Nail-biters are the Norm when Auburn Meets LSU

By Brett Martel
AP Sports

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Auburn

and LSU know a thing or two about thrilling, must-see football — a

good deal of that knowledge comes from playing each other.

It’s hard to forget Demetrius Byrd’s last-second touchdown catch

against Auburn that helped propel LSU to an eventual national

championship two seasons ago.

Last year,

they were each undefeated when they met in another down-to-the-wire

affair. LSU won again, 26-21, on a touchdown pass from Jerrett Lee —

who at the time was a redshirt freshman without a college start — to

Brandon LaFell with just more than a minute remaining.

In 2006, it took Auburn safety Eric Brock’s jarring hit on LSU receiver

Craig Davis at the Auburn 4-yard line on the last play of the game to

preserve Auburn’s 7-3 win.

“My experience

right now is if you win the last play, you win the game,” Auburn

cornerback Walt McFadden said. “If we can just go out there and play

that last play, we’ll win. The last three years, it’s been a tough

game.”

In fact, more than the last three

Auburn-LSU games have been close. In 2005, LSU triumphed 20-17 when

Auburn kicker John Vaughn’s attempted tying field goal in overtime hit

an upright. In 2004, LSU was called for a disputed penalty while

blocking Auburn’s attempted game-winning extra point with just more

than a minute to go. Auburn connected on its second chance for a 10-9

victory.

Another thriller could be in the

cards on Saturday night in Death Valley. Both No. 9 LSU (5-1, 3-1 SEC)

and Auburn (5-2, 2-2) need to win coming off tough loses at home.

A 13-3 loss to Florida on Oct. 10 ended a streak of 32 Saturday night

home wins for LSU. The Tigers had last weekend off, reflecting on what

has gone wrong with their offense — ranked last in the SEC with an

average of 295 yards per game.

Last

weekend, Auburn faded against Kentucky, yielding two fourth-quarter

touchdowns in a 21-14 setback that came one week after a 44-23 loss at

Arkansas. Now Auburn needs help to win the SEC Western Division, but

help becomes irrelevant with another league loss.

The stakes are higher for LSU, which despite not resembling a national

title contender, remains in the hunt if it sweeps its final four

conference games, including a Nov. 7 contest at No. 1 Alabama.

Defeating Auburn guarantees LSU a shot to vault into first place in the SEC West at Tuscaloosa.

“All the goals we have on our team are still in front of us,” LSU left

tackle Ciron Black said. “Everything we want to achieve is right there.

Of course, we had a little downfall against Florida, but there were a

lot of good things that came of that game … things we’re going to

learn from.”

LSU quarterback Jordan

Jefferson, who was sacked five times and completed only one pass longer

than 20 yards against Florida, pledged to be more decisive throwing

downfield and trusting receivers Brandon LaFell and Terrance Toliver to

make plays.

Head coach Les Miles intends to give Jefferson more opportunities to throw deep, but also said the Tigers need to run better.

“We’re trying to run the ball more efficiently, and if we do that, we

feel like that will open up the opportunity to throw it,” Miles said.

“We spent a lot of time in the open week throwing the ball downfield,

and our guy can do that.”

Auburn hasn’t

had much trouble moving the ball, ranking eighth nationally with 464.9

yards per game. Running backs Ben Tate (122.3 yards per game) and

Onterio McCalebb (113.4 ypg) have led the charge. Auburn has made the

wildcat formation part of its offensive mix, while quarterback Chris

Todd, who runs Auburn’s spread attack, already has more TD passes (12)

than the team had all of last season (seven).

Auburn may have stumbled lately, but remains confident — and angry.

“There’s a lot of people upset,” Tate said. “There’s probably not going

to be a lot of people that expect us to go down there and do too much.

But we can upset them and shock everyone and be talked about again.”

Received 10/23/09 05:18 pm ET