LSU Rallies Again to Get By Auburn

Auburn suffered its first loss with a 26-21 setback against visiting LSU.

Auburn, Ala.--For the second year in a row, a late LSU touchdown pass overcame a one-point Auburn lead as LSU knocked off the AU Tigers team 26-21 on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Brandon LaFell's 18-yard touchdown catch from QB Jarrett Lee with 1:03 left was the winner for the defending national champs, who improved to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the SEC while Auburn fell to 1-1 in the league and 3-1.

Auburn's desperation drive came up two yards short of a first down at the LSU 39 with 20 seconds to play when a Chris Todd to Rod Smith pass for 23 yards ended AU's last chance.

The Auburn offense showed more life as offensive coordinator Tony Franklin moved to the press box to get a better view of the game, which is where he will likely stay for future games. However, the Tigers let two scoring opportunities get away to start the third quarter when Auburn was up 14-3. That would come back to haunt Tommy Tuberville's Tigers.

The kicking game also let down the home team. Auburn struggled to return kickoffs while the visitors got good field position from short kickoffs by Morgan Hull, who took over the assignment from Wes Byrum, who had struggled the previous week.

Punter Clinton Durst, who was recovering from the flu, was available if needed, but didn't play. Backup Ryan Shoemaker averaged just 35.4 yards per punt and had several poor ones, including a 25-yarder when Auburn was trying to back up the visitors in the game's final minutes. That short punt set up the winning TD with LSU taking over at its own 46.

"Our punting let us down," said Tuberville, who added, "In a game like this it is about everybody doing their share. In some areas we didn't do as well as we hoped, too.

"In the first half on defense, we played awesome," he said. "In the second half they got something going in the passing game and stayed with it. That opened up the running game and kept us off-balance."

Despite the loss, the Auburn head coach said his team took a "major step forward" by playing much better than it did at Mississippi State.

LSU head coach Les Miles said his team didn't play a great game, but was thrilled with the way his squad ran the football and rallied from behind twice to win the game on the road. "It will be a great team to teach from," he said, noting it was LSU's first win at Auburn since 1998.

LSU outgained Auburn 398 to 320 yards with 178 coming on the ground with Charles Scott gaining 132 yards on 21 carries.

Auburn rushed for just 70 net yards. Auburn counted on the passing of Chris Todd, who hit 17-32 for 250 yards with one TD.

LSU opened the game with good field position at the Auburn 27 after a short kickoff by Hull and a five-yard offside penalty tacked on to the end of the return.

LSU moved the ball to its 47 and then pinned the Tigers back at the one with a short punt by Brady Dalfrey that had a very fortunate roll all the way to the Auburn one.

Auburn got off the goal line with passes of nine yards to Montez Billings and eight to Rod Smith, but lost the battle of field position in the opening quarter despite outgaining LSU 56-47 in total yards in the period.

The visitors scored on their third possession, taking advantage of good field position starting at their own 44 after a 35-yard punt by Ryan Shoemaker was fumbled by Trindon Holliday and recovered at its 44 by Holliday.

The Bayou Bengals took the lead at the 2:02 mark on a 46-yard field goal by Colt David after moving the football 28 yards on five rushing plays prior to the kick.

Auburn ended its touchdown drought that extended back to the third quarter of game two vs. Southern Miss. The TD came at the 8:56 mark of the second quarter as Ben Tate powered in from a yard out at right guard on second and goal as Auburn lined with Todd behind center and Eric Smith at fullback.

The Tigers got the drive started on a 29-yard deep sideline route on third down to Tim Hawthorne. Tate helped the drive with a 16-yard run and the Tigers got the ball first and goal at the three on a pass interference on a ball thrown to Tommy Trott at the goal line.

The Auburn defense continued to play well the rest of the half and that included a 24-yard interception return by Gabe McKenzie that put the home team on top 14-3.

McKenzie, who just made the move to defensive end from tight end in preseason practice, knows how to catch a pass and he was in position to grab the swing pass from backup quarterback Jarrett Lee. Nobody was catching the junior from Davidson High in Mobile who was untouched on the way to the end zone with 5:38 left in the half.

"I was in the right position, I saw the quarterback double-pump and made the play," McKenzie said.

Neither team threatened to score the rest of the half.

Auburn took the second half kickoff and drove to a first down at the LSU 19, but didn't get any points out of the drive as LSU made a big play with a third down sack on a blitz.

At the 35, Tuberville bypassed the field goal attempt to back up the visitors, but Shoemaker's punt was a stinker, going out of bounds for net seven yards. The coach said that kicking into the wind in that end zone in pre-game Byrum's odds of making that kick were less than 50 percent.

LSU then moved 73 yards on seven plays as Lee hit a third and 10 pass for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 6:28 left in the third quarter. Auburn got caught in a blitz and Chris Mitchell beat Auburn freshman cornerback Neiko Thorpe for the score. QB Jarrett Lee got the ball off just as he was hit by blitzing linebacker Spencer Pybus.

On the following kickoff, LSU gambled with an onside kick and got the football at its own 42. However, the Auburn defense forced a three-and-out and AU got the ball back at its 13 after a fair catch.

Auburn again moved the ball deep into LSU territory, but came up empty. On fourth and one at the LSU 32, Todd lined up behind center. Auburn tried to fool the Bayou Bengals by throwing deep to Trott, but the pass was picked off at the 11 by cornerback Chris Hawkins.

From there LSU went to work by scoring in just four plays on its most impressive possession of the night.

The touchdown came on a 22-yard halfback pass from Keiland Williams to senior receiver Demetrius Byrd on the final play of the third quarter to put LSU ahead 17-14.

Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman chases Jarrett Lee.

Auburn managed just one first down on its next possession before punting to ball to the LSU nine. However, the Bayou Bengals put together another strong drive before settling for a 32-yard field goal by David to make the score 20-14 with 8:27 left in the game.

Auburn responded with a go-ahead touchdown set up by a 58-yard bomb to Tim Hawthorne moved the ball to the LSU 16.

After to Tate runs netted just a yard, Todd connected with Robert Dunn in the corner of the end zone for a TD that put the Tigers up 21-20 with 6:40 to play.

Each team followed with three-and-outs before LSU made its winning drive of 54 yards on seven plays.

"To be tested away and by a very capable opponent and answering that test is just what this team needed," LSU's Miles said.

Auburn will be at home again next Saturday as the Tennessee Volunteers visit Jordan-Hare Stadium for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff.

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