9/24/16 5:45 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans, it’s Game Day,
Today at 5 p.m., LSU and Auburn will face off at Jordan-Hare Stadium in what should be a great game and a very pivotal one for both teams. The battle of the Tigers commences at 5 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN with Mark Jones (pxp), Rod Gilmore (analyst) and Quint Kessenich (sideline) on the call. To help get you pumped for this hugely important game, LSU has released another hype video, this one being the official LSU-Auburn trailer – and it’s a doozy!
Since 1988, the LSU-Auburn series has been filled with memorable moments that, in many instances, have led to catchy names. In 1988, LSU’s Tommy Hodson hit Eddie Fuller in the back of the end zone on fourth down with 1:41 left to lift the Tigers to a 7-6 win over fourth-ranked Auburn. The noise from the stadium crowd after the play registered on a seismograph across campus prompting the game to be called “The Earthquake Game” (see video). In 1994, Auburn intercepted five passes in the fourth quarter, returning three for TDs, and posted a 30-26 win over LSU in a game that became known as “The Interception Game.” In 1996, with the old Auburn Sports Arena burning to the ground a couple hundred yards away, LSU beat Auburn, 19-15, in a game that came to be known as “The Night the Barn Burned.” And who can forget the game in that special 2007 season when Demetrius Byrd caught a 22-yard TD pass from Matt Flynn with just one second left to send LSU to a 30-24 win over Auburn in Tiger Stadium? After coming up with the catch, Byrd gave the “Can’t See Me” gesture to the LSU student section, leading to that game being known as the “Can’t See Me Game” (see video). How today’s game plays out and how it will be remembered is anyone’s guess, but some are already calling the “Buyout Bowl” or the “Hot Seat Game” because of what’s seemingly at stake for Guz Malzahn or Les Miles should his team lose the contest.
As promised, here are a few keys to LSU coming away with its third consecutive win, one which would tie Les Miles with Charles McClendon for the most SEC wins by a Tiger coach (65).
KEYS TO AN LSU VICTORY OVER AUBURN
No Second Half Letdown
Whether it be penalties, turnovers, lack of intensity or just overall sloppiness, LSU has not played well in the second half. Actually, that may be putting it lightly. As reported by ESPN, only three FBS teams (UMass, Bowling Green and Memphis) have scored fewer second-half touchdowns than LSU’s two, and the Tigers rank 96th nationally with 469 second-half yards. Making matters worse, LSU’s four second-half turnovers are tied for 11th-most in the FBS. Simply put, for LSU to win today’s game, the Fighting Tigers need to stay focused and give it their all for 60 minutes.
Smart Game Plan Around Etling
From protection to balanced play-calling to giving Danny Etling easy throws early on, LSU needs to help Etling in his first major road contest in an LSU uniform. This means don’t fall into the “run, run, pass” routine that often creates third-and-long situations. It also means accounting for speedy Auburn rushers like Carl Lawson and giving Etling a clean pocket to throw from. LSU showed great balance last week against Mississippi State, just running it seven more times than they threw it. The purple and gold Tigers also gave Etling some check-down passes to running backs early on and have done a good job of sharing the football with other skilled playmakers. Expect much of the same this week as LSU tries to get its new starting quarterback in a groove early on the road.
Stop the Run
Without a significant threat at quarterback, running the football is key to Auburn’s success. So far this season, Auburn is averaging 194 yards per game through the air, which is 10th in the conference. Meanwhile, Auburn is first in the conference in rushing with a 262 yards per game average. It’s imperative that LSU slow down running backs Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway and force passing situations on third down. If LSU does so, that will allow Dave Aranda more opportunities to get creative and get after Auburn’s quarterbacks. Auburn is 98th in the country in sacks allowed this season, thus long third down situations could open the door for more Arden Key in the backfield.
Win on Special Teams
This can’t be stressed enough. Both Auburn’s and LSU’s special teams have taken their lumps, but in a game that’s predicted to be a defensive battle, the punting and kicking games will be vital. So far, Auburn has a huge advantage in field goals, as Daniel Carlson has nailed all six of his attempts this season. LSU has been susceptible to blocked extra points, and Colby Delahoussaye has only attempted (and made) one field goal this season. Field position is key, first and foremost, but when the opportunity arises, LSU has to capitalize with points inside the red zone. Auburn’s defense forced Texas A&M into kicking four field goals on five red zone trips last week. If they do the same to LSU, Delahoussaye will need to make every kick count.
Heavy Dose of Healthy Fournette
If Leonard Fournette gets any momentum, good luck trying to stop him. Auburn learned that the hard way last year when Fournette ran for 228 yards and three touchdowns in a lopsided victory. For LSU to have the same success running the football today, the Tigers’ offensive line will need to be physical off the edge and manhandle Auburn’s smaller defensive end front. Running Fournette off tackle should give him an opportunity to pick up some momentum and turn upfield. If LSU is successful in doing that, a heavy dose of Fournette should pave the way to victory.
One note related to that last key: LSU starting right tackle Toby Weathersby reportedly did not travel with the team to Auburn. Weathersby sprained his right ankle in the first half of the game against Mississippi State and didn’t return to action. Coach Miles said earlier in the week that if Weathersby wasn’t able to play today, Maea Teuhema would take his place. This could prove to be significant in terms of depth, but I’m not worried at all about Teuhema starting. He played well in place of Weathersby in the second half last week and started 11 games at left guard last season.
Today’s closing tidbits:
• I’m very happy to report that the recent Shaquille O’Neal - Johnny Jones Golf Classic at Carter Plantation in Springfield raised a whopping $200,000 for area flood relief! For more on this, see this press release.
• Yesterday I mentioned that LSU baseball fall practice is starting tomorrow and today I have some practice and scrimmage times to give you. All are free and open to the public. Of course, dates and times are subject to change due to weather.
Sunday, 9/25: 1pm (scrimmage @ 3pm)
Monday, 9/26: 3pm (scrimmage @ 3pm)
Tuesday, 9/27: 3pm (scrimmage @ 4pm)
Thursday, 9/28: 3pm (scrimmage @ 5pm)
• Several football recruits being courted by both LSU and Auburn will be attending tonight’s game at Jordan-Hare including linebackers Will Ignont and Monty Rice. You might recall that those are two linebackers who had impressive camp performances at LSU during July’s “Elite Camp.”
• For all of you Louisiana High School Football fans, here’s a link to the LHSAA Scoreboard Twitter feed that you can use to access all of last night’s scores.
• If you’re in Auburn for today’s game, please make note of these Times of Interest.
• And if you’re looking for a place to watch the game with like-minded Tiger Fans, here are a few locations across the country where Alumni organizations will be hosting view-in parties.