Associated Press

Tennessee in danger of first winless SEC season after falling to No. 20 LSU

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It was supposed to be a festive night at Neyland Stadium. Peyton Manning was in the house and Butch Jones wasn’t. But a driving rain and one player’s inability to field a punt dampened the night — pun intended — as No. 20 LSU cruised to a 30-10 win over Tennessee on a windy, soggy night in Knoxville.

Tennessee actually played an decent first half, which was largely erased by Marquez Callaway muffing not one but two punts.

Callaway’s first fumble came at his own 15 yard line, which LSU’s Russell Gage hopped on. The Tigers gained only two yards on the ensuing possession, but it was enough to allow Connor Culp to knock through a 30-yard field goal.

Tennessee answered with a 14-play, 53-yard drive that killed over half a quarter. The 7-minute, 39-second march ended at the LSU 27-yard line, allowing Aaron Medley to tie the game with a 45-yard boot with 13:59 left in the second quarter.

LSU’s offense went three-and-out again, but Callaway again fumbled the ensuing punt, which Michael Divinity, Jr. grabbed at the Tennessee 19. LSU’s offense capitalized this time, as Darrel Williams rushed in from 10 yards out to put the Tigers up 10-3 with 11:31 left in the frame. 

Tennessee strung together another double-digit play drive that ended at nearly the exact same spot as the previous one — this one was the 28 — but swirling winds pushed Medley’s 46-yard field goal (far, far) wide left.

But as the weather picked up, both offenses came alive.

LSU closed the half by putting up its first self-made points of the night. The Tigers needed only 28 seconds to move 61 yards as Danny Etling hit Derrick Dillon for a 12-yard completion, Williams rushed for 36 yards and Etling carried for a 13-yard touchdown with 2:08 left in the first half.

The Vols struck back after LSU’s score, moving 75 yards in four plays and 45 seconds. Jarrett Guarantano hit Callaway for consecutive long passes, one for 26 yards and another for 46, which Callaway caught through pass interference and turned into a touchdown with 1:23 left in the first half.

LSU completely dominated the second half, though. After forcing Tennessee back to its own 3 on the opening possession of the second half, LSU accepted the ball at midfield and handed the ball to Derrius Guice seven times in a 9-play drive, including the final carry,  a 3-yard burst to put the Tigers up 23-10 after Culp missed the ensuing extra point.

The clubs traded punts on their next possessions and, facing a 13-point deficit with 17 minutes remaining and nothing to lose, Brady Hoke elected to go for a 4th-and-1 from his own 21. Guarantano was stuffed, and LSU needed only two plays to push the lead to 30-10 with 2:06 left in the third quarter.

Etling finished the game hitting 11-of-15 passes for 81 yards with nine carries for 42 yards and a touchdown. Guice led all runners with 97 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, while Williams added seven carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns.

Guarantano connected on 13-of-23 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown, while John Kelly mustered only 47 yards on 25 carries.

Saturday night’s game was the two sides’ first meeting since 2011, also in Knoxville, which ended in a 38-7 LSU win. The Tigers have won five straight in the series.

The win keeps LSU (8-3, 5-2 SEC) in prime position for a spot in one of the Florida New Year’s Day bowl games, while Tennessee (4-7, 0-7 SEC) needs to beat Vanderbilt next week to avoid the first 8-loss season and the first winless SEC season in school history.

Tennessee fumbles its way to a halftime deficit vs. LSU

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If only Marquez Callaway could catch a punt. Callaway’s two fumbled punts handed LSU 10 of its 17 points as Tennessee trails 17-10 at the half at a windy, rainy Neyland Stadium.

Callaway’s first fumble came at his own 15 yard line, which LSU’s Russell Gage hopped on. The Tigers gained only two yards on the ensuing possession, but it was enough to allow Connor Culp to knock through a 30-yard field goal.

Tennessee answered with a 14-play, 53-yard drive that killed over half a quarter. The 7-minute, 39-second march ended at the LSU 27-yard line, allowing Aaron Medley to tie the game with a 45-yard boot with 13:59 left in the second quarter.

LSU’s offense went three-and-out again, but Callaway again fumbled the ensuing punt, which Michael Divinity, Jr. grabbed at the Tennessee 19. LSU’s offense capitalized this time, as Darrel Williams rushed in from 10 yards out to put the Tigers up 10-3 with 11:31 left in the frame. 

Tennessee strung together another double-digit play drive that ended at nearly the exact same spot as the previous one — this one was the 28 — but swirling winds pushed Medley’s 46-yard field goal (far, far) wide left.

But as the weather picked up, both offenses came alive.

LSU closed the half by putting up its first self-made points of the night. The Tigers needed only 28 seconds to move 61 yards as Danny Etling hit Derrick Dillon for a 12-yard completion, Williams rushed for 36 yards and Etling carried for a 13-yard touchdown with 2:08 left in the first half. Etling conected on 8-of-12 passes for 50 yards, and Williams led all rushers with 50 yards on three carries. Derrius Guice mustered only four carries for 10 yards.

The Vols struck back after LSU’s score, moving 75 yards in four plays and 45 seconds. Jarrett Guarantano hit Callaway for consecutive long passes, one for 26 yards and another for 46, which Callaway caught through pass interference and turned into a touchdown with 1:23 left in the first half.

hit 10-of-12 passes for 144 yards, and John Kelly led the Vols with 17 carries for 29 yards.

A 53-yard Culp field goal clanged off the right upright as time expired.

Tennessee will receive to open the second half.

The streak continues: LSU comes back to beat No. 10 Auburn in Baton Rouge (again)

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18 years. It’s been 18 looooong years since Auburn beat LSU in Baton Rouge, a streak that dates back to before Tigers on either side were even born.

Despite their best efforts, the visitors from Alabama will have to see that streak hit the two decade mark after a crazy second half comeback by the home team led to a 42-yard field goal by Connor Culp that ended up giving LSU a remarkable 27-23 victory to shake up the SEC and College Football Playoff races.

Auburn struck first on Saturday afternoon to establish a pretty good early tone to the game, scoring on four of their first five drives to jump out to a 23-7 lead in the second quarter. Given how well the offense was rolling and the ability of their defense, it was looking pretty good for the No. 10 team in the country to finally exorcise some demons.

Not so fast Tigers, the… uh, other Tigers were not about to roll over.

Grabbing some momentum behind big play machine Russell Gage (71 yards rushing, 28 receiving), LSU seemed to snap out of their offense malaise and make things interesting with each passing drive. QB Danny Etling found Gage just before halftime in the corner of the end zone for a key score and then the team really made things interesting when D.J. Chark returned a punt 75 yards to start the action in the 4th quarter.

That cut the lead to two points but the team wasn’t done yet. LSU got the ball again after a bad punt and moved right into field goal position, which Culp promptly nailed following a timeout in order to give the team the lead. The kicker later tacked on another shorter field goal after the defense forced a turnover on downs to all but seal the sweetest victory of Ed Orgeron’s short tenure as the full-time head coach.

While the outcome will be talked about quite a bit around the state of Louisiana for the crazy comeback and nobody-saw-it-coming win streak for LSU, things will not be quite so pleasant for Gus Malzahn on his return home after Auburn managed just 55 yards in the second half before a few plays at the very end. The Tigers simply didn’t move the ball at all after emerging from the locker room and saw their normally top-notch defense give up several big plays down the stretch.

The loss puts Auburn behind the eight-ball in the playoff chase as well, although it won’t completely knock them out of the SEC West race provided they get a little help and can beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl at the end of the year. Based on what we saw Saturday though, that will be quite a stretch after some impressive results following their first loss of the year.

Either way, on a wild weekend in college football, a third top 10 team went down on the road to add even more drama to the season as we hit the halfway mark.

No. 10 Auburn holds comfortable halftime lead over LSU in Baton Rouge

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It’s been nearly two decades since Auburn won in Baton Rouge and the visiting Tigers are making sure they reverse their fortune early on in their annual meeting with LSU on Saturday afternoon, jumping out to a 23-14 halftime lead and not really looking back.

Gus Malzahn’s crew scored on their first four drives of the game, knocking home a long field goal to kick off the scoring and then really seizing control when quarterback Jarrett Stidham found a wide open Will Hastings for a 49 yard touchdown. The Auburn signal-caller finished the half with an impressive 159 yards on just seven completions on a day where there was no much resistance from the LSU defense.

That wasn’t all the Tigers from Alabama were able to do on offense however, as Kerryon Johnson scored his FBS-leading 13th rushing touchdown of the season and was already up to 116 yards on the ground as well. In short, not much could go wrong when Auburn had the ball.

The same could not be said for their opposite numbers. LSU failed to get much of anything going until the second quarter when they busted open a jet sweep that went for 70 yards by Russell Gage. The receiver added a touchdown just before the end of the half on an incredible diving effort while teammate Stephen Sullivan scored off a jet sweep on 4th and goal two drives prior for the team’s only points.

It’s been a point of emphasis this week to note that Auburn hasn’t won at Death Valley since 1999 and let’s just say that the best opportunity the team has had for a victory is certainly looking like it after a half of play on Saturday afternoon.

Les Miles returning to Death Valley as LSU honors 2007 title team

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The Mad Hatter is coming back, although not in the way that many an LSU fan would like.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of LSU’s 2007 national championship team coached by Les Miles.  And, as he indicated earlier in the week, Miles be part of the 70-plus-person contingent who will be at Tiger Stadium to celebrate the school’s title.

That team will be honored on the field at halftime of the Auburn game Saturday afternoon, the school confirmed in a press release Thursday.  In addition to Miles, all five captains from that season — defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, punter Patrick Fisher, quarterback Matt Flynn, running back Jacob Hester, safety Craig Steltz – will all be in attendance as well.

LSU claimed its third national title in the program’s history thanks to a 38-24 win over Ohio State in the BCS championship game in New Orleans.  Less than 10 years later, Miles was fired a third of the way through the 2016 season after the team struggled to a 2-2 start.

Miles’ replacement, his former defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, has LSU off to a 4-2 start in his first full season in Baton Rouge.

Below is the complete list of players who are expected to take part in this weekend’s festivities:

Charles Alexander (DT)
Rahim Alem (DL)
Matt Allen (OL)
Ryan Anders (PK)
Caleb Angelle (PK)
Will Arnold (OL)
Darry Beckwith (LB)
Will Blackwell (OL)
Jeremy Bunting (WR)
Donnie Chaucer (DB)
Mit Cole (TE)
Jacob Cutrera (LB)
Joey Crappell (SNP)
Andrew Crutchfield (PK)
Brady Dalfrey (P)
Colt Davis (PK)
Andrew Decker (OL)
Richard Dickson (TE)
Ricky Dixon (WR)
Early Doucet (WR)
Glenn Dorsey (DT)
Richard Dugas (C)
Josh Dworaczyk (OL)
Jai Eugene (DB)
Marlon Favorite (DT)
Patrick Fisher (P)
Matt Flynn (QB)
Ace Foyil (LB)
Stefoin Francois (LB)
Sean Gaudet (PK)
Daniel Graff (DB)
Josh Graham (DB)
Orlando Gunn (DB)
Donald Hains (DL)
Andrew Hatch (QB)
T-Bob Hebert (OL)
Trent Hebert (PK)
Brett Helms (OL)
Trey Helms (OL)
Jacob Hester (RB)
Lyle Hitt (OL)
Trindon Holliday (RB/RS)
Tyson Jackson (DE)
Josh Jasper (PK)
Herman Johnson (OL)
Quinn Johnson (FB)
Tremaine Johnson (DL)
Chad Jones (DB)
Mitch Joseph (TE)
Brandon LaFell (WR)
Pep Levingston (DE)
Cole Louviere (OL)
Joe Maltempi (DB)
Josh McManus (WR)
Ryan Miller (OL)
Chris Mitchell (WR)
Chad Moody (DB)
Richard Murphy (RB)
Ryan Perrilloux (QB)
Kirston Pittman (DE)
Stevan Ridley (RB)
Luke Sanders (LB)
Charles Scott (RB)
Robert Smith (OL)
Mark Snyder (OL)
Craig Steltz (S)
Curtis Taylor (S)
Terrance Toliver (WR)
Jimmy Welker (QB)
Keith Zinger (TE)