Offensive balance fuels Tigers’ win

An explosion of fireworks just before kickoff added a heavy air of smoke to the already rainy air of Tiger Stadium.

Once the huge, white cloud drifted off to the southwest, LSU’s offense produced enough firepower in a 35-21 victory against Auburn.

Jeremy Hill rushed for 184 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns. No LSU running back had gained that many yards since Alley Broussard set a single-game school record with 250 yards against Ole Miss in 2004.

Overall, LSU rushed for 228 yards, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger completed 14 of 22 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown.

Jarvis Landry caught seven passes for 118 yards and a score.

All of it added up to an eerily balanced, 457-yard performance that contained many eye-catching moments and an occasional head-scratcher or two.

“Offensively, we made a lot of errors (Saturday night),” Mettenberger said. “But at the same time, we made a lot of plays early on.”

LSU had a clear advantage in the first quarter by outgaining Auburn 144-41.

That domination carried over into the second quarter as the home team’s 21-0 halftime lead was set in stone in the first 17½ minutes.

Hill rushed for 154 yards in the first half, 140 of those by the time LSU had taken a three-touchdown lead.

“The O-line did an amazing job (Saturday night), especially when we started out.” Hill said. “Those guys created gaping holes, and it was just up to me to make a couple of guys miss, and we did that.

“We were checking the ball at the line of scrimmage to certain plays depending on their front. Zach did a great job of getting us into the right plays, and the offensive line did a great job of blocking.”

LSU needed just four plays from scrimmage to notch 14 points in the first 5:04 of the game.

The first big salvo came on LSU’s third offensive play. On third-and-2 at the Auburn 49, Hill got through the middle of the line, dodged a tackle, cut left at the 30, and the rest was smooth sailing to the end zone.

On the next series, a dropped punt gave LSU the ball at the Auburn 10.

One play later, Hill’s 10-yard touchdown run ended a three-second drive that put LSU ahead 14-0 with 9:56 remaining in the first quarter.

LSU’s final big blow of the first half came from Hill early in the second quarter. His 54-yard burst to the Auburn 1 set up J.C. Copeland’s leaning 1-yard touchdown run and a 21-0 Tiger lead with 12:34 left before halftime.

However, there were some blemishes among all of the photogenic LSU highlights. To note:

Three false-start penalties on LSU in the first quarter.

An injury to starting right guard Trai Turner late in the first quarter.

Terrance Magee’s fumble at the Auburn 7 to end a potential scoring drive with 1:40 remaining in the first quarter.

Punts on LSU’s last three drives of the first half, perhaps a by-product of Turner’s injury.

More defensive pressure on Mettenberger in the first half than he had experienced in any entire game this season.

A holding penalty on wide receiver Kadron Boone in the third quarter that wiped out a would-be 53-yard scoring pass off a wide-receiver screen from Mettenberger to Jarvis Landry.

But on the same series, LSU responded with Hill’s 6-yard touchdown run for a 28-7 lead with 10:08 to go in the third quarter.

And after an Auburn score cut LSU’s lead to 28-14, LSU came back with Mettenberger’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Landry on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The offensive finish was less than desirable with two three-and-outs for a total of 0 yards while trying to protect a 14-point lead.

“We started off well,” Hill said. “We’ve just got to finish. That’s the kind of the bitter taste you get in your mouth when you finish a game like that.”

In all, though, it was a night in which LSU showed off multiple facets of a balanced offense that still has room to grow.