LSU took the lead on Auburn less than four minutes into its Southeastern Conference opener Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers opened a 14-point lead less than 90 seconds after that and never led by fewer points the rest of the way in their 35-21 victory.
All in all, it was a fairly easy win — but you would never know that from the statistics, which show No. 6 LSU (4-0, 1-0) has plenty to work on in preparation for its visit to No. 9 Georgia (2-1, 1-0) this Saturday.
Auburn ran 85 plays, and LSU ran 66.
Auburn gained 21 first downs, and LSU had 16.
LSU had more yards than Auburn, but not as many as you’d expect in a game decided by three touchdowns. LSU’s 457 yards were 20 more than Auburn’s total.
“We’re pleased to a point, but we’re not satisfied,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We can play better, and we need to control these games. We put them on the field for 85 snaps, and you can’t do that.”
At the start, it didn’t appear Auburn would run nearly that many plays, even though that is its preference under first-year coach Gus Malzahn.
Auburn had eight possessions in each half, running 37 plays in the first while falling behind 21-0 and 48 in the second while trying to rally.
“I feel like everybody probably mentally may have gotten a little down,” LSU defensive end Jordan Allen said. “We are not communicating on some things, and we’ll get it straight.”
LSU allowed its two longest drives of the season — 94 and 88 yards, both of which ended in second-half touchdowns. The Tigers gave up gains of 14, 17, 15, 11, 52, 10, 42, 12, 12 and 31 yards after halftime.
The offense compounded matters in the fourth quarter by not moving the chains or running the clock efficiently after LSU took a 35-14 lead on the first play of the final period.
Running back Jeremy Hill had a career-high 184 yards and tied another career best with three touchdowns to help LSU build its sizable lead. But when the Tigers tried to keep the ball way from Auburn in the fourth quarter, it had far less success.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, a pass interference penalty on receiver Odell Beckham Jr. knocked LSU off schedule near midfield, leading to a punt.
Auburn scored to get within 14 midway through the fourth, and LSU turned to Hill to try to grind out first downs. But he gained 1 and 0 yards ahead of a Zach Mettenberger incompletion and another punt.
Jalen Mills’ interception got the ball back for LSU, but Hill had consecutive 2-yard losses before running for 5 ahead of another punt.
“We can run the football and finish the game in a fashion that controls to the end,” Miles said.
But they didn’t Saturday. Hill acknowledged that the offense “put our defense in tough positions” but gave credit to Auburn for making adjustments.
LSU could have made things easier on itself had it not squandered two scoring opportunities. Running back Terrence Magee lost a fumble at the Auburn 7 late in the first quarter, and Miles passed on a 30-yard field goal in the third quarter to try a fake on fourth-and-10, which came up 2 yards short.
“We left a lot of points out there,” receiver Jarvis Landry said.
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