Tigers dominate Auburn 31-7

Saturday's matchup between 9th-ranked LSU and No.17 Auburn was expected to be an epoch clash between two SEC West powerhouses, both looking to take a big step toward the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. <br><br> Apparently somebody forgot to tell that to Auburn.

LSU annihilated the visiting Tigers 31-7, holding Auburn's vaunted running attack to only 50 net yards. A 30-minute weather delay during pre-game warm-ups cut down on the Tigers' traditional pre-game routine, but Nick Saban's team showed virtually no ill-effects.


"It was a great win for all Tigers," said Saban. "I'm proud of the way our players played in the game. It was a total team win. It was a great atmosphere to play a football team in. Our fans were tremendous. The excitement before the game was electric and I think our players came out and played that way early in the game, which helped us get a jump in the game which was really important to the momentum of the game. They are probably a team that would rather play from ahead than behind and that would rather play from ahead than behind and that probably helped us."


It didn't take long for LSU to knock Auburn back on its heels.


On the first possession of the game, the Tigers drove 80 yards in six plays taking an early 7-0 lead. Matt Mauck hit Devery Henderson for a 64-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers ahead. On the play Henderson ran right past Auburn cornerback Junior Rosegreen as Mauck dropped a perfect rainbow softly into his hands.


Auburn attempted to respond on the ensuing possession, driving to LSU's 43-yard line. But on fourth and one Chad Lavalais sliced into the backfield and stuffed Auburn's Carnell Williams for a five yard loss.


With the ball back, the Tiger offense quickly took advantage.


Two passes by Mauck and a pair of runs by Justin Vincent had LSU down to Auburn's 18-yard line. On second down from the 18, Mauck hit Michael Clayton on a slip-screen over the middle and Clayton did the rest. The lanky junior wove his way through the Auburn secondary before diving into the endzone. Ryan Gaudet's extra point gave LSU a 14-0 lead.


"Our intensity level in practice was good all week," said Clayton. "We just came in with a high intensity level for the game, and it really kept us up. "It always feels good to get into the endzone. Hopefully in the future we can get in more."


LSU forced Auburn into a quick three-and-out on its next possession, and continued pouring on the points. Skyler Green's 44-yard punt return put the Tigers in business at Auburn's 28. The drive lokked ready to stall at the 19, but Saban decided to go for it on fourth and one and freshman tailback Alley Broussard came through with a 14 yard run. On the next play, Broussard punched it in from five yards away, giving LSU a 21-0 lead with 2:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.


The second quarter wasn't quite as overwhelming, as the Tigers gained only 77 yards compared to 123 in the first and failed to get into the endzone despite two possessions deep in Auburn territory. Still, outstanding play by LSU's defense and special teams prevented Tommy Tuberville's team from grabbing any momentum.


Auburn's opening drive of the quarter ended in a missed 35-yard field goal by Philip Yost. LSU went three and out, but Tre Smith fumbled the ensuing punt and Chad White recovered for LSU at the Auburn 29. The Tigers lost four yards on the drive, and Ryan Gaudet's 50-yard field goal attempt was wide right. Later in the quarter the Tigers would be forced to punt again, and again Smith fumbled, giving LSU the ball at Auburn's 31. But a few plays later Mauck was intercepted by Auburn defensive tackle DeMarco McNeil to end the threat and get the Plainsmen into halftime down 21-0.


Overall, the Tigers dominated all three phases of the game.


LSU used perfect balance on offense wracking up 381 yards against Auburn's vaunted defense.

Matt Mauck led the way completing 17-of-28 passes for 224 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Mauck did an excellent job of making decisions and showed excellent precision, usually hitting his receivers in stride.


Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher also threw a different game plan at the visiting Tigers.


The offense frequently came to the line with a play called, only to change it to fit whatever Auburn was showing on defense. LSU was particularly good at checking to swing passes and bubble screens when the Auburn D was playing soft in coverage.


"It sounds more complicated than what it is," said Mauck of the "check with me's" as Saban calls audibles. "It's actually not that hard to do. It helps being at home because you can hear a lot better. It just worked out tonight. We planned on attacking early, and the coaches did a great job of coming up with (plays)."


For the second consecutive week the Tiger rushing attack was powered by two ferocious freshmen. But this time it was Justin Vincent leading the way, piling up 127 yards on just 14 carries (a 9.1 average). Alley Broussard also added 31 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown. Both did great jobs of picking up the tough yardage between the tackles, but Vincent's shifty moves and cutbacks set him apart and kept him on the bring of breaking a long run on nearly every down.


Devery Henderson led all receivers with 101 yards and two scores on six catches.


"I just went out there and tried to play hard and play every play," said Henderson of his performance. "Big things should happen, and I just tried to take advantage of it."


Clayton also added six catches for 59 yards and scored his first touchdown since the Western Illinois game.


On defense, the Tigers did an excellent job of out-muscling Auburn's offensive line while keeping gap integrity to cut off cutback lanes for Tuberville's hydra-headed backfield.


Jack Hunt led an excellent performance by LSU's defense with 10 total tackles. Chad Lavalais continued to dominate, making eight total stops to go with three tackles for a loss and a sack.


Overall the Tigers kept Auburn's offense on its heels for most of the night, and wracked up 4.5 sacks and eight tackles for a loss.


"I think the defensive line did the best job," said Jack Hunt of the defense's dominance. "They controlled all the runs, all the gaps. (Auburn) couldn't run it outside, and that's where corners and safeties have to make tackles. We did a good job. (Auburn) has great backs, but I don't think they're better than anything we've ever seen, as far as backs around here that we've played with. Tackling is an attitude, and we had a good attitude out there."


Green continued stating his case for replacing Shyrone Carey as LSU's starting punt returner. He averaged 17.4 yards on five punt returns, with a return of 44 yards.


Senior linebacker Adrian Mayes also did an excellent job of terrifying Auburn's Tre Smith on punt returns. On one return Smith was so preoccupied with the sight of the on-charging Mayes that he didn't even try to field the punt and allowed LSU to down it at the Auburn 21. Mayes also forced a fumble by Smith in the second quarter.


LSU came out firing again in the second half, scoring on its first two possessions.


The first was a seven-play, 42-yard drive that was highlighted by a beautiful 18-yard run by Vincent, who weaved his way through the defense before finally being tripped up by Karlos Dansby. Ryan Gaudet capped the drive with a 33-yard field goal.


After holding Auburn to its third, three-and-out on the night, LSU scored on a six-play, 60-yard drive. Again the highlight play came from Vincent, who ripped of a 33-yard run (his longest of the night) on second down at the Auburn 49.


"I thought he made some outstanding cuts out there, against a good football team," said Saban of Vincent's performance. "He actually did much better than Alley (Broussard) tonight because of the jump cuts that he made, that Alley's experience didn't allow him to do. That's one thing that Justin gives us."


Three plays later Mauck drilled a touchdown pass right into Devery Henderson's gut from 16 yards out, capping the scoring for LSU on the night.


Auburn's offense would sputter for the rest of the game before Jason Campbell hit Anthony Mix for a six-yard touchdown with 6:10 left in the game. LSU's ensuing drive would be the last of the night as the offense drove down to Auburn's 15 before kneeling it to run out the final seconds.


The Plainsmen were never able to get on track on offense, gaining only 193 yards on the night.


Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, the three-time reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week, gained only 61 yards on 20 carries.


"We knew he could stick his foot in one hole and be in another hole in a split second," said Marquise Hill. "So we knew we had to stay in our gaps and that was our whole main goal, because you can tell by the way he runs that Cadillac tries to wait and pick his holes. We just wanted to block for the linebackers and let them make the play."


Talented Auburn backups Ronnie Brown and Louisiana native Brandon Jacobs had a combined eight carries for 33 yards. Jason Campbell completed 19-of-27 passes for 143 yards and a TD, but was sacked four times and kept off balance by LSU's defense the entire game. Mix led his receivers with five catches for 47 yards and a score.


Karlos Dansby led Auburn's defensive effort with 11 tackles and one for a loss. LSU's offensive line mowed down Auburn's highly-touted front seven, giving up no sacks and only two tackles behind the line of scrimmage.


With the win LSU improves to 7-1 and 4-1 in the SEC, and dropped Auburn to 5-3 (4-1) on the season. The two teams are tied for second place in the SEC West behind 5-0 Ole Miss, but the win will give LSU an edge in the tiebreaker.


After the game, Saban was pleased with the way his team had dominated in all phases for the entire game.

"Now the challenge is can we do it on a consistent basis," he said. "I hope we learned a lesson about how to live with success and deal with success. We know that each week is a challenge, and you have to have your mind right to do things that way. You can't play dominant football if you're not psychologically into it, and sometimes you have a lot of intensity, being ready to go. A lot of intangible things give you energy and make you play well, and I've been pleased with that the last two weeks, so hopefully we won't have to go through another bad experience to continue to do this with consistency. That's going to be our goal."

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