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The Pit of Despair: Ranking Auburns Losses in Baton Rouge

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Do we really have to? Yes.

I don’t have to tell you that Auburn has lost TEN straight meetings with LSU in Baton Rouge, perhaps because of the curse of the Cigar Game, Tommy Tuberville’s first foray into Death Valley. Auburn whipped LSU 41-7, the team blazed up on the field of an empty Tiger Stadium, aaaaaaaand we haven’t won there since. Why is that? Is it because of anything we’re doing, or is it a matter of fate? Who’s to say?

What we end up with, either way, is a need to investigate these tragedies, and see exactly what happened during each of them, going from most painful to least painful in as we enter THE PIT OF DESPAIR.

2013: LSU 35, Auburn 21

This one, at least for me, is the least painful of all losses during the streak. We hadn’t gotten to the point yet where it was an unbearably long drought in the stadium where it never rains, and it was a pivotal early season game that turned the momentum of the 2013 team. Auburn found out who they were, mounted a bit of a second half comeback, and if not for a patently horrible call on an onside kick, may have been playing late in the final frame with a shot to win. As it stood, Auburn instead ran the table until the national championship game, and this loss didn’t matter in the slightest as far as the regular season went.

2001: LSU 27, Auburn 14

2003: LSU 31, Auburn 7

2011: LSU 45, Auburn 10

Westley: It’s not that bad.

Westley: Well, I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.

I’m grouping these three games together. Maybe the 2001 loss has dulled a bit since it was the first one, it was the weird 9/11 season, and it came in December. Honestly, I don’t remember much from the game itself aside from the Damon Duval band drama. If Auburn had won, they would’ve won the SEC West for a second straight season, but I felt like the Iron Bowl the week before was so much worse, and if the Tigers had just won that game, this one wouldn’t have mattered.

2003 was a similar feeling. We were already let down by the beginning of that season, and I didn’t really have any illusions going into Baton Rouge. Cadillac Williams ran for 9 yards on Auburn’s first play, and then it was downhill from there. LSU actually brought their starters back in late to try and prevent the shutout, but Jason Campbell hit Anthony Mix for a late touchdown to erase the goose egg.

2011 really didn’t have much for me aside from the streak being extended to five games for LSU. I knew we were living off of borrowed time from the 2010 season, and that we were due to come back to earth. After watching what LSU had done to that point in the season, I didn’t really think that we were going to go in and put up much of a fight.

2009: LSU 31, Auburn 10

Inigo Montoya: Who are you?

Man in Black: No one of consequence.

Inigo Montoya: I must know...

Man in Black: Get used to disappointment.

Inigo Montoya: ‘kay.

At this point it was becoming a theme. This was the fifth straight loss in Baton Rouge in the series, and it was getting old. However, we were getting used to it. This came during Gene Chizik’s first season, and the Tigers began the year at 5-0 before losing three straight games. We went to Arkansas and saw Ryan Mallet do things to us before losing to Kentucky at home on a really frigid night. Then you have to go to LSU and deal with a team that at the time was still probably the top dog in the SEC West. They’d won two national titles in the past several years, and Bama hadn’t fully gotten to their final form yet. Auburn never threatened in this game, so any hopes we may have had were dashed quick. I couldn’t tell you any single moment from this game, either. That’s how non-descript of a beatdown it ended up being.

2015: LSU 45, Auburn 21

Buttercup: We’ll never succeed. We may as well die here.

Westley: No, no. We have already succeeded. I mean, what are the three terrors of the Fire Swamp? One, the flame spurt - no problem. There’s a popping sound preceding each; we can avoid that. Two, the lightning sand, which you were clever enough to discover what that looks like, so in the future we can avoid that too.

Buttercup: Westley, what about the R.O.U.S.’s?

Westley: Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.

One week after the Jacksonville State incident, we went into Baton Rouge and got Fournetted.

I was producing the radio broadcasts back then, and I distinctly remember Rod Bramblett asking the crew at large in the final timeout before kickoff exactly how far Leonard Fournette would run on the first play of the game. Fournette went 71 yards to the Auburn 4-yard line, and then proceeded to go for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns on 19 carries. The above run paired with the Tray Matthews somersault is just part of the story.

2019: LSU 23, Auburn 20

Buttercup: You mock my pain.

Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Don’t tease me. The last time we were in Baton Rouge was the closest loss we’ve had there in more than a decade. Auburn held Joe Burrow and the greatest offense in modern college football history to just 23 points, and came within a field goal of winning. It took a heroic effort by the wonderful Auburn defensive front of Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, and company, and despite getting grabbed all game long, never got the recognition from the officials and earned a holding call.

Of course, the Auburn offense didn’t do enough, with D.J. Williams nearly scoring on a 70+ yard run, but coming up short (Auburn settled for a field goal), and Bo Nix tossed an interception right before halftime that could’ve turned into another field goal at the very least. Quite a few points left on the field in a tight, low-scoring game. At the end of the game, Ed Orgeron came over and grabbed Auburn’s defensive linemen during the postgame, congratulating them on being fantastic and saying they’d all be first-rounders. Derrick Brown ended up with 7 tackles, 2 TFLs, and a sack in that game even though he was held all day long. Thanks for the praise, Ed.

(Don’t know why Big Kat’s smiling so much there. Not like he finished any sacks on Joe Burrow).

2017: LSU 27, Auburn 23

Count Rugen: Beautiful isn’t it? It took me half a lifetime to invent it. I’m sure you’ve discovered my deep and abiding interest in pain. Presently I’m writing the definitive work on the subject, so I want you to be totally honest with me on how the machine makes you feel. This being our first try, I’ll use the lowest setting.

Count Rugen: As you know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old. Really that’s all this is except that instead of sucking water, I’m sucking life. I’ve just sucked one year of your life away. I might one day go as high as five, but I really don’t know what that would do to you. So, let’s just start with what we have. What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?

Man in Black: [issues a whimpering moan]

Count Rugen: Interesting.

2017 was a slow burn. Auburn got up 20-0 in the second quarter before LSU started a comeback. They first scored on a fourth and goal play, then got a diving catch from Russell Gage in the end zone to bring the ballgame within a 23-14 margin at halftime. Auburn didn’t score again, and the Bayou Bengals took the momentum away with a 75-yard D.J. Chark punt return for a touchdown (SO MANY BLOCKS IN THE BACK) before securing the win with two field goals late. Afterward, Gus Malzahn just about saw the bright light before you die until he destroyed top-ranked Georgia and Alabama that November to save his job. Auburn still won the West, and controlled its destiny for the national scene, but ended up falling short in Atlanta and watched as both Georgia and Alabama made the national championship game. Vomit.

MOST PAINFUL LOSS: TAKE YOUR PICK

2005: LSU 20, Auburn 17

2007: LSU 30, Auburn 24

I can’t decide. Both of these games were heartbreaking for different reasons, so we’ll go chronologically.

In 2005, Auburn rolled into Baton Rouge with a 13-game SEC winning streak going, coming off of a perfect season, and had the offense rolling after an early season loss to perennial thorn Reggie Ball. Meanwhile, LSU looked pretty good too, with just a loss to Tennessee on a Monday night after Hurricane Katrina to mourn over. Huge Saturday night game in Death Valley, and it turned into the game that John Vaughn will never forget. The Auburn kicker missed a field goal on the game’s opening drive. That was from 41 yards.

Then he missed a 54-yarder on Auburn’s first drive of the second half with the Tigers trailing 7-3. Did I mention that Auburn shut out LSU’s offense in the first half, but a Skyler Green punt return touchdown gave them a lead? Special teams were abysmal.

Vaughn then missed a 37-yarder after Auburn drove 60 yards early in the fourth quarter.

Just when Auburn needed a score most, Brandon Cox hit Anthony Mix for a 4th-and-goal touchdown with 4:52 to play to give Auburn a 17-14 lead. Jamarcus Russell drove LSU right down the field for a 44-yard game-tying field goal with 1:40 to go, and Auburn had a shot. Cox got Auburn all the way to the LSU 32, and Vaughn got to try a 49-yarder for the win, but it curled wide. Overtime we went.

LSU scored in the first half of overtime, notching a field goal, and when the time came for Auburn to try and even the score, Vaughn doinked the kick off the upright. No good. The fifth missed field goal of the night. He went 1-6, when any of those kicks would’ve won or extended the game. You can blame Tuberville for getting him to kick long tries when he clearly wasn’t ready, but man, the guy’s gotta hit at least one of those. Meanwhile, we wasted an effort by Kenny Irons where he called his shot of going for 200 yards in pregame AND THEN ACTUALLY DID IT.

THEN

Two years later, LSU was riding high as one of the favorites for the national title. They’d destroyed Virginia Tech on opening night, and had rolled through the first half of the season before losing to Kentucky in overtime in mid-October. In came Auburn for the next game with a contest against a team that couldn’t afford to lose again. Auburn actually outplayed the eventual national champs for the first three quarters, taking a 17-13 lead into the last quarter. LSU went ahead on a Matt Flynn touchdown to Jacob Hester, but Brandon Cox answered with a touchdown pass to Rod Smith in the final three minutes. Trailing 24-23, LSU drove down into field goal range, and instead of taking the nearly sure thing kick for the win from the 22-yard line, Les Miles somehow chose to go for broke.

He called a pass, and Flynn lofted up the toss to the corner of the end zone for Demetrius Byrd, who came down with it in front of Jerraud Powers for the go-ahead score with one second to play. It was frustrating for multiple reasons. Les Miles’ stupidity worked out for him against Auburn when it killed him against everyone else. Clock issues became a huge staple of his tenure in Baton Rouge, but they never hurt him when Auburn was in town. If Byrd had bobbled the pass, or if it had been tipped around at all, there’s a good chance the clock runs out anyway and Auburn wins. Instead, he got credit as this wily old wizard before LSU lost a game due to his mismanagement. The luck didn’t end there, as LSU became the first two-loss national champ later that year. Ugh.

So, Auburn has had its share of misfortune in Baton Rouge. It sucks, but at some point it’ll be over. Will we win this weekend? Maybe. Maybe not. But don’t let the past be any indicator of how this year’s Auburn team will fare.

Buttercup: We’ll never survive.

Westley: Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.

War Eagle!