First things first: calm the hell down.
LSU won, and winning is better than losing. Billy's already brought up the mantra of Delusional Optimism so I repeat it here for you to keep repeating until you cleanse yourself:
We do not care about moral victories, therefore we do not care about moral losses.
Don't feel better yet? OK, let's give you some history. LSU has won seven games in Auburn. Ever. Going into this game, LSU was only 3-9 on the Plains since 1980 and even worse, LSU had been 1-5 in their last six trips to that godforsaken town. If LSU wins in Auburn on their next trip, it will tie the school record for longest win streak at Auburn. I'm just saying, bad things happen to LSU at Auburn.
And bad things happened in this game. This is a young LSU team, forced to play a lot of freshmen due to a rash of injuries and personnel losses. Since the beginning of August, LSU has lost their starting running back, left tackle, linebacker, and Honey Badger. That's a lot of front end talent, as well as lots of depth on top of it. There's no way to sugarcoat that, those kind of personnel losses are huge and cannot just be papered over without missing a beat.
And this was the team's first legitimate test, on the road in the SEC. We've put a lot of faith in the Mettensavior, but this was his first road start in his career. He was bound to make mistakes, and boy, did he deliver on that front.
LSU gained 115 yards in 20 plays on the first two drives of the game, eating up 9:37 of clock. LSU made two trips to the red zone, and even a Mettenberger fumble set up a safety for the defense. The score was 9-0, and everyone watching the game was getting the whiff of blowout. Auburn's offense aspired to three and out on their first three possessions. As they punted the ball away, their offense had run 7plays for -7 yards, punted twice, and given up two points. LSU had the ball and a chance to knock Auburn to the mat early in the game.
And then Mettenberger fumbled the ball.
This is what young teams do. They make mistakes and they give teams life. Last year's LSU team might not have driven down the field and made it 16-0, but they probably wouldn't have given the ball right back to Auburn. And if they did, the defense likely would have answered the call. But this is not last year. This team is still learning and does not have that killer instinct. Auburn took three plays to drive 26 yards and score a touchdown, and the game was on.
Again, LSU could have responded. Instead, the offense sputtered, moving in fits and spurts while Auburn put together another pretty good drive to take a 10-9 lead into the half. This what young team's do. They lose focus, they make silly errors, and they turn a game that felt like a blowout into a dogfight.
This was the first real test of what this team was made of. How would this team respond? It responded like it has responded pretty much every time it has been challenged in the Miles Era, by the defense answering the call and strangling the life out of the other team.
For all of the hand wringing over the game, LSU responded well to being down at the half to a bitter rival in a place where LSU always seems to find a way to lose. Auburn's third quarter offense looked a lot like their first quarter offense, gaining -4 yards on 7 plays. Auburn turned the ball over twice, throwing one pick and also letting LSU's special teams get in on the act and recover a fumble.
While that isn't pretty, it was enough. The offense took advantage of the fumble and kicked a field goal to take the lead. The interception wiped out good field position for Auburn, and eliminated a big threat. Auburn would only cross midfield once in the second half, but the defense held and forced a punt from the 40. Auburn never got in scoring position, and LSU hung on for dear life.
Actually, the LSU offense put together two nice fourth quarter drives of eight plays to run some clock and help put the game away. It would be nice to run those drives into points, but it's better than going three and out. The offense at least contributed, which is a low bar admittedly.
The odd thing about this game is that I was never really nervous that LSU might lose it. LSU took advantage of their opportunity to take the lead, and then let the defense turn out the lights. Auburn simply couldn't move the football outside of that second quarter. Sure, there was always the risk of a big play or a meltdown, but those never happened. The team answered the call.
This was a gut check game. Teams often have to win on nights they are not playing their best, and that's what happened for LSU. The team let the opponent and the crowd back into the game, but then found a way to shut the door. The team didn't fold, and in fact their resolved stiffened. This team lacks a killer instinct, which is a concern, but it is not without character. The young team didn't panic. The defense, especially, methodically choked the life out of Auburn and got the only thing that matters: a win.
Are there concerns?
Of course. We're delusional, not stupid. The receivers couldn't catch a cold. The offensive line had a miserable night in pass protection. Procedure penalties killed drives. The team couldn't get short yardage runs on third down. Clock management reared its ugly head in the final minutes.
A lot of these issues aren't systemic, they are just a matter of focus. OK, the offensive line is a big concern as is the team's inability to get big rushing yards on 3rd and short. LSU has always prided itself on getting two yards on 3rd and 2, even though you know we're running right at you.
But I can't help think that if Mettneberger doesn't fumble and give Auburn life in the first quarter, we're talking about an entirely different game. However, you'd rather have your first tough challenge against a team that you hold a talent advantage over. You don't want to be asking your first gut check questions against Florida.
This team is not good enough to take anyone lightly. It's time to focus. Hopefully, that's what the players take out of this game. This team is not going to roll through the schedule and win every game by 20 like last year. Auburn provided the wake up call.
It's up to the players not to hit snooze button.