LSU's offense was ultra conservative in the first half and it showed with 11 runs on first down. Crowton called a couple of pass plays but they were either changed at the line of scrimmage or thwarted by Auburn’s tight coverage in the secondary forcing Andrew Hatch to run.
The Tigers had some success running with Charles Scott picking up 65 of his 132 yards in the first 30 minutes but LSU's quarterbacks posed no threat throwing the football with Hatch and Jarrett Lee combining to go 2 of 11 for 16 yards.
In fact, the only pass Lee completed in the first half was to the other team and resulted in a 24 yard interception return for a score that put the Bayou Bengals in a hole at 14-3 going into the lockerroom.
While the LSU offense could muster only 105 yards of offense in the first half the defense was doing its job by holding Auburn to 148.
Things did not look bright for the sixth ranked Tigers from the bayou and they looked even worst when Hatch was knocked out of the game with a concussion on LSU's first drive of the second half at the 7:32 mark.
Most who were clad in their purple and gold in Jordan Hare Stadium didn’t give LSU much of a chance to mount a comeback, especially after the first half and what they saw from their redshirt freshman quarterback by the name of Lee.
However, the Lee they saw in the first half was not the same player that came out of the lockerroom and credit Crowton for working his magic.
Lee proceeded to lead the Tigers to 23 second half points, including 17 unanswered, but he had a little help along the way.
Brandon LaFell stepped up big and grabbed four passes for 92 yards and Lee spread the ball around with six other receivers catching passes in the second half.
The passing game was aided by the impressive running ability of Scott who ran for 67 yards in the second half and kept Auburn on its heels.
“If you don’t stop the run you can’t win a football game like this,” Rhoads said. “That is the simplest answer. We didn’t control our gaps, we didn’t fit, we didn’t tackle very well. This is a team that is capable of getting in a rhythm and when they do they get you back on your heels.
“They have a nice mix of play-action passing and then they hit you with the trick play,” added Rhoads. “We let them get into that rhythm and let them score 14 straight points. We had to battle like hell from there just to stay in the football game.”
It was a team effort by LSU but the big reason Rhoads’ defense gave up 293 yards in the second half was due to the play of Lee, who was playing in his first collegiate game outside of Tiger Stadium.
He stood tall in the pocket, worked the play-action pass, and was good on 11 of 17 passes for 186 yards and two scores in the final 22 minutes and 30 seconds.
There were several good throws that he made but the one that Tiger fans will remember the most is the one to LaFell with 1:03 left on the clock.
Oddly enough, it was LaFell who many remember for his bobble last year against Auburn that made that game closer than it should have been.
Lee had faith to look for LaFell in the right flat and LaFell had faith that his young quarterback would lead them to victory.
“Everybody was pretty down when we went into the lockerroom at halftime and he came in there and kept us motivated,” LaFell said. “He kept talking about how we have been there before and then when we got back on the field, he kept giving us opportunities to make big plays as receivers. I kept looking for the ball every time. As a receiver, you want the ball to come to you and you want to make the big plays.”
And make big plays they did. There were big plays by Lee, Scott, LaFell, and many others on the field.
And, of course, there was that magic from the Wizard. Without that the sun would not be nearly as bright as it was this morning at daybreak on the bayou.