BATON ROUGE -- LSU running back Jeremy Hill had 184 yards rushing and three touchdowns to lead No. 6 LSU past Auburn in its SEC opener, 35-21, on a wet Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC) opened a 21-0 lead before halftime and held off a late rally by Auburn (3-1, 1-1 SEC), which amassed 332 yards in the second half to get within two touchdowns.
Auburn turned the ball over on its first two possessions and Hill took advantage with touchdown runs of 49 and 10 yards that came only 80 seconds apart.
Hill, who had the most rushing yards by a Tiger since 2004, had 152 of his career-best 184 yards in the first half. He added a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter and carried 25 times.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger finished 14-of-22 passing for 229 yards with a touchdown and his first interception of the 2013 season.
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry had seven catches for a career-best 118 yards including a 32-yard catch and run for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Odell Beckham Jr. added five catches for 59 yards.
With overnight rain Friday and a continuous shower for most of the game, playing conditions affected both teams. LSU fumbled in the redzone while leading 21-0, while Auburn had two fumbles on fourth down including a mishandled deep snap at its 10-yard line.
Auburn did most of damage in the second half, running 48 plays and managing scoring drives of 94 and 88 yards.
Quarterback Nick Marshall finished 17-of-33 passing for 224 yards with two interceptions. Running back Tre Mason ran 26 times for 132 yards with two touchdowns, while Marshall added 46 on the ground.
Along with Mason's leading effort, wide receiver Sammy Coates led Auburn with 139 receiving yards including catches of 14, 42 and 52 yards that keyed touchdown-scoring drives.
For the first time this season, LSU won coin toss and deferred its decision until the second half. Auburn took the opening kickoff and gained two first downs to midfield with its running attack. Marshall scrambled into LSU territory but came up a yard short of the first down. Outside of field goal range, Auburn rolled the dice and came up with craps, as Marshall fumbled when attempting to fake a handoff. Linebacker Lamin Barrow recovered at the LSU 43.
The Tigers nearly overcame a false start penalty with a 13-yard pass to Landry. On third-and-2, Hill rumbled through the line, high-stepped a tackle in the secondary and scored a 49-yard touchdown.
Colby Delahoussaye's PAT put LSU ahead, 7-0, with 11:16 left in the quarter.
Auburn's second fumble in as many drives cost another touchdown. This time, punter Steven Clark had the deep snap slide through his hands. He was tackled by freshman linebacker Duke Riley at his 10, where Hill scored on the next play with a run up the middle.
After four offensive plays, LSU led 14-0 with 9:56 remaining in the quarter.
Another quick three-and-out by Auburn brought LSU's offense back to the field. A 7-yard run by fullback J.C. Copeland and completions of 8 and 27 yards to Landry gave LSU first downs to the Auburn 16. However, the wet field caught up with LSU for the first time, as running back Terrence Magee fumbled on third-and-7 from the Auburn 13. Auburn defensive back Ryan White recovered at the 7.
Mason gained a first down on the ground for Auburn, however, a third-down pass by Marshall fell incomplete and Auburn punted from its 30.
Starting at his 27, Mettenberger found Beckham for 14 yards to the 41. Two plays later, Hill got loose in the secondary again for 54 yards to the Auburn 1. Copeland capped the drive with a dive in the endzone and LSU led 21-0 with 12:34 left in the half.
Though safety Craig Loston intercepted Marshall on the second play of the ensuing drive, the Tigers punted for the first time, starting a string of six-straight drives that ended with punts or downs.
LSU took the three-touchdown lead into the lockerroom.
Auburn again gambled with the kickoff, trying an onside kick that was fair caught by LSU's Corey Thompson at the LSU 43.
However, Mettenberger was intercepted for the first time this season when Jermaine Whitehead pulled the ball away from Landry at midfield. A 14-yard pass on third-and-3 from Marshall to Sammie Coates led to four-straight runs by Mason, the last of which went for a 2-yard touchdown.
Auburn trailed 21-7 with 12:39 remaining in the third quarter.
LSU answered with seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive, but the Tigers had to cross the goal line three times before getting the points. Landry's 53-yard catch and run for a TD was called back for by holding penalty down the field. Later, after a 45-yard catch and run by tight end Travis Dickson, Landry spun out of a tackle at the Auburn 6, kept his balance and scored. However, the play was blown dead and could not be reviewed. Hill scored on the next play to put LSU ahead 28-7.
LSU got the ball back quickly when safety Dwayne Thomas batted down a third-down pass from Marshall that forced Auburn to punt.
On third-and-5, Mettenberger found Landry for 26 yards to the Auburn 36 and then took advantage of a pass interference penalty to advance to the 14. Three plays went nowhere, and LSU lined up for a 30-yard field goal. However, holder Seth Fruge took the snap six yards behind the line and tried to pick up the yardage up the middle. He came up two yards short and LSU turned the ball over on downs at the Auburn 6.
Auburn took advantage with a 10-play, 94-yard drive that included a 52-yard catch by Coates to the LSU 1. On third-and-goal from the 2, Mason squeezed through the middle for a touchdown. Auburn cut LSU's lead to 28-14 with 3:00 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers didn't waste time extending the lead back to three touchdowns, as Beckham caught passes of 14 and 22 yards to the Auburn 34. On third-and-8 from the 32, Mettenberger stood firm in a well-protected pocket and fired a strike to Landry who did the rest for a touchdown.
LSU led 35-14 with 14:52 left to play.
Auburn wouldn't go away, putting together another 10-play, 88-yard drive that narrowed the gap to 14 points again. Artis-Payne's 12-yard run with 6:33 remaining gave Auburn life, however, they were flagged for touching a successful onside kick before 10 yards.
The visiting Tigers threw an interception and later advanced to the LSU 12 in the waning minutes but could not cut the margin below 14.
Attendance was 92,638.
LSU returns to action on Sept. 28 when the Tigers travel to Athens to face Georgia. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS.
LSU HEAD COACH LES MILES
Opening statement …
“In the first half with the inclement weather, the important piece was to start the game with the certainty that we were going to do certain things and take care of the ball. We were going to get our feet and our footing squared away and we were going to run the football. So we had taken an early lead, 21-zip. It’s a really interesting thing from that point forward. We have to finish this. Anytime that you play a conference opponent and anytime that you play Western division opponents like Auburn, it’s going to be a competitive game. We took such a strong lead initially, but I just didn’t like how we finished. We certainly can play better, and offensively we can run the football and finish the game in a fashion that controls to the end. Offensively, we threw for 230 and ran for 230; a good balance. We had big plays in both. Defensively, we put them on the field for 85 snaps and you can’t do that. It’s victory. We’re pleased to a point, but we’re not satisfied. We can play better, and we need to control these games. I see a lot of schools in this conference having difficult games. Frontward, we need to take care of our business and do that, and we’ll be pretty good. We’re undefeated and looking forward to the next one.”
On making adjustments for inclement weather …
“We have the flexibility in our style of play that allows us to put two tights in and pound the football with a big fullback. Certainly, in inclement conditions, it would be far for me to say that it never rains on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. But, it was very close to rain, if not a very stiff dew out there. Again, we had some flexibility in our offense that allowed us to do the things that we needed to do.”
LSU OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
On his feelings about the game…
“I’m disappointed because I know how good we can be. I know the potential of this offense and I want us to do better. At the same time, we’ve got some good things to look at from the film and it’s going to be a learning experience to look at it.”
On the first run…
“It just set the tone. We realized we can execute against anybody we play. Auburn is a very good and capable team. Then again we need to learn to keep our foot on the gas pedal and finish games.”
RB Jeremy Hill
On today’s game…
“I wish we would have finished a lot stronger than we did. We put our defense in tough positions but I think we started off well, we just have to finish.”
On letting up after the big lead…
“I don’t think we let up. I think those guys just adjusted. That’s what SEC teams do. That’s the biggest difference when you play against non-conference teams.”
On how he felt about the game…
“We left a lot of points out there. We put ourselves in a few situations with a few penalties early on, kind of killed momentum.”
On his scoring opportunities tonight…
“I think one. It is [frustrating] but also for a guy like myself to see it still pay off with a Jeremy Hill touchdown on that same drive, it kind of made me smile about it afterwards.”
LSU DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
DE Jordan Allen
On the overall defensive performance…
“I thought we came out very dominant in the beginning and played real LSU football. That’s something we’ve got to be able to do for the rest of the game and maintain that throughout the season.”
On the second half…
“I feel like everybody probably mentally may have gotten a little down. We had a few calls that we felt were questionable, but we have got to be able to shrug that off. We are not communicating on some things, and we will get it straight.”
On Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson’s performances…
“They did what’s expected of them. Them being the two leaders on the team, they did exactly what we expect of them, what the coaches expect of them and that’s something that we look up to. They are prime examples of how LSU defense is supposed to play.”
On the effect of forcing two turnovers…
“That helped out a lot. If we can keep that up and make sure that we get a couple of turnovers every game, anything to help the offense, that’s what we are going to do.”
LB Lamin Barrow
On how he feels about the linebacking core…
“I think Kwon [Alexander] got a lot of good work in, Tahj Jones, D.J. Welter, and myself, but you never know. Next game it could be a different group out there.”
AUBURN HEAD COACH GUS MALZAHN QUOTES
Opening Statement …
“I think it was obvious in the beginning of the game we did not respond very well to the elements and to the crowd. We kind of found ourselves in a hole. I am proud of our team coming back in the second half. They came back and battled. We did make some mistakes. We have been talking about improving each practice and each game, and even though it hurts right now I think there were some good things out there that we could improve upon for the rest of the year.”
On quarterback Nick Marshall …
“Nick [Marshall] never really got in a rhythm. It was his first road game. That first quarter it was raining pretty good, the ball was wet, we just never got in a rhythm in the first half. During the second half we kind of calmed down and got into our rhythm.”
On running back Tre Mason …
“Tre [Mason] is definitely a good back. He is a tough guy. He always wants the ball. I think whenever you want the football that is always a good thing. He had a very solid night.”
On the playing conditions …
“There were some missed opportunities, without a doubt. You have to give LSU some credit. They are a good team, but you just cannot miss the opportunities that you have. You have to seize the moment. It is frustrating. We did not execute like we can. The way LSU plays has something to do with that. At the same time, we have high expectations for our team, and we could have played better. But again, you have to give LSU credit. I can tell you that we will improve moving forward.”
On the second half …
“Our team is not going to quit. They play together; they like playing together. They have bright eyes. Even toward the end when we got that motion penalty that set us back, they were fighting until the end. I am very proud of our guys, and with the attitude they have we have a chance to get better and improve. Even though it feels bad right now, we have an off week, and we can clean some things up and move forward.”
AUBURN OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
RB Tre Mason
On the team’s improvement from last season…
“I am happy with where we are heading as a team. A lot of guys that were here last year are back. They know how it feels from last year to give up or lose badly. That feeling can carry over to next year, and we didn’t want to go through that again. None of my teammates quit tonight.”
On the difference between the first and second half…
“We kind of beat ourselves in the beginning. The fumbles, our punter dropping a snap, and putting the ball on the ground on offense cost us. Those things will lose the game for you. We have to go back and correct those things. We have to figure out ways to play in weather like tonight.”
On moving on from tonight’s loss…
“I am not happy with the loss, and I’m pretty sure the team isn’t either. We are going to try to continue getting better from here on out. We can’t look at the past. What is done is done. We just need to continue getting better.”
QB Nick Marshall
On the difference between the first and second half…
“Coach gave us a speech at halftime. Second half we came out able to execute and make plays. We were able to make plays and score touchdowns. He told us to never stop fighting and go out and play relentless football. We did that and we were able to execute.”
On moving on from tonight’s loss…
“We are still confident going into our bye week and then into the next week. We are going to go in and correct what we messed up tonight. We will get better after that.”
On learning from tonight’s mistakes…
“I will grow a lot from this. I learned a lot from tonight. I learned from the mistakes I made and how to execute the ball like we did in the second half tonight.”
AUBURN DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
CB Jonathon Mincy
On his missed assignments…
“Just people not filling their gaps. We really just go back and execute. It’s really just going back out there and everyone just doing fundamental football.”
On if he improves after a loss…
“Definitely, tomorrow when we watch film, we just have to go out there and next time we have the opportunity to get on the field and adjust we have to show everyone that we still can compete. “
On if the fist quarter was shocking to him…
“Definitely, we let the game get away. It’s just kind of tough playing from behind.”
FS Jermaine Whitehead
On the interception he made…
“It was a great play. I think the quarterback saw me and I think he wanted to try me a little bit. It was a great ‘bang-bang’ play. If my hands were a little slower he would have made the play.”
WLB Cassanova Mckinzy
On LSU RB Jeremy Hill…
“In my opinion he got all his yards in the first half. We had a lot of new stuff, and we did what we did and it hurt us in the end.”
On if he was caught off guard in the first half…
“It’s college football. You have to put in the stuff from the last week, then you have to forget that and come back to the new stuff. That’s the whole part of being a college football player.”