Say what you want about Ed Orgeron but the man knows how to pull the upset off against Auburn.
No. 12 LSU made several huge plays late in a big defensive battle against the No. 7 team in the country on the Plains and used a Cole Tracy field goal as the clock hit zero to escape against their fellow Tigers with a 22-21 victory and briefly surge into the lead of the SEC West in the process.
Things started out about as well as could be for the visitors as Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham had his first pass of the game picked off in a rather uneven performance overall from one of the league’s Heisman favorites. The signal-caller did bounce back from that throw with a much better second quarter but finished the day with only 198 yards, a touchdown and an additional interception. While the outing was far from great, a lot of it had to do with his offensive line struggling to deal with the pressure from LSU, who recorded six tackles for loss, a sack and forced two turnovers.
If there was a silver-lining in the loss for the fans at Jordan-Hare though, it might be the emergence of several youngsters in a big moment against an SEC West rival. Tailback JaTarvious Whitlow led the team with 104 yards and a touchdown while fellow freshman Shaun Shivers also found the end zone. Junior Darius Slayton once again led the way at wideout (33 yards, 1 TD) but three other freshman recorded at least 30 yards in the game.
Defensively, linebacker Deshaun Davis was all over the place as usual and finished the game with 10 tackles, a sack, a pressure and a pass breakup. It helped that lineman Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson were also disruptive on just about every snap against an overmatched offensive line and came up big with several third down stops.
They couldn’t come up with a final one however.
LSU’s offense was hit-or-miss during the game but they did find magic when it was needed most on their final two drives. Quarterback Joe Burrow (249 yards, 1 TD) had a hand in his face just about every snap but gutted his way through to keep the team in it with a few late game heroics. You can start with an improbable throw over a few out-stretched arms to Derrick Dillon, who zipped across the middle and went 71 yards to the house to eject plenty of life into the visiting sideline and give the Tigers an opening.
The defense responded right away by forcing a three-and-out and then Burrow and his offense promptly mounted a 14 play, 52 yard drive that took up the final 5:38 of the game. Tailback Nick Brossette was responsible for several tough runs on his way to a 69-yard day but LSU couldn’t have kept things alive if it were not for a few defensive penalties along the way.
Eventually it was Tracy’s turn to play the hero, calmly booting a 42-yarder through the uprights to steal the win as white jerseys poured onto the field in celebration.
The result surely shakes up the SEC West and should have an effect on the polls and national title race come close of business on Saturday. While Auburn is by no means out of things with that marquee win over Washington and plenty of big game ahead, the road to another division title just got a little harder as it will likely take a prefect run the rest of the way to return them to Atlanta.
LSU, meanwhile, should move into the top 10 as they celebrate on their way back to Baton Rouge. The immediate schedule remains very manageable and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Tigers go into their key three game stretch (when Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama all come to Death Valley) undefeated and looking a lot tougher than first expected. The defense remains as good as ever under Orgeron but it’s hard not to think that Orgeron’s pursuit of Burrow in the offseason has already paid off after the second year in a row that LSU has gotten the better of their fellow Tigers on the field.