Gambles give LSU win over Auburn

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville has gained a reputation as a riverboat gambler for his use of trick plays and tendency to go for it on fourth down. But it was LSU that knew when to hold ‘em, knew when to fold them, in a decisive 27-14 win over No. 22 Auburn. With the victory, the Tigers walked away with a share of the West division of the Southeastern Conference and run to face Tennessee in the SEC title game.

Playing in front of a Tiger Stadium record 92,141 fans, LSU improved to 8-3 with the win and matched Auburn's 5-3 record in the SEC. The tiebreaker edge sends LSU to Atlanta this Saturday for a rematch with the No. 4 Volunteers, who upset second-ranked Florida, 34-32, in Gainesville.

A successful onside kick to open the game set the tone for 24th-ranked LSU, and the Tigers scored six plays later for a 7-0 lead. Auburn tied the game on its first possession, but LSU rolled on with a strong offensive effort led by quarterback Rohan Davey. In his final performance at Tiger Stadium, the fifth-year senior from Miami competed 16-of-34 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown.

Wide receiver Josh Reed was once again his favorite target, catching 10 passes for 186 yards a touchdown.

Running back LaBrandon Toefield capped his sophomore season with 120 yards rushing and a touchdown on 29 carries. All told, the Tigers accumulated 188 yards on the ground, averaging 4.5 yards an attempt.

The key to the game, however, was LSU's defense, which held its strongest performance of the year for the season finale. The unit held Auburn to 293 yards of total offense, limiting the visitors to 116 yards on the ground – most of which came on their last scoring drive of the game.

"I'm really proud of our players for the way they played in the game," said LSU head coach Nick Saban, who improved his record at LSU to 16-7. "I think they answered the ball and proved something – that they could go our and play and win the big game. We challenged to do that, and I'm just proud of the way they did it."

LSU chose to try the onside kick after Auburn was called for unsportslike conduct for refusing the leave the field in a timely manner after its pre-game warm-ups. Officials threw the flag when they saw Auburn players stomping on the midfield "Eye of the Tiger" design and informed Saban of the call about ten minutes before kickoff.

With the ball moved to the 50, LSU kicker John Corbello topped the pigskin to his right, getting it to take a high bounce that landed right into the hands of receiver Michael Clayton at the Auburn 36. Six plays later, Toefield crashed into the end zone from two yards away for a 7-0 LSU lead.

Auburn jumped right back into the game on its first offensive possession. Redshirt freshman starting quarterback Jason Campbell used a play action fake to get Tim Carter open and found the speedy wide receiver behind LSU coverage for a 72-yard touchdown.

Tuberville then tried to copy with its own onside kickoff, but Damon Duval's attempt skimmed right into the clutches of LSU defender Bryce Wyatt.

Corbello had a 46-yard field goal blocked later in the quarter, and the two teams traded interceptions, leaving the score tied 7-7 after first 15 minutes of play.

Auburn held possession at the start of the second quarter but was forced to punt one play later. Domanick Davis fielded Duval's kick at his 21 and returned it to the 50, setting up another short stage for the LSU offense.

After Davey connected with Reed for 32 yards on a third-and-10 conversion, the two combined again on third-and-9 from the Auburn 17. A crossing route left Reed open in the end zone and Davey drilled him while rolling away from pressure for a touchdown.

The Tigers' next scoring drive would take more time off the clock, and Davis would take over from Toefield in the backfield to handle the rushing chores. His 16-yard run put LSU into Auburn territory, and Davey threw to Reed again for a 30-yard gain to get the to the Auburn 9.

Davis got the handoff on the next play and raced into the end zone, but the score was waved off when LSU was flagged for illegal procedure. But an Auburn holding penalty gave LSU a first down at the 7, and Davis found his way to the end zone again to make the score 21-7. The score held there until halftime.

More Auburn mischief ensued during the intermission when the specialists came out of the locker room early to get some kicking in. The LSU marching band was still on the field when Duval, and shouting match ensued when Duval and the Auburn staffers refused to yield ground when the band left the field. No penalty was called, but the difficulties were not over for Duval.

Taking the opening kickoff of the third quarter, LSU moved down into the red zone thanks to a 48-yard run from Toefield. The drive came up short of the end zone and Corbello gave the Tigers a 24-7 lead with a 21-yard field goal.

Duval had his first field goal chance on Auburn's ensuing possession but missed a 29-yarder wide left, much to the delight of the throngs of gold-clad LSU fans.

Tuberville turned to his trick bag later in the third quarter but came up empty again on a fake punt play. Duval took a the deep snap and threw downfield, finding LSU cornerback Demetrius Hookfin instead of his intended receiver. Hookfin returned the ball to the LSU 39, setting up a Tiger possession that would span into the fourth quarter.

On third-and-10 from the Auburn 32, Davey threw to Jerel Myers for a 17-yard gain. Davey tried to get the ball to Jack Hunt in the end zone on a third-and-7 play, but the incompletion was nullified when Auburn was called for pass interference. The Tigers could not cash in with a first down at the 2-yard line, but the series included one of the game's strangest plays.

On third down at the 2, Davey pitched right to Toefield, who looked for a receiver in the south end zone and launched an ugly sidearm throw. The ball went skyward and bounced off two offensive linemen before Davey hauled it in for a net loss of two yards. Corbello was then brought in for a successful 22-yard field goal.

Auburn got good field position for its final scoring drive thanks to an LSU facemask call. Starting at their own 49, the Plainsmen used 7 plays and 2:36 to cover 51 yards. Running back Chris Butler handled much of the workload, gaining 39 yards on the drive and scoring the touchdown from 13 yards out. A 13-yard pass from Campbell to Deandre Green allowed Auburn to convert on third-and-8 to keep the drive alive.

GAME NOTES

LSU earned a share of the SEC West title for the third time. The Tigers shared the crown with Alabama in 1996 and Auburn the following year but did not advance to the SEC Championship game because they lost head-to-head match-ups with against the two respective co-champs.

LaBrandon Toefield tied the SEC record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season with 19. Garrison Heart of Georgia first reached that total in 1992 and Shaun Alexander of Alabama duplicated the feat in 1999.

With his first catch of the game, Josh Reed broke the LSU single season record with 81 catches – breaking Wendell Davis mark of 800 set in 1986. Reed finished the season with 90 receptions and will learn Thursday if he is the winner of the Biletnikoff Award. The trophy goes to the nation's best collegiate receiver, and Reed has more receiver yards than the other two finalists – Florida's Jabar Gaffney (1,191) and Wisconsin's Lee Evans (1,535).

With the same catch, a 14-yard reception, Reed became the first SEC receiver to surpass the 1,500-yard mark. He already held the SEC record with 1,494 yards entering the game and ended the season with 1,674 yards.

Reed's 17-yard second quarter touchdown reception moved him into a tie for third place on the all-time LSU scoring receptions list with 17. Ken Kavanaugh caught the same total from 1937-39.

Rohan Davey, with the 17-yard scoring pass to Reed, moved past Bert Jones into fifth place on LSU's all-time touchdown pass list with 29. It was also his 18th of the season, tying him for third on the LSU single-season list in that category.

Jarvis Green moved into fourth place on LSU's all-time sack list with a second quarter sack of Auburn's Jason Campbell. He finished his final regular season game with 20 for his career, moving him ahead of Chuck Wiley's 19 in fifth place.

Jeremy Lawrence made his first interception of the season in the first quarter, giving him two for his career. The first came in the Peach Bowl against Georgia Tech last year.

Marcus Spears recorded the first sack of his LSU career in the third quarter, and Trev Faulk had his second sack of the season.

Michael Clayton recovered his second onside kick of the season. The first came against Florida in the Tigers' 44-15 loss.

RECRUITING

The LSU-Auburn game saw a host of prospects in attendance at Tiger Stadium. The following is a Tiger Rag-compiled list of players who made the trip to Baton Rouge on Sunday. Doug Planchard, DL, Baton Rouge-Catholic (LSU commitment); Gary Duhe, WR, St. Amant; Baraka Atkins, DE, Sarasota, Fla.-Booker; Dale Dixon, DE, Garland, Texas; Andre Bennett, OL, Vicksburg, Miss.; Kyle Williams, DT, Ruston; Scott Holt, OL, New Orleans-Holy Cross; Tory Collins, DE, New Orleans-Fortier (West Virginia commitment); Greg Casnave, DE, Mandeville-Fontainebleau (Southern Miss commitment); Adam Kraus, TE, Brother Martin; Mike Rabalais, OL, Pineville; Fletcher Sessions, LB, Tyler, Texas-John Tyler; Albert Hardy, RB, Houston-Galena Park; Justin Vincent, RB, Lake Charles-Barbe (LSU commitment); Anthony Camp, LB, Baton Rouge-Parkview Baptist; Ryan Lewis, QB, Baton Rouge-Central; Rufus Alexander, LB, Baton Rouge-Christian Life; Chris Lister, LB, Mosley, Fla.; Markee Crenshaw, DB, Mosley, Fla.; Jasper Faulk, RB, Lafayette; Brodney Pool, DB, Houston-Westbury; Cameron Vaughn, LB, Marrero-Archbishop Shaw; Garret Wibel, OL, Metairie-Archbishop Rummel (LSU commitment); Antony Jones, WR, Baton Rouge-Istrouma; Brian Johnson, OL, Tallahassee, Fla.-Godby; James Vernon, WR, Baton Rouge-Glen Oaks.

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