By Chris Macaluso
Special to LSUSports.net
BATON ROUGE -- Lightning and rain delayed the start of Saturday's Auburn-LSU showdown in Tiger Stadium and kept the LSU band from playing it's pre-game show for the first time anyone asked could remember.
However, the ill climate did not stop LSU from showing 92,085 fans in person and a national ESPN television audience what team may be the best in the Southeastern Conference by dominating the visiting Tigers on both sides of the ball from the opening kick to claim a 31-7 victory and take a crucial step towards a SEC western division crown.
The win improved the ninth-ranked LSU Tigers record to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the SEC and set up what could be the deciding game for the SEC west against Ole Miss on the road on Nov. 22. The Rebels won Saturday as well, defeating Arkansas 19-7 and improving their conference record to 4-0.
The loss for Auburn dropped its record to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the conference.
Both teams finished the game with 15 first downs but the statistical similarities end there. LSU out-gained Auburn 381-193, had 87 return yards to Auburn's one and sacked Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell four times compared to no sacks on LSU's Matt Mauck.
"I'm proud of the way our players played in the game," said LSU head coach Nick Saban. "It was a total team win."
Auburn won the coin toss but elected to defer until the second half giving LSU the chance to jump out to an early 7-0 lead. Mauck lobbed a long pass over the Auburn defense to a wide-open Devery Henderson along the west sideline. Henderson sped into the endzone for a 54-yard touchdown giving LSU a 7-0 lead less than 2:00 into the game.
Henderson led all receivers with six catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns while Mauck passed for 224 yards and three scores.
Auburn opened the door for another LSU score on its first drive of the game as Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville gambled twice with Heisman Trophy candidate tailback Carnell "Cadillac" Williams on fourth down succeeding once at his own 29-yard line with one yard to gain but stalling on his next attempt at the LSU 49. Six plays later, Mauck connected on his second touchdown pass as Michael Clayton took a middle screen and weaved his way through a mass of Auburn defenders for an 18-yard touchdown reception. The point after gave the hometown Tigers a 14-0 lead with 7:43 to play in the first quarter.
Skyler Green helped set up LSU's third touchdown of the first quarter with a 43-yard punt return after Auburn's offense sputtered again. Green's speedy return gave LSU a first down on the visiting Tiger's 28-yard line giving freshman tailback Alley Broussard a chance to extend the lead. Broussard rushed for 14 yards on 4-1 at the 19-yard line to extend the march before capping the five-play drive with a five-yard touchdown run on the next play to give LSU a 21-0 lead with 2:58 left in the first quarter.
Auburn's offense put together a strong drive on its next possession, moving the ball to the LSU 18-yard line. But the drive ended with no points as place kicker Phillip Yost pushed a 35-yard field goal attempt wide left.
Special teams troubles continued for Auburn later in the quarter as punt-returner Tre Smith fumbled a Donnie Jones punt at his own 29-yard line. That mistake gave LSU a chance to make a mistake of their own on special teams as the offense sputtered on just three plays after the fumble recovery and Ryan Gaudet came up a yard short on a 50-yard field goal attempt.
Smith gave LSU another shot at the endzone with less than 1:00 to play in the first half by muffing another Jones punt, this time at his own 30-yard line. But Mauck threw his fourth pass of the drive into the chest of Auburn defensive lineman DeMarco McNeil for an interception at the 14-yard line with 11 seconds left in the half.
LSU opened the second-half scoring with 8:28 to play in the third quarter when Gaudet connected on a 33-yard field goal to cap a seven play, 42-yard drive and give the hometown Tigers a 24-0 advantage.
The rain returned on the ensuing drive much to the dismay of the Auburn offense who had to resort to its passing game trailing by more than three touchdowns. Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell was harassed by a dominant LSU defensive front as fans scrambled for raincoats halfway through the third quarter.
Meanwhile, LSU turned to its ground attack, easily driving the ball deep into Auburn territory thanks to tailback Justin Vincent who carried the ball twice for 44 yards on a six-play 60-yard drive. Mauck and Henderson ended that attack with a 16-yard touchdown pass and catch giving LSU a 31-0 lead after the point after with 3:46 left in the third.
Vincent led all rushers, including the highly-acclaimed Williams, with 127 yards on 14 carries. Auburn's star back finished the contest with 61 yards on 20 carries. Broussard contributed to the LSU offensive dominance with 35 yards on 13 carries and one touchdown.
"We have got no excuses," Tuberville said. "They (LSU) lined up and whipped us on both sides of the ball. Offensively we didn't make anything work."
Auburn's offense finally cracked the scoring column with 6:10 to play in the game when Campbell connected with wide receiver Anthony Mix from six yards out capping a productive but time-consuming drive. The point after from Yost cut the LSU lead to 31-7.
LSU finished the game by driving the ball deep into Auburn territory again. Mauck took a knee at the Auburn 15-yard line as time expired.
Next week, LSU returns to Tiger Stadium to take on intra-state rival Louisiana Tech in a homecoming match-up. Auburn plays host to UL-Monroe.
LSU vs. Auburn
Oct. 25, 2003 -- Tiger Stadium
- The field was cleared due to a weather delay at 6:10 p.m. CDT during pre game warm-ups. The delay lasted 30 minutes and warm-ups resumed at 6:40 p.m.
- LSU's game captains are OG Rodney Reed, P Donnie Jones and DT Chad Lavalais.
- Auburn won the toss and deferred to the second half. LSU will receive the kickoff to open the game.
- OT Rodney Reed (42 straight), DT Chad Lavalais (29 straight), OG Stephen Peterman (27 straight), OT Andrew Whitworth (21 straight), WR Michael Clayton (21 straight) and DE Marcus Spears (13 straight) all extended their consecutive games started streak.
- LSU's 21-first quarter points against Auburn marks the first time the Tigers have scored at least 21 points in the first quarter against an SEC opponent since Oct. 12, 1985 when
- LSU scored 21 in the first at Vanderbilt and went on to defeat the Commodores, 49-7.
- OG Rudy Niswanger made his first career start in the game in place of the injured Nate Livings.
- WR Michael Clayton's 3-yard reception on the second play of the game extended his consecutive games with a reception streak to 34 games, every game of his career.
- WR Devery Henderson's 64-yard touchdown catch from QB Matt Mauck with 13:01 left in the first quarter moved the senior receiver into a tie for eighth-place on LSU's career list for receiving touchdowns with 14.
- WR Michael Clayton's 18-yard touchdown catch from Mauck with 7:43 left in the first quarter moved the junior receiver into a tie for fifth on LSU's career list for receiving touchdowns with 16.
- The touchdown pass by Matt Mauck to Clayton in the first quarter moved the junior QB into a tie for ninth on LSU's career touchdown passes list with NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle with 23.
- The muffed punt by Auburn in the second quarter was recovered by Chad White, the first fumble recovery of his career.
- Eric Alexander's fumble recovery with less than a minute to play in the second half was the first of his career. Adrian Mayes caused the fumble, the third forced fumble of his career and first of the season.
- WR Devery Henderson's 16-yard touchdown catch from Mauck with 3:46 left in the third quarter was the 15th of the senior's career, moving him into a tie for sixth on LSU's career list for receiving touchdowns with Eddie Fuller.
- Mauck's touchdown pass to Henderson in the third quarter was the 24th of his career moving him into a tie for eighth-place on LSU's career record list for touchdown passes thrown.
- That touchdown pass was Mauck's third of the game, giving the junior QB the fifth three-touchdown game of his career.
- The same pass reception put Henderson over 100 yards receiving for the fourth time in the senior WR's career. He is now tied for ninth on LSU's career 100-yard receiving games with four former Tigers. Henderson finished the game with 6 catches for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns. Henderson now also has three multi-touchdown games in his career.
- RB Justin Vincent's 5-yard carry which ended the third quarter put the freshman over 100 yards rushing for the first time in his career. Vincent finished the game with 14 carries for 127 yards.
- Henderson and Vincent gained over 100 receiving and rushing, respectively, marking the first time LSU has accomplished the feat since Michael Clayton had 162 yards receiving and Shyrone Carey gained 124 yards on the ground against Western Illinois earlier this year.
LSU HEAD COACH NICK SABAN
"It was a great win for all Tigers. I'm proud of the way our players played in the game. It was a total team win. It was a great atmosphere to play a football game in. Our fans were tremendous. The excitement before the game was electric and I think our players came out and played that way early in the game which helped us get a jump in the game which was really important to the momentum of the game. They are probably a team that would rather play from ahead than behind and that probably helped us.
"Every phase of our team I'm proud of. Defensively I thought we did a good job against a very good running team with some great running backs without giving up a whole lot of big plays. So it was a total team deal. Special teams did a fantastic job of controlling field position with a couple of big play returns along with a couple of big play turnovers. It certainly changed field position and our offense did a good job especially early in the game in creating some tremendous momentum for our team by the first couple of drives we had and taking advantage of some opportunities. I was really, really proud of our players. I really thank our fans and supporters for doing such a wonderful job of making this such a great place to play a football game."
Offensive Player Quotes
WR Michael Clayton
"We just basically stuck to our game plan. We had a real good practice week and that usually carries on to how you play in the game. Our intensity level in practice was good all week and the same thing with our intensity level for the game. It really kept us up and we were able to make the plays."
QB Matt Mauck
"(Coach Saban) put a lot of responsibility on me tonight as far as just making the right checks and everything. I didn't mind doing it at all. Actually, I like doing it like that. It worked out pretty well.
"We were doing a lot of things to wait and see what they did and make the defense shift and then call the play after that. I think that was real effective.
"The fans were unbelievable tonight. Right from the beginning, they really helped out the team. They were awesome.
"I think the team did a great job on both sides of the ball of doing what they were asked."
OG Stephen Peterman
"We prepared hard all week. Coach put together a good game and we just went out there and executed. Our backs did a great job of hitting the holes."
LSU DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
DE Marcus Spears
On playing against the Auburn running backs
"They were hard runners. I think we got them frustrated a little bit, but they ran hard and when we hit them, we had to hit them hard or they weren't going down. We knew that coming in. They have three good backs that can make plays, and we had to do all that we could to stop them from making those plays."
DE Marquise Hill
On defending Auburn running back Carnell Williams
"We knew that he could stick his foot in one hole and be in another hole within a split-second, so we knew we had to stay in our gaps. That was our whole main goal to create a new line of scrimmage because we could tell by the way he runs he would wait and try to pick his hole. We just kind of wanted to block for the linebackers."
LB Eric Alexander
On what this win can do for the LSU team
"We were already confident but it's an even bigger confidence booster, especially beating a team as good as Auburn. Mainly all the hype was about Auburn, but we came in and showed them that we can play, too, and that we're a dominant team in the SEC."
LB Lionel Turner
"The defensive line, they got penetration and did an outstanding job. Our offense, you know, they controlled the ball a lot. They just made plays. We just bonded together. The special teams made plays and got our offense the ball back. It was just all of us clicking on the same cylinders."
AUBURN HEAD COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE QUOTES
"It was kind of deja vu from last year. We got off to a slow start, and the rest is history. We got beat up front on both sides of the line, and when you cant control the line of scrimmage on the road you are in trouble. We didn't make any plays offensively.
"Defensively we put ourselves in a bind a little bit by what we play early in the game. We tried to play a lot of zone coverage, and they ran a lot of quick screens on us. We couldn't handle the speed of their receivers. They have real quick receivers. It was kind of like the short passes turned into running backs, and they did a good job.
"We have got no excuses, they lined up and whipped us on both sides and we couldn't tackle in the first quarter. Offensively we didn't make anything work. We tried it all, both sides, weak, strong, tried to run it, they were the better team today. Obviously you could tell by the quickness we kind of ran out of gas early in the game. We will regroup and go on."
AUBURN PLAYER QUOTES
DT Spencer Johnson
On the speed of the LSU offense
"They kept us on our toes and we knew what to expect, but they did of a good job of throwing the ball. They were getting quick screens for nine/ten yards a pop."
What positives can you take away from this game?
"We just have to do the same thing we have been doing, going to practice and work hard. We had a good week of practice this week, but sometimes things just don't go your way. We had a slow start on the road, 92000 thousand people screaming against you, it's hard to come back against that. We learned that when you're on the road you need to get a quick start, and we continue rolling.
QB Jason Campbell
What was the LSU defense doing to give you problems?
"They just made plays. They were just moving around and making plays. It kind of reminded me of us last year when we played them. Everything was going our way, and we were the ones making plays against them. It seemed like it was just the opposite this year. They were making all the plays and getting all the breaks. It's kind of tough to win that way.
Do you think you guys went backwards on offense?
"I would say it went backwards. I think that we just have to prepare harder during the week. We have a great group of guys and coaches. We know where we are at, and we know what went wrong. The main thing is that we just have to go back to working hard and picking it back up. We have to put this one behind us. It is a long season. Last year we lost two early SEC games, and we had an opportunity to win it right there at the end of the year."
RB Carnell Williams
His thoughts on the rest of the season
"We still have three SEC games to go. With this SEC race you never know what is going to happen."
On the rotation of the running backs
"That is just how the rotation goes in the game. We rotate backs all night."
What was so good about the LSU defense?
"Their front four and their lineman. They played within themselves. They didn't overrun, they contain their gaps, and they came up front."