Auburn earned its fourth win of the season by blowing out the LSU Tigers. The game got off to a bit of a slow start as neither offense was able to get much going in the first quarter. However, the Auburn defense set the tone for the rest of the contest in the second quarter by forcing two turnovers and scoring a touchdown.
Once Auburn took the lead 14-0 on a fumble return for a touchdown by Auburn defensive back Christian Tutt, the game was never in doubt again. The Tigers offense marched 99 yards for a touchdown drive to go up 21-0 right before the half, and the rout was on from there. Over the course of the second half, Auburn extended its lead to 45 points at one time, before LSU scored a garbage-time touchdown to make the final score 48-11.
The Auburn Tigers got a big victory over a traditional rival and seem to be finding their footing in the middle of the season. Take a look at three numbers, two notes and one quote that shine a light on exactly how Auburn beat LSU in such dominating fashion.
Auburn’s offense completed an eight-play, 99-yard touchdown drive to go up 21-0 when quarterback Bo Nix found freshman receiver Ze’Vian Capers for a nine-yard touchdown pass. This drive put the game out of reach, but maybe more importantly showed what Auburn fans have been waiting to see out of offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ group all season.
The drive mixed runs and passes effectively, spreading the ball around to multiple players. Standout freshman tailback Tank Bigsby moved Auburn from the shadow of its own goal post with a 26-yard run, and the Tigers never looked back. On the march down the field, three different players caught passes and three other players had rushing attempts.
If the Tigers can recreate the rhythm of that scoring drive moving forward, Auburn will be much better positioned to put up points week in and week out.
The Auburn defense managed to sack the LSU quarterbacks four times on Saturday. That is not a number that is mind-blowing, but considering that the Tigers’ defense had only accrued eight sacks in the first five games, the pass rush versus LSU was definitely the best of the season.
Not only did Auburn record four sacks, but there were many other pass attempts from LSU quarterbacks where Tigers’ defenders hurried or hit the signal-caller. No quarterback thrives while being hit and pressured, but the visiting Tigers’ young freshmen both struggled to find any success against the Auburn pass rush.
Auburn’s ability to keep LSU from converting any big plays in the passing attack meant they were never able to threaten the defense throughout the entire game.
For as much as LSU’s quarterbacks had a day to forget, Auburn’s Bo Nix had a day he will always remember. The difference in the game could really be boiled down to quarterback play. Auburn’s sophomore signal-caller had 381 yards combined between his passing and rushing, along with four total touchdowns. The Auburn offense was efficient through the air and effective on the ground in large part due to Nix.
As the year has progressed, the offense seems to have arrived at an identity of running the ball (Nix is now a big part of this) and throwing quick passes, often with fakes or misdirection. Both of those scenarios provide Bo Nix the ability to use his athleticism and take advantage of defenses. Expect to see this plan continue through the rest of the year.
Auburn’s offensive line makes the difference
The Auburn offensive line turned in its best performance of the year against LSU. The Tigers did not allow a single sack and also made room for Auburn rushers to gain 206 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Auburn has now rushed for over 200 yards in four consecutive contests. As mentioned earlier, Auburn’s pass protection was great as well, especially considering that LSU led the SEC in sacks entering the game.
Auburn’s offensive line is a group that struggled early in the year and is working to forge itself into a strong unit. If the linemen can continue to improve at their current rate, the Auburn offense will have a chance to be a dynamic group.
Auburn’s secondary shuts down star WR for the second week in a row
The leader in receiving yards in the SEC is Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore. Moore has racked up 829 yards in six contests this season. Last week when Auburn faced Ole Miss, Moore was held to a paltry 16 yards on five receptions.
The SEC leader in receiving touchdowns is LSU’s standout receiver Terrace Marshall, Jr. The LSU wideout has scored nine touchdowns through the air in only five games. However, this week against Auburn, Marshall managed only 28 yards on four catches and was unable to find the endzone.
That is two weeks in a row that Auburn has faced premier talents in the conference at wide receiver and has answered the challenge with great performances. The Auburn secondary led by cornerback Roger McCreary, nickel corner Christian Tutt and safeties Jamien Sherwood and Smoke Monday deserve a lot of credit for the work they have done this year. If the Tigers pass defense can continue to be strong, that will help pass rushers continue to make a big impact over the final stretch of the season.
“I told our guys, ‘We need to rush for 200 yards against these guys, we need to stop the run, make them one-dimensional, get after the rookie quarterback and take some shots.’ Really, that was really the game plan in a nutshell.” – Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn on his team’s plan for LSU
Kudos to Gus Malzahn and company for having the right plan of attack and executing it perfectly. Auburn wanted to protect its quarterback with a strong rushing attack and conversely, the Tigers wanted to force LSU’s inexperienced signal-caller into obvious passing situations by stopping the run. That is a tried and true formula that once again proved successful for Auburn and allowed the Tigers to pick up a big win against LSU.
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