On any other day, the LSU defense would have had a showing worthy of celebration. But a rough showing from its counterparts on offense and a gut-wrenching ending canceled any and all parties the defense might’ve been planning.
Though the defense kept Auburn’s potent offense out of the end zone, holding it to six field goals, Danny Etling and the LSU offense stalled, leading to an 18-13 loss, the team’s second of the year and first in conference play. LSU looked like it had the game won as time expired, and it was initially ruled that way, but D.J. Chark’s last-second touchdown was overturned when the officials ruled that LSU did not get the snap off in time.
With the loss, LSU now faces an uphill battle to get to Atlanta for the SEC Championship and the team’s chances of making the College Football Playoff grow slimmer and slimmer. What’s even more, running back Leonard Fournette appeared to reaggravate the left ankle injury that held him out of action against Jacksonville State and hampered him during fall camp, though he did return to the game.
Red zone defense: Auburn’s offense worked its way into the red zone six times Saturday night. The LSU defense stood steady on every occasion, holding Auburn to five field goals and one four-and-out. The turnover on downs, which came with about 30 seconds remaining in the first half, proved to be one of the most important moments of the game.
Duke Riley: Riley, a senior linebacker, entered Saturday’s game with 15 total tackles, 5 solo and 1 for a loss through three games. Riley dwarfed those numbers against Auburn, finishing with 13 total tackles, 8 of which were solo, 1.5 tackles for losses and half a sack.
The passing game: Sometimes, calling a quarterback a “game manager” is a compliment. For Etling on Saturday, it’s anything but. He managed to improvise a touchdown pass on a shovel to tight end Foster Moreau, but other than that, Etling wasn’t able to move the ball at all. The Purdue transfer didn’t eclipse the 100-yard passing mark until the game’s final drive. Had the last play of the game counted, Etling’s day likely would have been remembered in a more positive light.
Josh Growden: Last week against Mississippi State, Growden punted well enough to garner SEC honors, averaging 49.2 yards per attempt. He couldn’t come anywhere close to replicated that mark in Jordan-Hare, averaging 37 yards per punt with a long of 45 yards, four yards shorter than his average from a week before.
Arden Key: Key entered the day leading the SEC in sacks with five, and had a chance to end the day leading the nation. Key recorded 1.5 sacks, including a third-quarter strip sack that turned the ball back over to LSU and led to a Colby Delahoussaye field goal. Key was also called for roughing Auburn passer Sean White. The play was initially ruled targeting, but the call was reversed.
The running game: Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice played about as well as you’d expect, but couldn’t quite milk the clock like they’re supposed to because of the passing deficiencies. The duo combined for 163 yards on 19 carries, 52 coming on Guice’s first attempt of the game.