BY BRANDON HUGHES
FOR THE OBSERVER
LSU’s blistering offensive start proved too much to overcome as the visiting Tigers lost in blowout fashion to extend its losing streak to three games. Auburn (3-3, 0-3) came into Baton Rouge off a bye, but despite the extra week of practice, preparation and rest, it was LSU (5-2, 4-1) who looked fresh, energized and ready to play from the opening kickoff.
It seemed that before the Golden Band from Tigerland had gotten settled into its section after the pre-game festivities, the Bayou Bengals had stormed to a 17-0 lead, and the chances of Auburn winning back-to-back games at LSU for the first time since 1999 were fading. The team that gave the inspired effort in its last game against the number one team in the country seemingly sleepwalked through almost the entirety of the first quarter.
A dejected Hugh Freeze addressed the media after the game.
“They beat us every way that you could. We had no answers defensively for them and offensively, just not consistent enough to stay in a scoring match with them.”
Auburn won the coin toss and deferred its decision to the second half. LSU received the kickoff and made quick work of its opening drive of the game, needing only four plays and 1:39 to go 75 yards capping off the drive with a 29-yard touchdown reception by Malik Neighbors.
On Auburn’s opening offensive possession, the Tigers wasted little time digging itself a hole, suffering a false start penalty before the offense even took a snap. On third down and eight and trying to avoid an opening series three and out, Auburn QB Payton Thorne was not ready for the shotgun snap resulting in a 12-yard loss and forcing a punt.
On LSU’s second drive of the game, the offense seemed ready to put another touchdown on the board as it drove to the Auburn 12-yard line, but the Tiger defense held strong and forced a field goal.
Down 10-0, the Auburn offense once again went three and out, giving the ball right back to the second-ranked offensive unit in the country, which proceeded to go 65 yards in six plays, punching it in on a two-yard run by John Emery Jr. to take a 17-0 lead. By the end of the first quarter, LSU had amassed 216 yards of offense.
The Auburn offense finally got untracked on its next possession scoring its first points of the game 38 seconds into the second quarter on a two-yard run by Jarquez Hunter, making the score 17-7.
LSU stretched its lead to 20-7 with a field goal on its ensuing drive, then after three consecutive punts between the two teams, LSU took over at the 50-yard line, poised to add to its lead going into halftime.
On the fourth play of the drive, however, Auburn cornerback DJ James stepped up and corralled his second interception of the season, giving the Tiger defense a turnover in each of its six games.
What looked like a promising drive as Auburn moved 30 yards in six plays to its own 49-yard line ended in a punt as the drive stalled. LSU took a knee and a 20-7 lead into halftime.
Auburn came out of halftime on the opening drive of the second half with a new signal caller in Robby Ashford and a seemingly renewed sense of purpose as the offense marched down the field to the LSU 18-yard line in 8 plays before bogging down and settling for an Alex McPherson 38-yard to make the score 20-10.
Just when it appeared as though the Auburn defense had found its footing and seemed to have stemmed LSU’s offensive onslaught, LSU returned to the ensuing kickoff 60 yards setting itself up in Auburn territory at the 39-yard line. The uptick in the Tiger defense was short-lived, as it took LSU only six plays to answer the McPherson field goal with a touchdown of its own on a 25-yard pass to Kyren Lacy.
Down 27-10, Auburn went three and out on its following possession and just as quickly found itself down 34-10. On the first play of the LSU drive, Lacy took a short pass from QB Jayden Daniels and rumbled 57 yards to the Auburn 10-yard line. Two plays later, and after an illegal block penalty against LSU, Daniels threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Josh Williams. The 67-yard drive taking only 2:04.
Auburn, finding itself on the precipice of the wrong side of an insurmountable score, mustered some offense moving 84 yards on 10 plays in 3:51 en route to a three-yard touchdown pass from Ashford to Brandon Frazier. Frazier was also on the receiving end of the two-point conversion that followed. When asked about his first career touchdown, Frazier said, “I was the last one in the tight end group to do so. At least I’ve got a 2-point conversion in my name, and they don’t. It was fun to get the ball.”
Frazier has not been oft used in the passing game, and when asked about staying ready week in and week out, the senior tight end said, “Whenever you get a chance to make a play, just go make it. I got an opportunity, and I’m not going to let that go to waste. We always talk about, especially this whole week, coach kept telling me, ‘You’re going to get in the end zone. You’re going to get in the end zone.’ And I was like, ‘Alright, I’m here for it.’ It finally happened, so I’m excited.”
Auburn had cut the LSU lead to 34-18 with 14:56 remaining in the game, but that was as close as the visiting Tigers would get. LSU would answer with a methodical 11-play, six-minute drive covering 75 yards to take a 41-18 lead on a Logan Diggs five-yard touchdown run. Auburn turned the ball over on downs giving the ball back to LSU on the Auburn 48-yard line. It took the Bayou Bengals seven plays and 4:41 to put the final nail in the coffin on a one-yard touchdown run by Josh Williams, extending the lead to 48-18.
LSU entered the game with a defense ranked 121st in the country, which seemed like the perfect tonic for a struggling offense. But, as it turns out, it was Auburn’s woeful offense — ranked 100th nationally — that was just what the doctor ordered for the LSU defense. When asked about the performance of the offense coming off the bye week, Freeze said, “Yeah, I felt really good about the plan, felt like we had a chance to maybe get some long drives and keep our defense on the sideline, and we just never found any consistency, so yeah, it’s disappointing for sure.”
On the lack of fight Auburn seemed to display in the game, Freeze said, “We didn’t seem to have the same juice tonight. I didn’t think we played with the same intensity…I didn’t think we fought as hard, but that’s something I have to own. It’s my job to get them to play hard. Maybe I’ll watch the film and think differently.”
Freeze, though, was resolute. “This will test us, which football does that,” he said. “It will test us. The only way to get out of this funk is to work hard. To do that, you have to have the right attitude and be able to put the past behind, but at the same time own what we’re doing.”
Third Down Struggles: Auburn continued its third down ineptitude going 3/12 in Baton Rouge. Auburn has converted 25 third downs in six games which ranks them last in the SEC. Only four teams in the country have converted fewer.
Octopus Sighting: Auburn tight end Brandon Frazier accomplished the rare feat. In football, an Octopus is when a player scores a touchdown and the ensuing two-point conversion making them responsible for all eight points on the possession.
Rough Start: This is the first 0-3 SEC start for Auburn since 2012.