Many factors fuel LSU’s comeback upset of Auburn
It was an epic comeback, as LSU rallied from a 20-0 deficit to defeat 10th ranked Auburn 27-23 Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
How did it happen?
LSU won the critical one-on-one matchups for the last 2 1/2 quarters.
Wide receiver Russell Gage’s 70-yard second quarter run on the speed sweep set up a touchdown, and got the Tigers and the home crowd back in the game. In the past two games, wins on the road at Florida and against Auburn, Gage has made his case for the best player on the field.
His 30-yard touchdown run against Florida jump-started the LSU offense. His 70-yard run and 14-yard touchdown reception were Sunday plays.
Gage also made a key special teams play, downing a punt at the Auburn 3.
The LSU defense, after giving up pass plays of 52 and 49 yards in the first quarter, played superbly. Auburn had 188 yards in the first quarter but managed 166 yards total in the final three quarters.
Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham looked rattled as LSU blitzes, against both the run and the pass, were effective.
Stidham’s receivers didn’t help.
Early in the fourth quarter, playing a third and 5 at the Auburn 25, Stidham delivered a perfect pass to Darius Slayton, who dropped the ball. It would have been a big gain.
On the next play, Auburn punted to DJ Chark, who caught the ball near the right sideline, turned left and then raced 75 yards for a touchdown. When Chark fielded the ball, Auburn had seven players between the sideline and the hash mark. Once Chark made his decisive move, four Auburn defenders didn’t have a choice against a convoy of Tiger blockers.
On the next Auburn possession, defensive tackle Greg Gilmore and linebacker Donnie Alexander made the defensive play of the game.
On third-and-1 from midfield, Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson was stopped by Alexander on a big collision. Gilmore did a great job of holding the point of attack, allowing Alexander to stop the 212-pound Johnson in his tracks.
Later in the fourth, Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele made an interesting call when LSU faced a third and 15 at its own 37.
Steele sent six rushers at quarterback Danny Etling. With only one single high safety, Etling lofted a pass down the right sideline to DJ Chark for a gain of 29 yards.
The Tigers didn’t score on the drive, but the play allowed LSU to reverse the field position.
Four plays later, Josh Growden punted a perfectly placed ball that Gage downed inside Auburn’s 5.
On its next possession, LSU got the ball back at the Auburn 45. Seven plays later, Connor Culp booted the game-winning 42 yard field goal.
On their final two possessions, Auburn gained a total of nine yards.
Cornerback Donte’ Jackson had four of LSU’s 11 pass breakups.
Sophomore linebacker Devin White played not only superbly, but smartly. He had 15 tackles, six solos, with a sack, two tackles for losses and a quarterback hurry.
White also made two very smart plays against Stidham. On a blitz, White had a clean shot at the quarterback and delivered without leading with the helmet, thus avoiding a 15-yard penalty.
Earlier, on a 4-yard scramble, White shoved Stidham out of bounds, but avoided another penalty by not hitting the quarterback outside the field of play.
For the final 2 1/2 quarters, the Tigers played their best football. The result was an improbable comeback.
Auburn will have to wait until 2019 to have a chance to win for the first time at Tiger Stadium since 1999.
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WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM
Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…