BATON ROUGE -- A game that was considered by some to be a mismatch turned into another great chapter in the crazy series between LSU and Auburn. This time, the visiting No. 2-ranked Tigers took home a 12-10 victory in a mistake-laden, penalty-filled, defensive thriller at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday night.
LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC) won its nation-leading 17th-straight game in the regular season, but it was its own worst enemy in the process. Les Miles' Tigers committed nine penalties for 80 yards and had two fumbles by its quarterback - one at the Auburn 2-yard line.
"Anytime you come down to Auburn and you get a victory on the road, it's a great win, and if I look back in the times of being here in many different scenarios, this was just like a traditional LSU-Auburn game," Miles said.
The LSU defense again proved its rating as one of the best in the league if not the nation.
The second of LSU's two interception came on the final play of the game and sealed the win, and a safety earned by LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery early in the game proved the difference. The Tigers added four sacks of Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier and adjusted when Auburn switched from its pro style back to a spread offense in the second quarter.
"It was a shock to our system," Montgomery said following a 3.5 tackles-for-loss performance. "It was some young guy's first time on the road and not knowing what to expect. A couple of veteran guys hadn't been in that situation in a long time. It was really a shock to our whole program, but we adjusted."
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, whose first fumble at the Auburn 2-yard line led to the LSU safety, made big plays passing when called upon. A 33-yard catch and run to Spencer Ware in the final three minutes switched field position and left Auburn with only 39 seconds to play.
"I made a couple mistakes early on, but (the win) really showed the character of this team," Mettenberger said after his fourth career start and first on the road. "It got tough late, but we were able to come out of this one with the win."
He completed 15-of-27 passes for 169 yards without an interception.
With running back Alfred Blue sidelined, Ware led LSU's rushing with 90 hard-fought yards on 16 carries, while Michael Ford added 41 yards on eight touches. Kenny Hilliard burned the clock on LSU's final drive and finished with 40 yards.
Wide receiver Kadron Boone's 29-yard catch on second-and-13 setup what became the game-winning field goal by Drew Alleman with 5:26 remaining the third quarter. Boone had a team-high 49 yards receiving on three catches. James Wright and Jarvis Landry each added three catches for 25 and 23 yards, respectively. Ware had two grabs for 44 yards.
LSU out-gained Auburn, 351-183.
Auburn (1-3, 0-2 SEC), which was held to 2-for-12 on third down, managed only 86 net yards rushing against LSU's swarming defense. LSU had 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for minus-44 yards, and held speedy Onterio McCalebb to only 24 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Frazier was 13-of-22 passing for 97 yards and two interceptions.
LSU won the coin toss and deferred its decision until the second half, as the Tigers kicked off from the north to south to open the game.
Auburn's Frazier looked to test LSU cornerback Tharold Simon on the second play from scrimmage but overthrew freshman wide receiver Sammy Coates nearly 50 yards down the left sideline. Another incomplete pass led to a 37-yard punt by Stevan Clark, who played a key role in changing field position throughout the muggy evening on The Plains.
Despite center P.J. Lonergan missing most of the drive with an injury, then LSU pounded the ball into Auburn territory with a 5-yard run by Ford. An 18-yard gain up the middle by Ford was made possible by a dominating block by fullback J.C. Copeland.
Copeland's 4-yard run on a dive gave LSU first-and-10 at the Auburn 11. Ware pushed LSU to the Auburn 2 and setup a third-and-1, but Mettenberger couldn't handle the snap from backup center Elliott Porter. Auburn defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker wrestled the loose ball from Mettenberger to deny LSU points.
The mistake may have cost LSU at least three points, but the Tigers defense got most of it back on the next play from scrimmage. After a false start backed Auburn to its 1, Montgomery pulled down running back Tre Mason in the endzone for a safety.
LSU led 2-0 at the 8:21 mark of the first quarter.
A 22-yard Jarvis Landry return of the free kick gave LSU a short field starting at its 41. With Lonergan back at center, Mettenberger found Ware for a third-down conversion and 11 yards to the Auburn 41. The pass setup a 28-yard run over the right side by Ware to the Auburn 13. A 6-yard catch by tight end Chase Clement put LSU at first-and-goal at the 2. Though the dive to Copeland didn't reach pay dirt on first down, Mettenberger faked another handoff to the fullback and pitched left to Ford who outran defensive end LaDarius Owens for a 1-yard touchdown run over the pylon.
Ford's first touchdown of the season and Drew Alleman's PAT gave LSU a 9-0 lead with 4:18 remaining in the first quarter.
Auburn again went nowhere offensively, as a tackle for loss by Montgomery and Bennie Logan, and a sack by Micah Eugene forced another punt. Clark's perfect 54-yard punt prevented a return by Odell Beckham Jr., and LSU started the drive on its 26.
Mettenberger's second third-down miscue of the night again cost LSU points, as the quarterback was spun around and had the ball stripped by Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier. Tackle Angelo Blackson recovered the fumble, and Auburn was in great position to get on the board at LSU's 26.
Auburn switched gears offensively, turning to its spread offense that was so successful in past seasons.
Though LSU linebacker Kevin Minter stopped McCalebb behind the line on first down, Mason ran a counter around the left end for 25 yards to setup a 3-yard touchdown run by McCalebb.
Auburn pulled within two, 9-7, on the final play of the first quarter.
Just as Auburn's offense began to figure ways to out-maneuver LSU's defense, the Auburn defense found its footing.
A 23-yard catch and run by tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen to the LSU 49 gave Auburn momentum, however, a false start and a 6-yard tackle for loss by LSU defensive end Lavar Edwards stalled the drive. Clark's second 47-yard punt was downed at the LSU 11, but a personal foul on LSU pushed the Tigers back to the 6.
LSU got out of the shadow of its endzone with a face mask penalty but punted when Ford's third-and-2 run was stopped in the backfield. After a series of penalties, Brad Wing's 49-yard punt was fair caught at the Auburn 35.
Auburn gained a first down with a short run in the wildcat formation by Jonathan Wallace, then a great 22-yard catch by wide receiver Emory Blake put Auburn in scoring position at the LSU 29. With 1:21 remaining in the half, placekicker Cody Parkey improved to 7-for-7 on the season with a 40-yard field goal that gave Auburn a 10-9 lead.
A 30-yard run by Ware quickly advanced LSU into Auburn territory, but a sack ended the threat short of field goal range. Auburn took the one-point lead into the lockerroom.
With emotions at a fever pitch, both teams struggled to gain traction in the opening drives of the second half. However, a muffed punt return by Auburn's Quan Bray at the Auburn 48 was recovered by Landry to give LSU a change in field position.
Mettenberger turned the advantage into a scoring opportunity when he found wide receiver Kadron Boone for a back-shoulder catch and 29 yards to the Auburn 22. A false start penalty moved LSU into a second-and-14 situation, and Hilliard came up a yard short of a first down after two runs. Alleman entered for a 30-yard field goal that gave LSU a 12-10 lead - and the game's final points - with 5:26 remaining in the third quarter.
After a 43-yard kickoff return by McCalebb, LSU's defense came up with another third-down stop with a turnover. LSU linebacker Luke Muncie dropped into coverage and intercepted Frazier's pass along the left sideline at the LSU 44.
Another dead-ball personal foul took away the field position, however, as LSU started from its 29. A false start on the first snap cost LSU more ground and the Tigers quickly punted back to Auburn.
Auburn continued to use the spread offense against LSU's stellar defensive front, and it almost resulted in a long touchdown run by McCalebb. However, safety Eric Reid grabbed the speedy back by the jersey and limited the damage to 20 yards at the LSU 44. The tackle was rewarded when defensive tackle Anthony Johnson stuffed Mason on second-and-2. Frazier's third-down pass intended for McCalebb was overthrown down the right sideline and Auburn elected to punt from the LSU 41.
Backed to its 9-yard line, LSU gained only four yards and punted back. This time, Wing got a hold of his best effort of the evening, a 60-yarder that bounded to the Auburn 27 before being downed.
The defensive struggle continued into the fourth quarter as neither team punctured the other's territory until Ware's catch on LSU's final drive.
With 2:39 to play and facing third-and-4 from his 33, Mettenberger rolled right and instead of throwing to a streaking Landry, he threw back across the hash marks to Ware. The running back dodged the tackle of linebacker Jonathan Evans and galloped 33 yards to the Auburn 34.
Auburn used its final two timeouts in an attempt to get another chance, and it worked out when LSU missed a 34-yard field goal with 39 seconds to play.
Auburn advanced no further than its 37 and Frazier's final heave was intercepted by Simon to give LSU the victory.
LSU returns to action on Saturday, Sept. 29, when Football Championship Subdivision Towson comes to Tiger Stadium for the first time. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT on ESPNU.
Auburn vs. LSU
Pat Dye Field at Jordan Hare Stadium
Auburn, Ala. | Sept. 22, 2012
LSU Head Coach Les Miles
"First of all, anytime you come down to Auburn and you get a victory on the road, it's a great win, and if I look back in the times of being here in many different scenarios, this was just like a traditional LSU-Auburn game. Nothing routine about it. We had a nice drive, get down to the 1-yard-line, lose a center somewhere in the drive. The young center gets on the goal line and has a hiccup and we turn the ball over and turn the ball over again and suddenly instead of having a different score, we're in a dog fight start to finish. We were sloppy. It's interesting, we practice the ability not to have penalties, but what happens is guys lose their poise. This is a tremendous lesson for us which is something that we'll certainly be able to teach from in a very aggressive manner, but again, the piece that needed to be tested the most which put us in a tight game in the back end--you have to have a drive to win a game. Frankly, defense played extremely well. Played better in the second half. The offense monitored the drive when they needed to and were tested and answered the call. Not perfect, work to do, but we'll take a victory on the road at Auburn."
On Mettenberger's first SEC and road game...
"I'll say I liked him. There's some things he did wrong, there's some positions we put him in that didn't favor him, some guys that were supporting him did some things that they shouldn't have, but what he showed was character, toughness and really made the plays that he needed to make at crunch time. We'll be able to build off that, I believe."
On the third down throwback to Ware...
"It's something that we operate with out of our two tights and it's the pressure that he had and then the way he threw it in, to me he made a real decision to put some heat on that ball, and that really was the reason that Ware had the ability to advance it like he did."
On Auburn's defense...
"I think Auburn's defense is a good front. I think they're mobile, I think they're aggressive, I think they played physical football. I think we missed some passes, I think we mis-executed some, but anytime you line up with this quality of an opponent, you're tested most."
On the first-quarter sack and fumble...
"I think when you fumble on the one yard line, that's a miserable place to turn the ball over, and it's interesting that we get the two and then obviously take the lead, but when you compound the fumble, it should've been 7-0 and then maybe 14-0. The issue then is the turnovers. There's nothing good by turnovers."
On the call for the muffed punt...
"I didn't get to see much of the instant replay, and what I got from the press box was it definitely hit him, then after the instant replay it didn't appear that it did, I guess."
On going for it on the last possession...
"No, we were going to kick a field goal."
LSU Player Quotes
On tonight's game...
"I made a couple mistakes early on, but (the win) really showed the character of this team. It got tough late, but we were able to come out of this one with the win."
On first road SEC game...
"I wasn't really nervous. I knew that this was probably going to be the biggest game of my life so far. I think I handled the pressure well."
On third down throwback pass...
"I knew that it had potential to be a big play for us. Fortunately it worked out. We had to have it, because if they stopped it, it probably would have been a little different."
"I think a lot of these guys know we haven't played our best complete game yet. I'll show up ready to work tomorrow and Monday and really work out the penalties and kinks, and just really tune everything up for Towson and get ready to work."
LB Luke Muncie
On tonight's victory...
"This is a huge victory. It was too close to call, but a win's a win, and we're going to have a lot of stuff to look at for next week. As of right now, we're 1-0 in the SEC, and we're trying to make a push for the western division championship and the SEC Championship. If we can do that, that's all that matters."
On the defense stepping up in the second half and not allowing Auburn to score...
"Defensively, I think we did really good the whole night. They had less than 100 yards going into halftime, and it was just little mistakes, and overall, I think we all played really good as a team on defense."
On what DE Sam Montgomery said to the team at halftime...
"Just to turn it up. We were playing good already, but you can always play better. We just came together as a team overall and just pushed each other I guess. We were more vocal and made the right calls. We played with a higher tempo."
On if he feels they needed a competitive win going into SEC play...
"I definitely think it has its ups and its down. I feel like being such a close game that we showed everyone that we can pull through at the end and come together as a team and work hard, but it also shows us that we need to be humble and continue to improve. We're not going to be good enough to go to the National Championship until that time comes."
On the punt return that was overturned and the ball given back to Auburn...
"I thought that it hit (T'Sharvan Bell's) shoe, and I just fell on it. I thought it was my ball, but I guess it wasn't."
On his interception...
"We played a lot of man and I was lined up against him, and Coach (John) Chavis really stressed keeping your eyes on him and know what he's going to do. I kept my eyes on him and did everything Coach Chavis taught me, and it just worked out for the best."
On being a big favorite and playing a close game...
"Sometimes you have to deal with whatever comes to you. This was a rough time that really tested our preparation this summer. That really came true today to see which team worked harder this summer. I was glad this happened. This gives us a lot of film to go back and make corrections"
On addressing his teammates in the locker room at halftime...
"I believe that during times of adversity, the older, veteran players have to get everybody's heads on straight to lead and go and play for victory."
On playing a close game on the road...
"Oh yeah, it was a shock to our system. It was some young guy's first time on the road and not knowing what to expect. A couple of veteran guys hadn't been in that situation in a long time. It was really a shock to our whole program, but we adjusted. We stuck our backs up. That's one thing that we have a feeling on and we can go make corrections. Maybe focus more on during the week."
Auburn Head Coach Gene Chizik
"I want to start out with a non-football related situation. It is a very heavy heart for myself and a lot of our players and a lot of our coaches right now. The young man, who was a student assistant (coach) with us, in football passed away shortly before the game unexpectedly, and it is very tragic. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. (His name is) Joe Bagwell (23 years old from Huntsville, Ala., first year as a student coach and was a student trainer last year), and that was tough. I want to say thank you to all of our fans tonight because they were All In, and they came and they showed up, and they did their job, and they were outstanding. That is what makes Auburn great. The football part of it, it's very disappointing. We played against our second top 10 team and had chances to win the game, but we didn't finish, and it is disappointing, but our goal every week is to improve. I saw a lot of improvement out of our football team tonight in a lot of different ways. Give LSU a lot of credit. They are an extremely talented and extremely physical football team, and they are very good. So, it was a hard-fought battle, and we didn't come out on the right end of that. That is very disappointing to me, and everybody in the locker room. So, we worked hard in preparation for the game, and I couldn't be more proud of the players for the preparation that they put into the game. We went into the game fully expecting to win, and it didn't happen. So, we are going to go back to work and try to continue to stay on track for improvement, and we have this week off which we are going to be able to rest up a little bit. Again, try to get a lot of corrections made based on what we saw again tonight, go back to work this week. I'm very proud of the kids in the locker room, and they played very, very hard tonight. They put it out there, and they were All In, too. So, that is where we are."
On how big a step do you think Auburn took tonight
"I think if you just look at the whole entire body of work and how hard they played, it was a field position game which we knew going in it was going to be, and we knew it had to be. I think it sums it up. I am very proud of the effort they gave, and the improvement they made. I love the kids in the locker room. That's the bottom line. They blocked out all of the distractions, and they really try to work. We've had good days of practice, and I felt good going into the game, but we didn't finish, and there will be a day when we will. We are going to continue to grind and work until we can."
On quarterback Jonathan Wallace's performance
"Jonathan has made a pretty consistent track in terms of improvement out of practice, and we like his poise. He is an extremely intelligent young man when it comes to the game of football. He was very successful in high school with his team, and he earned the right to play. That is as simple as I can put it, and he will continue to earn the right to play some more. He did some things tonight. It is tough getting in there for the first time in a game like this and being productive. I am sure there are some things obviously that we will look at tomorrow that he can certainly improve on, but we figure that tonight was a good time to start with him. So, I was very proud of him. He secured the ball. He made some tough yards when we needed him to, which was exciting to see, and we will continue to work him."
On Auburn's running game tonight
"It was an extremely difficult defensive line to run the ball inside on, and we knew that going in. Very few people have been able to do that. So, we felt like we had a good plan going in with some perimeter runs mixing up some of the inside runs as well. We can't totally get away from that, and at some points in there, a couple of things opened up for us. Again, we wanted to keep the game close with field position and try to run the ball some and hit the ball down the field a couple of times on some passes and keep the game close. So, we were able to open up some of the running lanes there to help us do that."
On the heart of the Auburn defense
"I won't just say our defensive heart, I am going to say the heart of our football team period. Special teams, defense, but there was one point in there ... third downs are a big deal for us, obviously, and they have been a big point of contention for us in the first few games, and I think at one stretch in there they had quite a few third down stops in a row (nine). We are starting to gain a little confidence. That was really, really good to see. They hit that one on us at the end of the game, the throw back off the boot there, and we missed a tackle, and that pretty much sealed the game for the most part or at least it got it down to the wire. Again, I am very proud of the defensive strides we made. Do we have a long way to go? Absolutely."
Auburn Player Quotes
TE Philip Lutzenkirchen
On the game overall...
"Disappointing. We fought our tails off. Defense played really well. Offense didn't. We kept the defense on the field most of the game and you can't do that."
What can you take away from the game?
"We know we can play with anybody in the country. We just have to put it all together. We blocked it down at the end with two top ten teams. We know it's there, so we have to keep getting better and finish."
RB Onterio McCalebb
On the game overall...
"I think we got out there and played hard. LSU is a good team. We just fell short."
On running game...
"Our motto is run into the game to run the ball. When we ran the ball sometimes good, but sometimes we didn't. We went in there and played hard off the line. We played real hard. Tight ends played hard. Full backs played hard. Everybody played hard."
DB T'Sharvan Bell
On Auburn's play...
"We played with a lot of passion, a lot of energy. A lot of guys had fun competing out there tonight. We just came up a little short. We've got to practice finishing better. That's the only thing that I see missing. Execution, of course, was a part, but we just have to learn how to finish the game."
On defensive changes...
"We have a great defensive coordinator and a great D line coach, linebacker coach, secondary coach. Our defensive staff is literally stacked. They put us in a position to make plays. We were very good at making plays sometimes. Sometimes, we weren't so good. The change-up was a good thing. Coach [VanGorder] steered us in the right direction. We just have to finish."
On the atmosphere in Jordan-Hare...
"It was rocking. I knew it was going to be rocking, just the fact that it was a night game and LSU coming here. The fans are going to come out and yell a lot at us and cheer the whole time, timeouts and everything. It was a great atmosphere. That's what you come to Auburn for."
QB Kiehl Frazier
On tonight's game...
"We played a great team. We have to give them all their credit. There's a reason why they're number two in the country. We really left a lot of plays out there. We let them out there, and we wanted to try to come out and finish the job this week."
On the offensive coordinator/ quarterback coach being on the sideline...
"I felt comfortable with him out there, because normally what he sees and what I see is a little different. Talking to him after plays really helped me today."
On the phone call he received from Jason Campbell...
"It meant a lot. He basically said not to worry about what other people think. Play for your teammates, and that's what I tried to do today."
DB Josh Holsey
On tonight's game....
"It was a good game. Both teams played well. We just have to learn how to finish in the end. We need to go back to the drawing board and get to work again."
On his pass breakup at the end....
"I was just trying to make a play. I didn't think he was going to throw it, because I was covering so well. I saw it and I just made a play on the ball."
On the improvement of the defense....
"We just kept telling each other we have to come out and play hard every play. We all bought into the mentality that we're just going to just bust them in the mouth as soon as possible. Everyone bought into the defense, and it paid off very well."
On learning from this close game...
"We've been in two of them, so we know how to play in them, we just need to know how to execute in the end. We need to finish and execute; that's all."
On the atmosphere at Jordan-Hare Stadium...
"It was crazy. I knew it was like that from being in the stands, but actually being on the field it was crazy. You can barely hear yourself even talk. The stands go wild. It was nice. I love it."
DE Dee Ford
On tonight's game...
"(It was) hard-fought. It was an SEC battle. We came into this game confident, and we knew it was going to come down to the wire. We just didn't finish. That's the thing we have to work on. We just have to work on finishing. We had a top-two team in the nation down to the wire, and we did not finish. We're going to keep fighting. We had a lot of positive things, but we're not happy about losing. We expected to win. We did not want to play this close."
On having success getting into the LSU backfield...
"We knew that was going to be the keys. Great players make plays at great times in great games. We stepped it up a little bit, but there's still a lot we have to work on. There are a lot of things I still have to work on. I had an offside penalty and some other things that jeopardized our defense."
On changes made to be successful on defense...
"There were no changes, we just stuck with our plan and what we've been working on. We knew we had a great defense, we just had to work on our execution. And we just kept working and kept working. I've started to believe, and the game has started to slow down. I think it's more (about) time, but there's nothing different."