to let them run the ball. I don't know what Kenny got (70 net yards). He earned every bit of it. That is about like 150 against anybody else."
LSU coach Les Miles said, "It was a hell of a ball game. Congratulations to Auburn. The loss will be difficult to handle. Both teams deserve better. The guys played their hearts out. Give credit to Auburn. They played extremely well and it was a damn exciting finish.
"The defense played well and I couldn't be happier with how they played," Miles added. "If someone had told me we won the turnover battle and had over 300 yards and out-gained our opponent, I would have thought it would be a different outcome."
The first quarter was a defensive struggle. Auburn didn't have a first down and LSU managed just two. For the entire game, Auburn had just 13 and LSU made 16.
Auburn's defense kept the score at 0-0 even after a intercepted pass deflected off of wide receiver Roderiqus Smith and was returned 16 yards to the AU 29 safety Craig Steltz.
Jerraud Powers was a key player for the Tigers on defense.
Alley Broussard was stuffed for a four-yard loss at right end by Will Herring on the next play. Russell then threw an incomplete pass and on third and 14 as his pass to the sideline was originally ruled a completion for a first down, but on review it was overturned as Karibi Dede knocked the ball loose sending bouncing out of bounds forcing a punt. "I saw I had a chance to knock it loose and I did," the senior noted. "I saw where the first down marker was and it was important to keep him from catching it."
Auburn finally got a first down in the second quarter and began its only drive of the half. The Tigers kept the football for 16 plays and moved it 61 yards, but did not score.
AU pushed all the way to a first down at the LSU 10 before things went sour. After a one-yard run by Carl Stewart, on a second down pass play Cox was injured as he was hit while he threw a pass away. AU used a timeout and he was able to return for the next play, but couldn't find a receiver open. Cox said when he heard the fans chanting his name that gave him a shot of adrenaline and his knee, that had gone numb, began to feel better.
Auburn's drive set up a 26-yard field goal attempt by John Vaughn, whose line drive kick bounced off the left upright, sending a hush over the Auburn fans who remembered his night of horrors last year against LSU.
LSU took over at the 20-yard line with 4:15 in the half and put together a a 13-play drive that included two fumble plays for 14 positive yards and a third down holding penalty on AU safety Aairon Savage that kept the drive alive.
LSU took the lead on the last play of the half as Colt David drilled a 42-yard field goal with plenty of leg to spare.
At halftime Auburn trailed LSU 93-60 in total offense. Kenny Irons was held to 23 rushing on nine carries and Cox was 6-10 for 43 yards with one pick.
LSU gained 65 of its yards on Russell passes. He was 7-17 and the leading rusher with 14 yards on two scrambles. For the game LSU netted just 42 yards on 23 carries despite just one sack for one yard on Russell.
LSU got the ball to start the second half and moved to midfield before stalling. Auburn took over at its 25 and drove 75 yards for 12 plays with the running of Irons being featured.
A second down pass from Cox to Carl Stewart for 19 yards put the Tigers first and goal at the two. After two runs by Irons moved the ball to inches in front of the goal line, Cox pushed in on the QB sneak to give Auburn a 7-3 edge as Vaughn made the PAT with 4:53 left in the third quarter.
Cox said he expected another handoff to Irons, but Borges said, "We were so close I wanted him to run behind Joe Cope and Tim Duckworth. Brandon is such a competitive kid. He gets a good push on the quarterback sneaks."
After a scoreless third quarter, LSU got the ball back two times in the fourth period with chances to win the game. The visitors drove from their 19 to the AU 31 where they turned the ball over on downs with 2:43 left.
Tommy Tuberville and the Tigers celebrate after their victory.
Auburn, playing conservatively with three Irons runs, was unable to get a first down and punted the ball back to LSU on a 51-yard boomer by Bliss. LSU started at its 20 and eight plays later ended on the Auburn six-yard line after the game looked like it had ended a play earlier when a pass over the middle was stopped, but the officials stopped the clock with enough time to let LSU spike the ball and go for one final play from the Auburn 24.
"We would have liked to thrown the ball in the end zone and make a play," Miles said of the final pass. "The clock ran out."
As a result, Auburn improves to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the SEC. LSU is 0-1 in the SEC and 2-1 overall.
With Notre Dame losing, Auburn is expected to jump to number two in the polls this week. Tuberville was asked twice what he thought Notre Dame losing at his postgame press conference, but didn't answer the question although he grinned. He did note that it was a special day for Auburn football.
"I am proud of our team and coaches and proud of our fans," he said. "Our fans deserve this."