Russell's rally comes up four yards short

AUBURN, Ala. - The comeback kid almost did it again. The Tiger faithful have seen junior JaMarcus Russell pull off the impossible before, but Saturday wasn't meant to be. As Russell marched his squad down the field in front of a capacity crowd in Auburn, most Tiger fans couldn't help but to remember past comebacks and how the game could end.

Would the game finish like in Orlando when the freshman Russell came off the bench to spark a rally by throwing two touchdown passes against Iowa? Russell hit Skyler Green for a 3-yard score, handing the Tigers a 25-24 lead with 46 seconds to go. However, the Tigers dropped the contest on the last play on a Drew Tate 56-yard touchdown pass.


Or would the game finish like last year's classics in Tuscaloosa and Tempe where Russell led his team to comeback victories on both occasions?


"No matter what, we wanted to get into the end zone," Russell said. "We just came up short so I take the full blame for that."


The Tigers began the final drive with 1:11 left to go at the LSU 19-yard line.


Russell established a rhythm on second down when he threw a 20-yard strike to Craig "Buster" Davis to the LSU 40-yard line. The next play, Russell again attacked the left side of the Auburn defense with a 21-yard pass to Davis.


First-and-10 on the Auburn 40-yard line, Russell made his only mistake of the day when he took a sack while scrambling instead of throwing the ball away. The sack cost the team about 20 seconds on the clock before he could spike the ball to stop the clock.


"He should have never taken that sack," Miles said. "He knows that. That might have cost us more dearly time then yardage."


Russell, who had orchestrated six fourth-quarter comebacks in 18 career starts, then stepped up in the pocket to hit Bowe for a 21-yard gain to the 19-yard line with only 14.2 seconds left in the game.


A penalty then pushed LSU to the 24-yard line with one play left and 2.5 seconds. One the last play of the game, Russell stepped back into the pocket where he received good protection, took his time, looked down into the end zone, and passed to a wide open Davis on the five-yard line. Davis was caught with no time remaining-four yards short of the end zone.


"We would have liked to throw it into the end zone to make the play in the end zone," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "When the clock is running down, you are in a position where he extends the route and he puts some air underneath it and either the ball is caught in the end zone or not."


Russell may not have finished the game the way he wanted, but the Mobile native did have a good outing. He completed 20-of-35 passes for 269 yards. He also moved into seventh place on the LSU career passing yards list when he past Josh Booty for 4,212 career yards.


Without Russell and the passing game, there would have been no offense because of the lack of a running game. The Tigers ran for 42 yards on 23 carries.


"We fought our tails off and just lost a hard SEC game," running back Jacob Hester said. "It seemed they knew everything we were running. We were running screens and they were throwing screens. It just wasn't there. We have to get better this next game."


Even without a rushing attack, LSU still out gained Auburn 311 to 182. In fact, LSU even won the turnover battle against the Plainsmen with a Craig Steltz interception, but was kept out of the end zone for the first time this season.


The Tigers scored 90 points in their first two contests this season, but on Saturday, they failed to find the end zone.


"We played a hell of a ball game," Miles said. "There were so many ways to win that game. The guys played their hearts out. If somebody would have told me that we would have won the turnover battle, and out gained our opponent, that we probably would have won."


Now with one loss on the season, the Tigers will have to regroup as they prepare to conclude the remainder of their schedule, which includes trips to Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama at home.


Saturday's loss now puts the Tigers two games behind because Auburn holds the tiebreaker. Players and coaches are still optimistic about the remainder of the season, and said Auburn is already behind them. 


"Quarterback play was extremely well all day," Miles said. "This is a very good football team, one that still has some very ambitious goals to fulfill."

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