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LSU 22, Auburn 21: Post-Game Review

Tigers hold on through the roller coaster ride for a landmark victory.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

LSU walked into Jordan-Hare Stadium, landed the first punch, took Auburn’s best counter and then had the last laugh for a landmark win.

And yes, when you can beat your second top-10 team in just 14 days, with what may have been the first walk-off field goal in regulation in school history, that’s a landmark. This team may have grown up on Saturday. We’ll see how that continues as we hit the meat of LSU’s schedule in October. And what does it say that TWO top-10 opponents doesn’t constitute the hard part of this slate?

This game came down to timing and field position. The Tigers won the turnover battle, won the third-down battle, were perfect in the red zone and were able to make just enough explosive plays to make the difference. Auburn was slightly more consistent on average, but made the mistakes that LSU ultimately needed.

So let’s breakdown the biggest win of the Ed Orgeron Era to date:

  • LSU’s defense took no time in announcing their authority here, with Devin White shedding a lineman and stuffing Shaun Shivers on the first play.
  • And on the second, Jarrett Stidham just makes an awful throw that Grant Delpit was happy to take off his hands. It was a roll-out play with two receivers crossing and Delpit and Kristian Fulton, but Delpit stays over the top and breaks on his man. If the ball is thrown a couple steps quicker, Stidham might’ve had his man, but he hesitates and throws the ball behind the receiver, right to Delpit.
  • Let it be said that LSU came out with a game plan that was exactly what I prescribed on Friday, and that was to come right at the Auburn front, make them defend sideline to sideline and stretch their zone coverage. Right out of the shoot, a trips set to the field, basic levels set with an on-time throw to Justin Jefferson.
  • And on LSU’s second play, Auburn’s Deshaun Davis (who was very impressive, as was most of this front) shoots the A-gap on a screen attempt (hey) and when the play was broken up, got right in Joe Burrow’s face talking trash. Not something that particularly bothers me, but relevant later, I think.
  • Another levels concept gets Jefferson open over the middle on third-and-15, and Burrow throws it perfectly on time to help set up the score. Steve Ensminger (who also turned 60 on Saturday) was aggressive from the jump on this, and Burrow paid that off early on with some money timing throws. With a few minor quibbles, there wasn’t much to complain about from a play-calling perspective here.
  • Delpit comes through on the very next drive, flying up on a quick throw to Ryan Davis to force a fumble/incomplete pass — although Davis had fallen on it even if it had been reviewed. He was seeing everything in this game, and was near perfect, aside from giving up Auburn’s final touchdown in the red zone when he took a false step or two on orbit-sweep play action. He was a player we knew would have to come through in this game with Auburn’s style of offense, and he did.
  • Auburn followed it’s expected script as well, trying to go wide to loosen up the middle of the defense, but LSU was more than ready with Delpit and Michael Divinity both doing great jobs of setting the edge and playing the alley, while the LSU line helped keep White and Jacob Phillips clean inside.
  • The third/fourth-and-one sequence showed this perfectly. On fourth down, Glen Logan stonewalls the play-side guard and tackle from blocking down past him to the next level, Breiden Fehoko controls the center and White is through the gap before the pulling guard can even see him.
  • LSU lost Ray Thornton to a concussion on the opening kick, meaning the Tigers had just two outside linebackers they really wanted to play. But credit Divinity and Andre Anthony for answering the bell and playing some really nice football, with a combined 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. Both players did really nice jobs of setting the edge on some of Auburn’s misdirection plays.
  • On Auburn’s fourth possession, Anthony just completely embarrassed the left tackle with a speed rush on third down.
  • Back to play calling — I even love some of the quarterback runs (another constraint I was in favor of using), Ensminger called in this one, and a couple were just one block away from a very nice gain. Ironically though, Burrow could have had a few more nice runs had he just pulled the ball on a couple of shotgun zone runs (he probably didn’t have the option).
  • I didn’t have a huge problem on the Wildcat plays either; they used a shorter snap, probably due to Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s height, which works great for short yardage. But I would prefer a little misdirection, such as with a jet-sweep fake or read.
  • In the second quarter, Auburn started to figure a few things out through the air. They went away from the quick game on first down and were able to hit some down-field passes, and then their tempo went to work and re-opened some of those quick plays to the flat on the first scoring drive. And credit the Auburn offensive line for getting some push as well. In terms of the second half, it seemed like Malzahn went back to the power/quick game combo more, and that just wasn’t a smart call against this defense.
  • On the second touchdown, Phillips guesses wrong, gets caught up in the A gap and couldn’t get into position to tackle JaTarvious Whitlow.
  • Special teams gave LSU a plus-five advantage on average field position, with Zach Von Rosenberg averaging nearly 53-yards per kick. And right before the half he blasted a 58-yarder, under pressure, exactly when the Tigers needed it to avoid giving Auburn one last chance to try and grab points.
  • Speaking of Von Rosenberg, I loved the fake punt call on LSU’s first possession out of the half. It’s a look I’ve never seen before with Foster Moreau slipping out at the line of scrimmage while Von Rosenberg ran up to throw a pass. Yes, having your punter throw that kind of pass is less than ideal, but Von Rosenberg is a former high school quarterback and pitcher, so he presumably has a little more dexterity than average. And despite Auburn being in punt-safe coverage, the play caught them perfectly by surprise. Just didn’t hit the pass. If it’s complete, that’s a huge momentum swing and confidence builder, which can be huge in a road game like this.
  • Overall, Burrow is going to have to even things out — that second/third quarter stretch where he went something like three-of-14 can’t happen. Some of that involves him maybe getting a little too greedy and taking shots when he could have laid up, and some of that is play-calling as well. He’s definitely at his best throwing the quick slants and intermediate routes, where he can put some zip on the ball.
  • But he definitely saved his best for last in the fourth quarter. The 71-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Dillon was an absolute STRIKE. Play-action on the play didn’t hold Auburn’s linebackers at all. Two deep routes outside to split the safeties, with Dillon on a cross designed to attack the void. The defense had this well-defended, to be honest (the cornerback tackling Dee Anderson on the play helped), but Burrow puts the ball right over the linebackers and between the safeties. Dillon catches it perfectly and shows the speed that made him a four-star recruit a few years ago.
  • It’s also great to see him make a play like that — Dillon lost his father this offseason and missed most of spring practice as a result.
  • And on the final drive Burrow snapped off a perfect out cut to Dee Anderson that was high, outside and where only Anderson could catch it, and shortly thereafter he snapped off another slant play to Stephen Sullivan.
  • Credit to Anderson for making a couple of nice timely catches in this game. He’s a player that’s had a lot of lows here and stayed in the doghouse, and expected to be passed on by this year by freshmen. But he came through when he was called upon this week. Let’s see if he builds on that.
  • On officiating, to me this was a game that the referees never really had control of from the jump. Davis taunts Burrow directly, no flag, and a couple minutes later White draws one for making Cam Newton’s Superman display to...nobody. Seems fine. The defensive backs for both teams were playing things tight to the vest, but in the end the final two pass-interference calls were right on: Jeremiah Dinson grabbed Jonathan Giles by the waist and re-routed him nearly 10 yards down the field, with the ball still in Burrow’s hands; and then Jamel Dean was blatantly grabbing Jefferson’s arm down the field. You can hate the timing all you want, but a foul is a foul, especially when it is that blatant. In closing...
  • Meanwhile, LSU’s offensive line really shored up its pass-protection issues this week. They gave Austin Deculus (who had one or two other flinches in addition to the two false starts he was flagged for) some help at right tackle, but he was still able to hold his own against Nick Coe a few times — although Coe made some impressive plays against the run on him. He’s a stud. Lloyd Cushenberry remains the Tigers’ most consistent lineman, and is able to hold his own on single blocks and combo-blocks well too. Garrett Brumfield and Damien Lewis remain inconsistent. Chasen Hines had a few hicccups overall, but handled himself well as a true freshman going up against a fantastic defensive line.
  • And then Cole Tracy — what can you say? My only real concern on that final kick was the possibility of a block. He has been everything he was advertised to be and more. Although hopefully LSU won’t need him to walk-off too many more games this year.