AUBURN, Ala. — Before Auburn’s current starting quarterback took the field Saturday night against LSU, one of the best to ever play the position for the program gave him a strange request.
“Pat Sullivan came in and told me, ‘Before you go out there, you need to put a penny in your sock. It’ll give you that little bit of luck you need whenever you need it,'” Auburn quarterback Sean White said Saturday night. “And I’m like, alright. I’m going to listen to Pat Sullivan. He won the Heisman.”
Hours later, as White celebrated the replay review that took a game-winning LSU touchdown off the board on the final play of Auburn’s thrilling 18-13 win, his mind went back to that penny in his left sock and Sullivan’s message of luck.
“After the game, I was like, ‘Wow,'” White said. “I mean, not that I’m a superstitious guy, but it’s just kind of weird the game was that close.”
Although White didn’t score a touchdown in the fourth start of his sophomore season, he played a significant role in helping Auburn end its 6-game home losing streak against SEC foes — one that started in 2014, when White was taking a redshirt.
White completed 19 of his 26 pass attempts for 234 yards, giving him career-highs in completion percentage (73.1) and quarterback efficiency rating (148.68) against a Power 5 opponent.
“I thought he managed the game well,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He was 19-of-26 with no interceptions, and I think that’s good against that defense. We were almost 50 percent on third down (8-of-19), and that was a big key. … We had some guys step up and make some pretty big catches on third down too.”
On a night when a “banged-up” Auburn rushing attack struggled to get much going, White had to lead the Tigers between the 20s. He was responsible for 6 of Auburn’s 8 plays of 10-plus yards against an attack-minded LSU defense that delivered several big hits on him.
“I saw Sean being Sean,” Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson said. “He’s competitive. He got hit multiple times. One time I missed a block and he got hit, but he got up and kept going. That makes a great leader, and that is what I saw in him tonight.”
White gave Auburn’s attack some much-needed consistency as it adjusted to offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee calling plays and a hat-wearing Malzahn taking more of a CEO role.
One week earlier against Texas A&M, White’s spot in the starting lineup was called into question when he was benched in the fourth quarter for the speedy John Franklin III. But Malzahn and the coaching staff stuck with the sophomore from Florida, and he looked more confident in the pocket in his first home win against a Power 5 opponent.
“I’m feeling very comfortable,” White said. “The guys around me are making big plays, and I think the offensive line gave me good protection. It’s really fun playing with these guys.”
But when 7 scoring opportunities for his offense turned into just 6 field goals, White needed a lot of help from his teammates on defense. As he stood on the sidelines for LSU’s final drive, all he could do was watch and hope.
“I was watching the clock, and I thought it went off,” White said. “But I wasn’t sure if it was like a reviewable thing or not. I didn’t know how they would treat it. So I was just hoping and praying that they would make the call that they made.”
After the call was confirmed, White sprinted across Pat Dye Field with his new lucky penny still lodged into his sock.
More celebration, including a very happy Sean White. pic.twitter.com/Ooo8sI90Av
— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) September 25, 2016
Before he faced the media Saturday night, he made sure he had Sullivan’s good-luck charm in a secure place. It’s now going to become part of his permanent game day attire.
“Oh, I’m keeping it,” White said, beaming. “I made sure. Give me that penny!”