DEVILLE: Auburn has "prayers" answered

AUBURN, Ala. – With 2:04 left on the clock, the Auburn student section broke out into song. "Whooooaaaaa, we're halfway there … Whoooooaaaaa, we're living on a prayer," the students sang the Bon Jovi tune wildly.

Eric Brock had just batted down a JaMarcus Russell pass on fourth and eight from the Auburn 31, all but sealing the victory for his team.

 

But moments earlier, the mood of the sold-out Jordan-Hare Stadium was much, much different. Only seconds earlier, Auburn's real "prayer" had been answered. On that fourth-down play, sure, Brock had batted down Russell's strike to Early Doucet over the middle. But the deflection didn't come before Zach Gilbert tackled the LSU wide receiver at the 10-yard line.

 

The back judge immediately dropped his penalty flag signaling for defensive pass interference, which gave LSU first and 10 at the Auburn 16.

 

"I got sick to my stomach," said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville about the penalty.

But Tuberville's pain quickly subsided when, after a brief conference, the officials reversed the call saying Brock tipped the pass before the interference occurred.

 

Miles and the LSU sideline erupted in anger.

 

"The explanation was not forthcoming," Miles said. "I am waiting, and the officials say he tipped the ball. I know the rule:  If the ball is tipped at the line of scrimmage, there is no pass interference. The ball was tipped downfield. The proper explanation will be forthcoming."

 

At any rate, Tuberville and Auburn fans breathed a sigh of relief, but only briefly.

 

"That was a judgment call and thank goodness it went our way," Tuberville said. "They still had to get the ball in the end zone."

 

At the time, Tuberville had to be thinking that would be all but impossible.

 

Auburn handed the ball to Kenny Irons three times for a gain of three yards. LSU used its remaining two time-outs to stop the clock and miraculously would get the ball back with just over a minute left.

 

Kody Bliss, who had already nailed punts of 62 and 61 yards in the game, drilled a 51-yarder, pinning LSU back at its own 20. Russell and the offense took the field with 1:11 left in the game and immediately went to work.

 

Russell connected with Craig Davis on back-to-back passes covering 20 and 21 yards. On first and 10 from the Auburn 39, Russell took an ill-advised sack, which cost the Tigers over 20 seconds in trying to get back to the line and spike the ball. 

 

Still though, Russell then hit Dwayne Bowe for 21 yards and Justin Vincent for 5.  But an illegal formation penalty set LSU back 5 yards, giving them one shot for the win.

 

Russell rolled left and found Davis wide open down the left sideline. Russell, under pressure, threw the ball a half-second too early. Davis had to break off his route, and he caught the ball at the Auburn 4. But Brock was in perfect position and leveled Davis for no yards after the catch as time expired.

 

"I was surprised they didn't throw it into the end zone a couple of times," Tuberville said. "We had a lot of young guys out there, and what goes through your mind is not making plays out there and just giving it up."

 

Miles said he would have liked to have had Russell throw the ball to the end zone, but he didn't criticize his quarterback's decision under the circumstances and the pressure that was coming.

 

"We would have liked to have thrown the ball in the end zone and make a play," Miles said. "We would have liked to have extended the route. But our quarterback played extremely well all day.  He just needed to put a little air under the ball at the end of the game."

 

Davis said he was surprised the ball wasn't thrown with more air, but like Miles, he said the situation was one where Russell had to get rid of the ball.

 

"I ran the wheel route," Davis said. "I was trying to get to the back corner pylon. Unfortunately the ball got there too late. It was kind of a flat throw, but it was a good play call. They had defensive ends pressuring JaMarcus and he was under pressure. But I actually thought I had enough room.

 

"I knew he (Brock) was closing on me. I was hoping I could catch the ball and spin out of it."

 

But that wasn't the case as Brock dropped Davis immediately, 4 yards short of what would have been the biggest win in the Miles era at LSU.

 

"We have a disappointed group of men," Miles said. "The loss will be difficult to handle. The guys played their hearts out."

 

One thing is for certain: LSU is no doubt one of the top teams in the nation. Being able to go on the road and play the No. 3 team in the nation to a standstill on their home field says a great deal about the quality of Miles' team.

 

No one likes moral victories or the use of a cliché to soften the blow of a painful loss, but LSU will be better because of what happened Saturday at Auburn.

 

It was clear a controversial call may have cost them the game. The coaches and players know they were in position to win the game, but the opportunity may have been taken out of their hands at the time.

 

But time moves on, and there are other games to be played. LSU returns to action with two more-than-winnable games versus Tulane and Mississippi State before facing the second-toughest test of the season at Florida in three weeks.

 

Judging from the way this team played on the Plains Saturday, there is no doubt this team is not likely to lose again in 2006.

 

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Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.


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