AUBURN, Ala. — Oh, Coach O!
No. 12 LSU and Coach O - aka Ed Orgeron - pulled victory out of the jowls of Auburn's throat Saturday afternoon for the second straight year after trailing in the fourth quarter and won, 22-21, on a 42-yard field goal by Cole Tracy as time expired in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"I've been preparing to kick a game-winning field goal since Monday," Tracy said outside a euphoric LSU locker room. "You know it's going to be close when you play Auburn."
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That makes 17 LSU-Auburn games since "The Earthquake Game" in 1988 that have been decided by a touchdown or less.
The LSU locker room sounded like it may register on a seismograph.
"We were stronger! We were bigger! We were more physical! We were better! YEAH," Orgeron told his players before coming out for the post game press conference..
No. 7 Auburn (2-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) led 21-13 midway through the fourth quarter before LSU (3-0, 1-0 SEC) scored nine unanswered points over the final 8:18 to win the game on a rush, then rode that back to Baton Rouge.
"We'll enjoy the win, then get back to work," Orgeron said.
Apparently down for the count this year as well as its offense struggled to move the ball in the second and third quarters, LSU came back to life on a 71-yard touchdown catch and mostly run by wide receiver Derrick Dillon with 8:18 to go to cut Auburn's lead to 21-19.
"That play gave us a chance to win the football game," Orgeron said. "We knew it was going to take all we had, and it did. Give our players and coaching staff credit. We're 3-0. That's the reason we came on the plane. They're a galvanized group right now. Obviously, they're a very happy football team."
But that couldn't have happened without Tracy, who also kicked field goals of 33 and 27 yards. Orgeron let the clock run down from 20 seconds remaining all the way to :02 before Tracy came on.
"There was no question in my mind that he was going to make it," Orgeron said. "No doubt in my mind."
On the touchdown to get LSU within 21-19, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow threw into a crowd to hit Dillon on a crossing pattern over the middle of the field. And Dillon sprinted to and up the sideline for the remaining 50 yards for the touchdown. It was his only catch of the day. The Tigers went for two, but a Burrow pass failed.
LSU's defense, which allowed two straight touchdown drives late in the second quarter and another in the third to fall behind 21-10, then stopped Auburn and got the ball back with 5:38 to play and down 21-19.
The Tigers benefited from a key pass interference penalty on second and 10 against Auburn cornerback Jamel Dean for 15 yards and a first down to the Auburn 24-yard line with 1:14 to go. LSU kept it on the ground from there to set up the game-winning field goal.
"Those are tough calls," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, whose secondary was called for pass interference multiple times. "Those are tough calls. We put ourselves in position. It was tough."
LSU had built a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. And then, splat, as Auburn took a 21-13 lead into the final period.
Auburn scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions — two at the end of the second quarter and one to open the third quarter — to take a commanding, 21-10 lead at the 10-minute mark of the third quarter. LSU cut that to 21-13 with 4:09 left in the third period on a 26-yard field goal by Tracy. It drove 60 yards in 10 plays, but could not punch it in.
Auburn drove 75 yards in 10 plays and 66 yards in nine plays on its last two possessions of the first half to take a 14-10 lead into the break.
LSU opened the second half with what looked like an impressive drive, but it stalled at the Auburn 45-yard line with a fourth-and-three situation. LSU gambled and faked the punt as punter Zach Von Rosenberg rushed toward the middle of the line, then jumped and threw a pass — Tim Tebow style. His heave was a bit too long for open tight end Foster Moreau, who could not quite make the catch.
Auburn took over at its 45 and drove 55 yards in seven plays over just 2:08 to take the 21-10 lead. On third and goal from the 4-yard line, quarterback Jarrett Stidham found wide receiver Darius Slayton wide open in the middle of the end zone for the touchdown.
Burrow completed 15 of 34 passes on the day for 249 yards and the one touchdown to Dillon. Stidham finished 16 of 28 for 198 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Tailback Nick Brossette led LSU with 69 yards rushing on 19 carries. Tailback JaTarvious Whitlow led Auburn with 104 yards on 22 carries.
On the second play of the game, LSU safety Grant Delpit intercepted a Stidham pass at the Auburn 34-yard line.
The Tigers promptly moved 34 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead with 9:59 to go in the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run on third and goal by tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who took the shotgun snap as a Wildcat quarterback with Burrow out wide as a receiver.
Burrow completed a third-and-11 pass of 15 yards to wide receiver Justin Jefferson to put LSU at the Auburn 8-yard line. After Brossette lost one yard, Burrow gained eight yards around end to the 1-yard line on a designed play.
Burrow was 3-of-4 passing on the drive for 27 yards and finished 6 of 11 for 78 yards in the first quarter. But by the end of the third quarter, Burrow was just 10 of 25 for 154 yards as he was pressured throughout the day.
The Tigers went up 10-0 with 8:37 to go before halftime on a 33-yard field goal by Tracy after a 75-yard drive in 10 plays. Tracy missed a 53-yard field goal in the first quarter wide right and short.
"I knew the Tigers were going to need something else from me," Tracy said of the miss.
Auburn answered that with a 75-yard drive in 10 plays to get within 10-7 on a 7-yard touchdown run by Whitlow with 5:06 to go before halftime.
LSU failed to move again on its next drive, and Auburn drove again to a 7-yard touchdown run by tailback Shaun Shivers with 1:31 to go in the second quarter for its first lead of the game at 14-10.
Penalties killed LSU in the first half as it drew eight for 76 yards, whereas Auburn had only three for 40 yards. LSU finished with nine penalties for 91 yards, and Auburn ended up passing that with nine for 111.
LSU won without starting left guard Garrett Brumfield, who left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return. True freshman Chasen Hines, a true freshman who only moved over from defense last month, replaced Brumfield.
"We knew it was going to be hard," Orgeron said. "We knew it would be tough to move the ball. But we never gave up."
And oh, Coach O has another signature win - signed with the single letter "O" over "AU" again.
"I'd say it qualifies as a big game," he said. "For today."