LSU rides clutch defense to 27-23 win over Auburn
Published 7:54 pm Saturday, October 14, 2017
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — D.J. Chark returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown, Connor Culp kicked clutch field goals of 42 and 36 yards inside the final three minutes, and LSU rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat No. 10 Auburn 27-23 on Saturday.
LSU’s defense improved dramatically in the second half, not allowing a point. That enabled LSU (5-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) to win with special teams play.
Russell Gage made a diving 14-yard touchdown reception and had a 70-yard run that set up another TD for LSU.
Kerryon Johnson rushed for 156 yards and a short TD for Auburn (5-2, 3-1), which had won four in a row.
Arden Key’s sack of Jarrett Stidham with 2 seconds left squelched Auburn’s last hope of an improbable comeback, sending the volume in Tiger Stadium about as high as it has been this season despite an unusual number of empty seats visible for a competitive SEC game.
After LSU quarterback Danny Etling kneeled to end it, LSU players streamed wildly onto the field and then ran toward the corner of the end zone closest to their locker room to acknowledge the school’s frenzied student section.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron, under heavy scrutiny since a lopsided loss to Mississippi State and a stunning upset against Troy, calmly shook hands with Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who then walked away alone — save for police and camera men shadowing him — and cocked his head to the left as he appeared to ponder how his team was suddenly shut down after outscoring its previous three SEC opponents by 21 or more.
Auburn had only 64 yards of offense in the second half.
Derrius Guice rushed for 71 hard yards for LSU, including a crucial third-down conversion in which he ran through a tackler at the first-down marker, setting up the go-ahead field goal.
Etling finished 13 of 24 for 206 yards and one TD.
Stidham completed only nine of 26 passes — although some crucial ones were dropped — for 165 yards and one TD, a 49-yarder to Will Hastings.
Capitalizing on Chark’s fumble near mid-field, Stidham found Hastings open deep down the middle to make it 10-0. On Auburn’s next series, Ryan Davis’ 52-yard gain on a screen pass set up Johnson’s TD.
Auburn led 20-0 before LSU clawed back within single digits — thanks to Gage. His long run to the Auburn 7 on a jet sweep set up receiver Stephen Sullivan’s fourth-down score on another end around.
Gage’s TD made it 23-14 shortly before halftime.
Auburn: Because of its inability to mount any offense in the second half, Auburn missed a chance to continue climbing in the AP Poll on a weekend when several top 10 teams faltered.
LSU: Talent and effort appear to be progressively mitigating the squad’s relative youth and inexperience. LSU proved it could beat one of the SEC’s front-runners, and for a second straight week, LSU’s defense demonstrated it could close out a tight game, having done so at Florida a week earlier.
Auburn: Travels next week to Arkansas, which Auburn beat 56-3 last season.
LSU: LSU visits Ole Miss next week, seeking a second straight victory in the series.