AUBURN, Ala. — Minutes after Auburn’s thrilling 18-13 win over No. 18 LSU on Saturday night, linebacker Deshaun Davis sat in the middle of a small crowd in the team’s post-game media room.
Just a few feet away, Tray Matthews stood up and started walking back into the team’s locker room, but changed direction when he caught a glimpse of Davis. Matthews shuffled over and poked his head between two reporters.
The junior defensive back didn’t utter a word. The final score, the stat sheet and most notably the gigantic grin spread across his face said it all — Auburn’s defense had accomplished its mission.
LSU running back Leonard Fournette was still speedy. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound back was still strong. Yet, unlike in last year’s matchup between the two Tigers in Baton Rouge — in which the New Orleans native rushed for a career-high 228 yards and 3 touchdowns — he wasn’t overpowering.
“I mean we all know that he’s a great back and we knew that if we were going to stop him that it would make the game that much easier,” senior defensive lineman Montravius Adams said. “He still got his big plays, but I feel like we got better as a defense. Everybody tried to execute to the best of their ability and I feel like we did most of that. We did give up a couple of big plays but at the end of the day we didn’t let that define us. We came back for the next play.”
Fournette carried the ball 16 times, rushing for 101 total yards. He broke free for one long run (35 yards) in the second quarter, but Auburn kept him out of the end zone.
It wasn’t Fournette but his backup, sophomore Derrius Guice, who rushed for the longest run of the night (52-yards).
“I think we did really good. He made some big plays for his team, but that’s just the type of guy he is,” Davis said. “He’s been one of the best running backs in college football so he’s going to make some plays. All you can do is contain him and I feel like we did a really good job of containing him.”
LSU’s Heisman hopeful suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of the Sept. 10 game against Jacksonville State, but he was back for his team’s first SEC game against Mississippi State last weekend.
After the beating Auburn’s D took last season — made worse by an endless supply of embarrassing video highlights — this game wasn’t just another SEC contest. It was personal.
“They (Auburn’s defense) are playing their hearts out. N0. 7 (Leonard Fournette) got the best of us last year and I thought we did a better job this year,” head coach Gus Malzahn said. “That was a big part of the game plan because they are very good at running the football.”
Auburn’s defense limited LSU to 338 yards of total offense. The Tigers also gave up just 4 of 13 third-down conversions, nearly cutting LSU’s average completion percentage in half (41 percent to 21 percent).
“Like I said earlier, sometimes it’s the way you win that really makes a long lasting impression on your team, and our guys fought,” Malzahn said. “It’s good to win one when the pressure is on and you’ve got to find a way.”
Despite another dynamic defensive effort, the home Tigers still recognized flaws.
“I mean really, personally, I just feel like we played good but I feel like a couple of those yards that he got was kind of us being on the wrong assignment or wrong alignment,” Adams said. “So I feel like we could have played better.”
Still, the long-awaited revenge Auburn could finally claim, as well as the win, was a reward for defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s unit.
“It’s great confidence, especially with losing last week, and the Clemson game, a game that we could’ve won,” Matthews said. “This is just great momentum, and we can just keep going on and keep getting better.”