LSU defense stifles Auburn
Jefferson threw for a career-high 242 yards, including two touchdown passes, and scrambled for another score to lead No. 9 LSU to a 31-10 victory over fading Auburn on Saturday night.
"We always knew we could do this as an offense," Jefferson said. "We picked the right time tonight to do it. It was important for me to do this as well. During the bye week we really worked hard on all the things that we had mistakes on."
After passing for 96 yards in a 13-3 loss to Florwhida two weeks ago, Jefferson quickly put that performance behind him with a touchdown pass to Terrance Toliver on LSU's first series.
Toliver had a career-high nine catches for 86 yards, Brandon LaFell caught a 17-yard touchdown pass and freshman Russell Shepard ran 69 yards for his first career TD.
"I feel like we could have been doing this all year," Toliver said. "We executed the deep ball well today."
LSU's defense was impressive as well, causing two turnovers and sacking Auburn's Chris Todd four times.
Auburn came into the game ranked eighth nationally in total offense, averaging 464.9 yards, but managed only 193 against LSU. Running back Ben Tate was held to 67 yards, 55 yards below his average coming in. Onterio McCalebb had only 3 yards on three carries.
"They beat us in about every phase of football game, from the beginning to the end and probably everywhere in between," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "Make no mistake about it, (LSU has) one of the best defenses in the country. We got exposed tonight in some areas. I think that was evident."
The sacks were refreshing for LSU's defense, which entered the game ranked last in the Southeastern Conference with five and hadn't had any sacks in four games before nearly doubling its season total. LSU's first sack of the game by linebacker Harry Coleman resulted in a fumble by Todd, which safety Danny McCray recovered on the Auburn 17 to set up LSU's second touchdown on Jefferson's 15-yard scramble.
The victory assured LSU (6-1, 4-1) a chance to vault into first place in the SEC Western Division when the Tigers play at Alabama on Nov. 7.
Auburn (5-3, 2-3) has now dropped three straight after opening the season with victories in their first five games.
Auburn effectively buried itself under 64 yards in penalties and three turnovers in the first half, when LSU jumped out to a 17-0 lead.
Auburn was shut out in the first half for the first time this season and did not score until Wes Byrum's 24-yard field goal with 9:21 left in the third quarter made it 24-3. Auburn's only touchdown came on a 1-yard pass from backup quarterback Neil Caudle to Philip Lutzenkirchen with 3 seconds left in the game.
Todd finished 8 of 14 for 47 yards and one interception. After throwing for 12 TDs in Auburn's first five games, Todd has not thrown any in the last three, but Chizik stopped short of saying his starting job was in jeopardy.
"I know what's on people's minds but it's the whole offense," Chizik said. "We had 42 yards at halftime. You can't pin that on one guy."
Jefferson wasn't flawless either, losing one fumble only a few yards from Auburn's end zone and taking three sacks. Still, he completed 21 of 31 passes, his longest pass going for 31 yards to Rueben Randle, and was not intercepted.
"He was really, really accurate and put the ball about the only place you could put it," Chizik said of LSU's sophomore quarterback, who was making his ninth career start. "They hit some underneath, intermediate ones as well, but it was the deep balls that got us. He threw them with a really nice touch."
Having pledged to throw deep more after completing only one pass longer than 20 yards against Florida, Jefferson did so on his first series, looking for Toliver and drawing a pass interference penalty on Neiko Thorpe.
Soon after, Auburn's Zac Etheridge was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on LaFell on an incomplete pass, a second 15-yard foul on the drive. That set up Jefferson's timing pass to Toliver in the corner of the end zone.
LSU's defense produced another turnover on Auburn's next drive when Chris Hawkins made a difficult one-handed interception of Todd's pass along the right sideline.
Auburn's third turnover of the first half, a muffed punt by Philip Pierre-Lewis, led to McCray's second fumble recovery and set up Josh Jasper's 32-yard field goal.