DEVILLE: Nothing normal about LSU-Auburn

I promised myself coming into this week I would not write about the bizarre occurrences surrounding the LSU-Auburn series.

It has been overdone really.


It is sort of like every year when LSU plays Ole Miss, sports writers and fans alike dust off their stories of Billy Cannon's Halloween Night punt return and pregame radio shows re-live Bert Jones' last second touchdown pass to Brad Davis in 1972.


Auburn week is sort of like that.


Beginning with the famed "Earthquake" game in 1988, the Battle of the Tigers has produced plenty of memorable, as well as, strange moments for both teams. LSU fans will always remember was the "Interception" game of 1994. Jamie Howard's five, fourth-quarter interceptions, three returned for touchdowns, will line in infamy. It is funny the "Bring Back the Magic" contest the following season ushered in the Gerry DiNardo era in grand fashion. Ironically, five years later, it was the same Auburn team that sent him packing.


How could you forget about the "Night the Barn Burned" (1996) or even "The Comeback (1997)?"


Then there was the "Cigar" game in 1999, see DiNardo above. Then Auburn did the "Eye of the Tiger" stomp in 2001, setting the stage for LSU's first trip to the SEC title game.


The 2002 and 2003 seasons were everything but eventful. Auburn trounced LSU 31-7 in 2002 while the Bayou Bengals returned the favor – by the same score (31-7 mind you) – the following season en route to a national title.


Then there was the infamous contest dubbed only "The Call," a year ago that gave Auburn a 10-9 win propelling the Tigers to a 13-0 record and an SEC title.


It seems cliché, almost like recalling Cannon's "Storybook" run (ala J.C. Politz), to recount these same happenings year after year. It seems as if people try and go so far out on a limb in search of some theme on which to saddle an LSU-Auburn game that it cheapens the really great moments in the history of the series.


It's as if the game will not be remembered if not for some storyline, some bizarre happening, or some catchy moniker.


This year's annual "Battle of the Tigers" needed no cliché's, no frills, no decoration. Both teams and fans alike knew what was on the line. The road to the SEC Championship has run through either Baton Rouge or Auburn four of the last five seasons. With Alabama seemingly in the driver's seat in the SEC Western Division, neither team could ill afford to slip up for a loss would all but eliminate one from the divisional race.


Bottom line – in essence – the loser stays home, from Atlanta that is.


With two of the top defenses in the SEC going head to head, a stalemate was predicted. Auburn, although it has yet to face any offense of any quality, owned the league's top defensive unit. LSU had rebounded from early stumbles against Arizona State and Tennessee to develop a pretty solid defensive team itself.


The stage was set, finally a Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium, and a pair of top 15 teams was going to battle with postseason hopes lying heavily on the line.


Pardon the cliché, but why is there nothing ever normal when these two SEC super powers lock honors?


From the initial kickoff, there was a malfunction with the game clock and the officials were forced to keep time on the field. As technicians tried valiantly to get the clock again operational, the head umpire would announce the "official" time of the game clock before each snap. Twice, the clock was pronounced fixed and time was accurate. But twice the clock malfunctioned. Fans were more confused than us sports writers in the press box as no one really knew how much or little time was actually remaining in the first quarter.


Did Skyler Green's punt return for s touchdown come with three or five minutes left in the first quarter?

No one really knows for sure.


But by the start of the second quarter, the clock was working properly and it seemed as if things had returned to normal.


But remember, "normal" need not apply when it comes to LSU and Auburn.


Then come the field goals.


LSU had relied on its special teams to overcome other miscues in terms of turnovers and penalties. Again, the Tigers special teams came up big when Skyler Green brought back a punt 66 yards. But field goal kicking – on both sides – was somewhat of a comedy of errors.


Sure enough, Chris Jackson nailed probably the most important kick since Rusty Jackson's extra point in 1972 sealed LSU's 17-16 win over Ole Miss when he hit a 45-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. In the first extra period, Jackson also was responsible for the game-winner, a 30-yarder which gave the Tigers a 20-17 lead.


However, Jackson, and fellow kicker Colt David each missed field goals earlier in the game that may have made the difference.


But don't talk to anyone from Auburn about missed field goals.


John Vaughn, an all-SEC performer from a year ago and the culprit in the Tigers' 10-9 win over LSU a year ago, knows all about missed field goals. Coming into Saturday's game, Vaughn was 7 of 9 on the season on field goals.


The karma wasn't right for Vaughn, who missed five field goals in the game. The junior kicker was 1 for 6 in the game and missed field goals of 41, 54, 37, 49 and 39. The 49-yarder would have won the game in regulation for the visiting Tigers. The 39-yard attempt would have forced a second overtime period, but hit the left upright.


As a former high school place kicker, I have felt that pain.


A year ago, my heart went out to Oregon State kicker Alexis Serna, who missed three extra points, including one in overtime as the Beavers lost to LSU 22-21.


I once missed a game-winner, a 19-yarder from the left hash that sailed wide right. There was no truly no other pain like it. Your sole job is to kick a ball through the uprights – and you failed.


I can say though, I missed only one game-winner. In reality, Vaughn missed four, as any one of those failed kicks in regulation would have given Auburn a victory.


It is only fitting, from an LSU standpoint, that Vaughn was the one on which whose shoulders the game rested. Vaughn chipped in the controversial extra point to beat LSU a year ago.


So, in the long line of naming LSU-Auburn games, does this mean the 2005 renewal of this series be called "Long Vaughn?" Or maybe "Field Goal Follies?"


In the end, I am sure one word would sum up this game for LSU: "Redemption!"




Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. Reach him at

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