After rout of AU, LSU readies for big showdown
LSU’s history-making run reached the two-thirds point of the season in the top-ranked Tigers’ 45-10 thrashing of reigning BCS champion and No. 19 Auburn in front of the second-largest crowd (93,098) in Tiger Stadium history on Saturday.
It was the largest margin of victory in LSU’s series with Auburn and came a week after the Tigers beat Tennessee 38-7 for the largest margin of victory in that series.
LSU is 8-0 for the first time since 1973 and 5-0 in the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers beat a ranked team for the fifth time this season and increased their average margin of victory to 28 points per game. They extended their school record streak to eight consecutive victories by 10-plus points to start a season.
These Tigers have yet to be tested, but that could change next time out. After an open date next week, LSU plays at No. 2 Alabama on Nov. 5. That game likely will determine the SEC West title, establish the favorite to win the overall SEC title and set up the victor to maintain or take the top spot in the BCS standings.
“We’re focused, and we’ve had one thing on our minds and that is to win a national championship,” LSU defensive end Michael Brockers said. “Nobody is going to stop us. Those eight games prepared us for this big-time showdown.”
The Tigers wrote their latest chapter without three leading players: defensive backs Tyrann Mathieu, the team’s biggest playmaker on defense, and Tharold Simon, as well as leading rusher Spencer Ware - suspended for violating an unspecified team rule. None of the suspended players were with the team Saturday, according to defensive end Sam Montgomery.
“We knew we had to come closer together as team,” safety Eric Reid said, “because people were going to talk and say negative things. We had to play for those guys and get a victory and show that even though they weren’t here, LSU can still win.”
Senior Ron Brooks stepped in for Mathieu and mimicked the play-making ability that allowed Mathieu to score two touchdowns on fumble returns earlier this season. Brooks did it via the pass, intercepting Clint Moseley, who was making his first start, and running 28 yards for a third-quarter touchdown that concluded a 10-minute blitz from late in the second quarter until midway through the third quarter during which the Tigers bolted from a 7-3 edge to a 42-3 cushion.
“I’m not trying to imitate (Mathieu),” Brooks said. “It’s not about me; it’s about my team. I’m just trying to contribute and help my team win.”
The Tigers filled in for Ware with a committee. Alfred Blue started in Ware’s place, and Michael Ford came in right behind him, but it was freshman Kenny Hilliard, who has been used primarily as a blocker, who had the biggest impact. Hilliard scored on touchdown runs of 9 and 1 yards and finished with 65 yards on 10 carries.
“It seems like there’s somebody new each week,” quarterback Jarrett Lee said.
Lee said Hilliard, 240 pounds, brought a similar physicality to that which Ware is noted for.
“Imagining him playing high-school football last year is pretty insane,” offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert said.
Blue had team highs of 12 carries and 82 yards as LSU finished with 174 yards on 36 carries.
LSU’s passing game continued to be efficient as the Tigers completed 16 of 23 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Lee was 14 of 20 for 165 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown pass to Rueben Randle. Backup Jordan Jefferson was 2 of 3 for 42 yards, all of his yards coming on a touchdown to Randle, who was one of seven Tigers to catch a pass.
“This is a momentum that was started at the beginning of the year,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We’ve put ourselves in position at this point to play a very significant game. It was a nice job and a game well played.”
LSU increased a tight 7-3 second-quarter lead into a 21-3 halftime cushion with back-to-back touchdown drives. It quickly turned into a rout during the third quarter as virtually every game has this season. Each victory has come by at least 13 points.
The Tigers’ first possession of the third quarter ended with Lee’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Russell Shepard for a 28-3 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Reid knocked the ball loose from Tre Mason and Tahj Jones recovered for LSU at the Auburn 22. A holding penalty pushed the Tigers back to the 31, but they immediately overcame that as Hilliard ran 25 yards to the 6. Hilliard then ran 5 yards, then the final yard for a touchdown and a 35-3 lead.
On Auburn’s next possession, Brooks made his interception and scored for a 42-3 lead.
“He’s an aggressive corner,” said Randle, who has practiced against Brooks for three years. “Coming in, I knew he was going to fill the shoes. I told him to do what he needed to do.”
Drew Alleman’s 36-yard field goal made it 45-3 with 13:56 left in the fourth quarter before Auburn finally got in the end zone and completed the scoring on Onterrio McCalebb’s 2-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal with 2:22 remaining.
“It all unraveled fast,” Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier said. “That’s why they are the No. 1 team in the nation. They came out here firing, and we weren’t ready for it. That’s why they deserve to be No. 1.”
McCalebb’s touchdown was far less dramatic than the one he had in last season’s meeting when he ran 70 yards for a tie-breaking touchdown that made the difference in Auburn’s 24-17 victory. That game, in which Auburn rushed for more than 400 yards, was very much on LSU’s mind.
“As a defense, we played with a chip on our shoulder, because of the way Auburn ran on us last year,” Reid said. “That was our focus. We wanted to come out and shut them down. We felt like we could have won. We were a couple of plays away.”
The Tigers held Michael Dyer, the third-leading rusher in the SEC, to 60 yards on 12 carries. They had a season-high six sacks against Moseley for 56 yards in losses. Moseley completed 12 of 20 for 145 yards, and Kiehl Frazier, who was used mainly as a runner, completed 2 of 4 for 16 yards. Frazier ran nine times for 31 yards.
LSU received the opening kickoff and drove 76 yards to a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Lee completed all four of his passes to account for 38 of the yards. Blue had a 5-yard gain, Ford had rushes of 8 and 2 yards and Hilliard ran 9 yards for the touchdown.
McCalebb had runs of 20 and 10 yards to help set up Cody Parkey’s 42-yard field goal that got Auburn within 7-3 after one quarter.
Jefferson threw his touchdown to Randle for a 14-3 LSU lead. The Tigers upped the lead to 21-3 at halftime after Lee threw his touchdown to Randle with 40 seconds left in the second quarter.
Before long, another outcome was decided with plenty of time still on the clock, and the crowd started chanting, “We want Bama.”
“This is why people come here,” Hebert said. “This is why people come to the SEC. They come to play in the games that everybody wants to see on TV, the games everybody talks about. To have the opportunity to play in a game like this in two weeks in Tuscaloosa (Ala.), I cannot say how excited and thankful I am.”