LSU quarterback Joe Burrow said in his post game press conference that this LSU team is about the balance between the offense and defense. When one phase isn’t playing to its potential, the other picks them up.
That was the story of the Tigers during their 23-20 win over Auburn Saturday afternoon, when the offense scored almost 30 points below its season average and the defense made key adjustments throughout the game in order to come up with big red zone stops.
“(Big plays) can be very detrimental to what you’re doing, but it’s all about putting that play behind us,” said LSU linebacker Jacob Phillips. “Everybody is working hard, trying to do their job.”
The biggest was arguably to start the second half, when Auburn opened with a 70-yard run by running back D.J. Williams.
Williams would’ve scored if not for Grant Delpit hustling down field to push him out of bounds at the LSU nine-yard line.
“It was a simple insert play,” said LSU safety JaCoby Stevens. “What happened was the H-back inserted, almost kind of like a trap. I was thinking they were going to pull it to the guy behind me and my eyes got in the wrong place and (Williams) popped free. By the time I looked back, he was too far. Thank God that Grant made the tackle.”
Williams also would’ve scored on one of the subsequent plays, if not for LSU’s defensive adjustments. Stevens said Auburn ran the same exact play on first-and-goal at the nine-yard line immediately after.
“I told them they weren’t going to do that again,” Stevens said. “I wasn’t going to let them have that again.”
Stevens credited defensive lineman Tyler Shelvin for eating up multiple blocks in front him on that play — as he was doing all game — and making the stop.
Stevens said an emphasis for the LSU defense throughout camp was to not allow touchdowns at any cost and that came to fruition on the field against Auburn from the very start of the game.
“A big emphasis was that big plays are going to happen, they’re a good team,” said senior defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence. “To hold them to three points was really big and ultimately one of the biggest stops of the game. After a long run, we could’ve easily just let them score, but we buckled down and stopped them.”
In the first quarter, Auburn shaved more than four minutes off the clock with 14 plays and had a first-and-goal at the LSU seven-yard line. The LSU defense followed up with two Bo Nix incompletions and a run stuffed for no gain.
Auburn’s only touchdown before the fourth quarter — a one-yard run by Nix with 3:06 left in the first half — was after the Tigers were given a short field when LSU’s Derek Stingley muffed the punt.
“We did pretty good for the situation we were put it,” Lawrence said. “We played well though overall.”
Stingley redeemed himself on Auburn’s final drive of the first half.
After Williams broke off for his first big run of 41 yards to the LSU 32-yard line with less than a minute left in the half, Stingley intercepted Nix’s subsequent pass to prevent Auburn from scoring again before halftime and taking the lead and the momentum with it.
“We were all amazed,” Lawrence said. “Like that guy (Stingley) is special. That was a hell of a play and he kind of bailed us out.”
The LSU defense had been the most criticized part of the Tigers’ game this season, but in recent weeks they have stepped up the plate.
Even when Auburn was able to produce big plays, LSU regrouped and was able to come up big with stops.
“I think it’s just maturity,” Phillips said. “Knowing that we’re stopping them all game and knowing that we can come out the next play and play lights out and stop them. Just feeling like we’re on top.”