AUBURN, Ala. — As nice as it would be to grade a LSU game where I didn’t have to account for some totally bizarre circumstance, one does not sign up for the LSU beat and expect “normal” to enter the equation.
So as close as the Tigers were to a dramatic ending that would have erased most of what happened in the previous 59 minutes, 59 seconds, that did not end up being the case in an 18-13 loss at Auburn that dropped LSU to 2-2.
Another dud for Cam Cameron.
Auburn was in LSU’s backfield all night, finishing with eight tackles for loss and three sacks. Carl Lawson had a pair of those sacks, including a crucial one with 24 seconds left that forced LSU to use its final timeout. Turns out the Tigers sort of needed that one.
LSU’s receivers struggled to get open most of the game, and Danny Etling was a pedestrian 15 of 27 for 118 yards, though he should be credited for the guts to come back into the game after getting a couple of cuts on his face glued back together like a hockey player.
But one-third of the way into the season, what we see likely IS what we’re going to get from the LSU offense. It isn’t enough.
Not allowing your opponent to score a touchdown should almost always result in a win, but that wasn’t the case for LSU on Saturday night. That’s because even though Auburn couldn’t capitalize in the red zone, it was able to get there to set up five of its six field goals. Quarterback Sean White was far better than advertised, going 19 of 26 for 234 yards.
Auburn finished with 388 yards of total offense, a season-high against LSU’s defense.
The Tigers had an impressive goal-line stand at the end of the first half that seemed like it would save the game at the time, as did Arden Key’s strip-sack that was recovered by Davon Godchaux inside the Auburn 20 that eventually resulted in only a field goal.
Special Teams: C
Colby Delahoussaye missed a 51-yard field goal, but if Etling hadn’t been sacked on third down he would have been in better range. Hard to put that one on him. You also have to shrug your shoulders when the other kicker is 6 of 6 on field goals.
Josh Growden had a couple of shanked punts early and finished with a 37-yard average on five attempts. The road does not appear to be his friend. But overall LSU’s special teams execution didn’t really factor into the final.
So you have a running back who gains 228 yards against Auburn last year … and you give him less than 20 touches? Whatever it was that happened on the final drive notwithstanding (I was having an out-of-body experience at the time), this fact confuses me more than any other about this game.
Also, the play on which Etling got hurt. … Why a naked bootleg in the middle of the field? I understand that play call near the goal line, but Etling was just begging to have his block knocked off by a linebacker on that call. You think you’ve finally got a quarterback and you hang him out to dry like that? It’s almost like Cameron thought he could still use his Antwaan Randle El Indiana playbook there, and Etling is no Antwaan Randle El.
He is, however, a tough son of a gun after missing only one play after the hit. But still, it was silly to put him in that spot.
Auburn played like a team that knew its coach’s future was on the line, and it’s clear the Tigers must like Gus Malzahn because they were the more physical squad for the majority of four quarters. There were several moments where LSU did not seem to have the same intensity as its counterparts, who played with desperation. Auburn certainly earned the win.
But despite all that trouble, with just 2 more seconds on the clock — 1 more second? — LSU would have gotten out of town with the win. It all serves as proof that this is the most maddening team in college football.