Auburn special teams a concern for LSU

It's not new news to LSU coach Nick Saban that Auburn fields some of the best special team units in the Southeastern Conference. His Tigers were the victims of them last season at Auburn, when Tim Carter brought back a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown that effectively put the game away. With memories of the game-changing return still fresh in his mind, Saban is making sure his Tigers are prepared for the multi-faceted ability of Tommy Tuberville's kicking and return teams.

Punter/place kicker Damon Duval has been the star for Auburn this year, providing the game-winning field goal for the Tigers three weeks in a row. His biggest kick came against Florida on Oct. 13 when he connected from 44 yards away with 10 seconds to play for Auburn's 23-20 upset of the top-ranked Gators.

With 18 seconds remaining against Mississippi State on Oct. 6, Duval was good from 48 yards to give the Tigers a 16-14 win. And with under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter against Vanderbilt on Sept. 29, he broke a 21-21 tie with a 49-yarder.

Heading into the LSU game, Duval has Auburn ranked No. 15 nationally in field goal (1.50 per game) and No. 13 in punting (43.91 yards per punt). The Tigers are also No. 26 in punt returns, averaging just over 11 yards per chance.

"I think the team that we're about to play has as good special teams as anybody we've played against," said Saban. "They've got great specialists. Duval does a great job in all areas of the kicking game for them. Not only is a great athlete that runs fakes, he's also an excellent punter, is probably as good a kickoff guys as there is and does a pretty good job with his field goals."

Outside of its field goal unit, LSU has enjoyed fairly reliable special team performances this season. Donnie Jones is averaging 43.6 yards per punt (No. 20 nationally) and the kickoff coverage unit is tops in the SEC, allowing opponents only 14.6 yards per kick.

LSU's coverage numbers dropped some against Arkansas due to lapses in execution and penalties. Saban said negating these mistakes would be a top priority before the Tigers faced Auburn.

"I was not pleased with the way we played on special teams," Saban said. "That really hurt us. We had five penalties in the game on special teams. What has been outstanding kickoff coverage was not real good. (Arkansas) got real good field position on us. When we did make good plays on special teams, they got nullified by penalties."

Keeping sharp on special teams is of the utmost importance for LSU, says Saban, since Tuberville is prone to take chances on fourth down. On more than one occasion, he has used Duval on a fake punt play and it has successful more times than not.

Tuberville is known for his risk-taking and left an indelible impression on LSU players in 1999 when Auburn ran a fake field goal against LSU in its 41-7 win at Tiger Stadium.

"I remember my freshman year they did a fake field goal," said LSU linebacker Bradie James. "That was my first time seeing something like that happen. The way they did it you could tell that it was well thought out."

LSU-Auburn Special Teams Comparison




FG percentage

9-16 (56.2)

15-22 (68.2)

PAT percentage

36-39 (92.3)

24-24 (100)

Net Punting Average



KO Return Average



Punt Return Average



Opponent average per KO



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