Auburn offense struggles in 12-10 loss to LSU
Auburn couldn't find the offense it needed to beat LSU, either from starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier or freshman Jonathan Wallace who was making his debut.
Frazier threw two interceptions, adding to his SEC-leading total, as Auburn took a halftime lead but was shut out in the second half of its 12-10 loss to No. 2 LSU on Saturday night.
Wallace, whose skills in practice had drawn compliments from his teammates, had three carries for 15 yards but did not attempt a pass. He made his first appearance in the second quarter.
Frazier completed 13 of 22 passes for 97 yards. His two interceptions gave him seven in four games for Auburn (1-3, 0-2 SEC).
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Wallace ''earned the right to play.''
''That's as simple as I can put it, and he will continue to earn the right to play some more,'' Chizik said, who later said ''I wouldn't read any more into that.''
Wallace was a hot postgame topic, because the lack of offense kept Auburn from pulling off the upset.
Onterrio McCalebb scored Auburn's touchdown on 4-yard run on the last play of the first quarter to make it 9-7 and from there it was nothing but field goals and defense.
McCalebb was held to 24 yards on 11 carries.
LSU's defense was dominant as Sam Montgomery delivered a first-quarter safety.
Auburn led 10-9 at halftime, but finished with only 183 yards - 86 rushing and 97 passing.
''We fought our tails off,'' said Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who had five catches for 29 yards. ''Defense played really well. Offense didn't. We kept the defense on the field most of the game, and you can't do that.''
LSU coach Les Miles said he can use the hard-fought win as ''a tremendous lesson'' for a team more accustomed to lopsided victories.
''We were tested and we answered the call,'' Miles said.
A fumbled punt return by Auburn's Quan Bray set up Drew Alleman's 30-yard field goal late in the third quarter that gave LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC) a 12-10 lead. Alleman missed a 34-yarder with 39 seconds remaining.
Auburn managed only one first down after Alleman's miss. Frazier's final pass was intercepted by Tharold Simon as the game ended.
''We didn't finish,'' Chizik said. ''There will be a day when we will. We will continue to grind and work until we can.''
Frazier said Auburn ''really left a lot of plays out there.''
''We played a great team,'' Frazier said. ''We have to give them all their credit. There's a reason why they're No. 2 in the country.''
LSU's only touchdown came on a 1-yard run by Michael Ford in the first quarter.
Miles called his team's performance ''not perfect.''
''It's something we'll certainly be able to teach from in a very aggressive manner,'' Miles said. ''There's work to do, but we'll take a victory on the road at Auburn.''
The win gave LSU its sixth straight 4-0 start and extended its streak of regular-season wins to 17, the longest in the nation.
LSU's Zach Mettenberger had two first-half fumbles, but threw a 33-yard pass to running back Spencer Ware on a key third down late in the game.
''That pretty much sealed the game for the most part, or at least it got it down to the wire,'' Chizik said.
Montgomery tackled Tre Mason in the end zone midway through the first quarter and Ford's 1-yard TD run four minutes later made it 9-0 LSU.
LSU outscored its first three opponents 145-31, but its conference opener was a much bigger challenge. LSU was favored by almost three touchdowns but managed only 182 yards rushing - almost 100 yards below its SEC-leading average.
''I'm very proud of the defensive strides we made,'' Chizik said. ''Do we have a long way to go? Absolutely.''
Ware, who was only fifth on the team with 38 yards rushing through three games, led LSU with 16 carries for 90 yards. Kenny Hilliard had 10 carries for 40 yards.
LSU held the ball for 11 plays on its opening drive, moving to the Auburn 2 before defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker recovered Mettenberger's fumbled snap. LSU center P.J. Lonergan left with a leg injury earlier in the series, and the fumble came on the snap from backup center Elliott Porter.
Mettenberger completed 15 of 26 passes for 169 yards.
Lonergan returned on LSU's next possession.
Mettenberger's second lost fumble was caused by Corey Lemonier's hit. Angelo Blackson recovered for Auburn at the LSU 26. Mason's 26-yard run set up McCalebb's 4-yard touchdown run.
Cody Parkey's 40-yard field goal late in the half gave Auburn a 10-9 halftime lead.
Chizik said he had ''a very heavy heart'' after learning a student assistant died shortly before the game. An Auburn spokesman said the student was Joe Bagwell, 23, of Huntsville, Ala. Bagwell was in his first season as a student coach after working as a student trainer in 2011.
Chizik did not provide further details.
''It's very tragic, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family,'' Chizik said.