After holding LSU to just 105 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes with Lee going 0-5 with an interception returned by Gabe McKenzie for a touchdown, Auburn's defense withered in the second half against a physical running game. Giving up 293 yards in the second half with Lee's throwing for 182 of that, Rhoads said his defense allowed LSU to gain some confidence and that grew with each passing moment.
The biggest reason for the struggles on defense came from the legs of bruising running back Charles Scott. Leading the SEC in rushing coming into the game, Scott pounded the Auburn defense for 132 yards on 21 carries and Rhoads said that was the difference in the game in his mind.
"If you don't stop the run you can't win a football game like this," Rhoads said. "That is the simplest answer. We didn't control our gaps, we didn't fit, we didn't tackle very well. This is a team that is capable of getting in a rhythm and when they do they get you back on your heels. They have a nice mix of play-action passing and then they hit you with the trick play. We let them get into that rhythm and let them score 14 straight points. We had to battle like hell from there just to stay in the football game."
In the second half Lee teamed up with wide receiver Brandon LaFell to gash the Auburn defense time and time again on crossing routes over the middle. Rhoads said those plays in particular were huge at the time but it was just one of many things LSU did well in the second half to pull out the win.
"It provided problems because they hit them and they were open," Rhoads said. "Two in particular. They hit a post-corner route. That's a good route and a hard route to defend. They threw it accurately and ran a good route. They came back with a nice play-action with a three by one set versus a two-deep coverage. That ball is hard to cover. The rhythm offense that they were, they hit those plays at the right time. A lot of credit goes to them."
All week long the talk heading into the Top 10 showdown had been about the inexperience at the quarterback position and which team or player would make the difference between winning and losing. Even with the success they had running the football in the second half, with the game on the line LSU went with Lee. That was a move that didn't catch Rhoads off guard but in the end it didn't matter.
"The way the game was going and the way the second half had turned into a series of moving the football down the field, no I really wasn't," Rhoads said. "We gave them confidence. We go out in the second half and have a beautiful drive on offense and then stall. We go out on defense and let them take the ball about 90 yards on us or whatever it was. That gave their football team confidence. Whether it's a young quarterback or whoever, you can't give a football team confidence and they fed on it."
Auburn safeties Mike McNeil and Zac Etheridge along with linebacker Tray Blackmon led the team in tackles with eight each. Sen'Derrick Marks was all over the place from his tackle spot with seven stops including one and a half sacks.