This was the performance that everyone associated with Auburn football needed.
Head coach Gus Malzahn had lost three consecutive games to LSU, and Auburn fans would have been furious if this week was another loss to the Bayou Bengals. The Tigers’ players needed to win this game to build confidence and to give themselves an outside chance of competing for the SEC West division title.
Lastly, Auburn fans just needed something to feel good about, and a beatdown of LSU certainly goes a long way toward making that happen.
On the field, it was as complete a team performance against an upper-echelon SEC team that Auburn has had, maybe since it defeated LSU 41-7 back in 2014. The Tigers’ defense was strong from the start as they forced two turnovers, four punts and even scored a touchdown in the first half when defensive back Christian Tutt returned a fumble 26 yards.
Auburn’s offense closed out the half with a 99-yard touchdown drive that demonstrated an attack the fans have been craving to see all season and put the Tigers up 21-0. Once Auburn scored on the first possession of the second half to go up 28-3, the game was over, even though there was still a little over 26 minutes left to play.
LSU’s offense was never able to get anything of consequence going against the Auburn defense, meanwhile, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix led Auburn to its highest scoring output of the year.
Take a look at three things that led to Auburn’s dominant 48-11 victory over LSU.
Auburn’s one turnover happened when standout receiver Seth Williams fumbled the ball out of the endzone as he was about to score, which gave LSU the ball back early in the game. Aside from that, the good Tigers protected the football and played a clean game. Quarterback Bo Nix played great and did not put the ball in jeopardy once on the day. The same thing can’t be said about the LSU Tigers.
LSU’s freshman quarterback TJ Finley started the game but didn’t finish it. After Finley had a very good first start of his career last week against South Caroline, he had a game that he would like to forget. Finley was eventually benched, but not before throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble while getting sacked.
The turnovers that Auburn’s defense forced in the first half directly led to the first 14 points of the game and bought time for the Auburn offense to find its footing. That is now two weeks in a row that Auburn has won the turnover margin and won the game.
Auburn won in the trenches
Auburn’s offensive line has been the most maligned position group from fans and media alike for the last few years. Some of that has been deserved, but the Tigers’ offensive line has turned in four straight performances that were good enough to win games. Today the line did a nice job of protecting Bo Nix against an LSU defense that led the SEC in sacks entering the game. Not only did they protect Nix, but the offensive line cleared the way for Auburn to rush for over 200 yards again.
On the other hand, Auburn has been known for strong defensive line units for decades. But, this year the defensive line has struggled to find consistent play with the absence of Auburn’s All-SEC defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson. Against LSU, the 2020 Auburn defensive front completely shut down the opposition. The Tigers defensive line accrued three sacks, forced a fumble, came up with an interception and held LSU to under two yards per carry when the first teamers were on the field.
Auburn’s advantage up front on both sides of the ball was critical to the lopsided victory.
Bo Nix leads the way
It seems like Bo Nix and offensive coordinator Chad Morris are settling into an identity for the Tigers offense. Over the last couple of weeks the Tigers have focused the passing game on quick throws, often with some misdirection or play-action. This strategy allows Nix to quickly identify his targets and make throws that are low-risk. Nix is still trying to become more comfortable in drop back passing scenarios and throws down the field, but to his credit, he did connect on a deep shot with speedy receiver Anthony Schwartz for a 91-yard touchdown today. Hopefully, that can build Nix’s confidence and spur on the Tigers’ offense to new heights for the rest of the season.
However, the area that Nix impacts the game the most is with his legs. Today Bo Nix rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown in addition to scrambles that avoid sacks and escape pressure. It seems that the Auburn quarterback wants to run, and the Tigers’ offensive staff is finding ways to use that desire constructively.
Today Bo Nix threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to the aforementioned damage he did on the ground. Nix’s incredibly productive and efficient day juxtaposed with the quarterback performance from LSU is what led to this game becoming a blowout in Auburn’s favor.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @z_m_shaw