There is a lot to unpack from this game, that's for sure. The offense made it into the red zone five times and came away with field goals on every trip. They added another one from long-distance early in the game. The defense - for the most part - shut down LSU. They allowed a few big plays, but for the most part kept everything in front of them and did everything they needed to do to win.
Well, except stop that final play. But, it never should have happened and should have been a false start and game-over, anyway.
This is a series that is not really all that long - the two teams rarely played prior to the 1992 realignment. They've played 50 times in the history of both schools and almost half of those have been in those last 24 years. The amount of crazy that has happened since 1988, though, is enough that the rivalry has its own Wikipedia page.
The Earthquake Game. The Barn Burning. The Cigar Game. The extra kick in 2004. The five missed field goals in 2005. The insane brutality of 2006. The crazy clock management for Les Miles back in 2007. Last night just added another chapter. It's being called "6 Kicks." That doesn't really do justice to the insanity of the way it ended, though.
Thoughts On The Game:
1) That Defense. They're still giving up some big plays that lead to points, but overall you absolutely have to tip your hat to Kevin Steele and his staff for what they've put together with this defense. The defensive line is getting pressure - and it paid off with sacks and tackles-for-loss last night. The linebackers are flying to the ball and stuffing the run. The DBs are making some great pass breakups.
They're allowing somewhere around 18 points per game, and they've played some really good offenses (and some bad ones, to be fair). That should be enough to win every game with a Gus Malzahn offense, right?
2) That Red Zone Offense. It's abysmal. Most all of it still comes down to play calling, though there were some missed opportunities by the players, too. Gus Malzahn said last night that he's completely turned play calling over to Rhett Lashlee for the rest of the season. I have to say, I wasn't terribly upset with Lashlee's calls for most of the night until they got inside the 20s. I hate seeing the constant runs up the middle on 1st down that only get 2-3 yards, but the Tigers were still able to move it to the tune of almost 400 yards against an LSU defense. That's impressive.
They couldn't get the ball across the goal, though. It was even more frustrating when the Tigers had it 1st and goal around the five and couldn't punch it in over the course of four plays. At least once I would like to have seen the throw-back to an H-back or something. Instead, Auburn tried to go up the middle and couldn't do it.
Auburn won last night in the final second. Literally. They shouldn't have had to do that. Let's face it, Auburn should have won that game by 2-3 scores, and that's entirely on the play calling and execution in the red zone. Auburn put up more yards on LSU than anyone else this season and more yards on a Dave Aranda defense since Alabama in 2015 (and Auburn in the bowl game before that one). They just couldn't punch it in.
3) Sean White Had A Great Performance. No, it doesn't show up in the score line. Yes, he made some iffy decisions (he had Tony Stevens running absolutely free and clear at one point). He threw some bad passes. Still, though, he was 19/26 for 234 yards and 9 yards per completion against the school known as DBU. I keep screaming that we need to throw the ball and throw it downfield more. I think last night's game proves that more needs to be given to him.
4) #Legatron is the GOAT. Need I say more? Did any of you once doubt that he would make every one of those kicks? Is there a better kicker in college football? Do I need to be slapped for even thinking that was a question that needed asking?
5) The Redemption of Tray Matthews. After an embarrassing game last year, Tray showed up last night and took Fournette on head-to-head a few times and held his own. You won't see those highlights, unfortunately, but he did an excellent job for pretty much the whole night.
6) What Is Targeting? I don't know if the TV replays were better than what we saw in the stadium, but the stadium replay of the Arden Key hit sure looked like he lowered his head and hit Sean White in the back of the helmet.
7) That Final Play. There was so much to unpack on that play. The Mothership tried their best. To sum it up: He did not get it off in time, it should have been a false start for players not being set, he was behind the line of scrimmage (barely), and the receiver did catch it. The first part of that is all that matters. I didn't even realize that was reviewable, but I'll take it. In this rivalry, especially, I'll take it.
8) We're 2-2. Right Where Most of The Most Optimistic Expected Us To Be. More on this, later, but we expected this team would likely be 2-2 by now. We just didn't expect that punishing defense and struggling offense would be how we got there. Seeing how strong Texas A&M and Clemson have looked, it becomes a little more palatable when you really stop and take a look at it.
9) Auburn Has A Chance To Build. Auburn played three top 20 teams in the first 4 games of the season. LSU won't be Top 20 after last night, but they were at the time. Now the Tigers will face Louisiana-Monroe and a struggling Mississippi State on the road before an off-week and returning home to play Arkansas on the 22nd of October. There's a lot of time, one should be gimme, one very winnable SEC road game against a much weaker opponent than the three P5 teams Auburn has already played, and the bye to get things on track before the final gauntlet of Arkansas, Ole Miss, Vandy, UGA, and Bama.