Auburn linebacker Tre’ Williams gingerly walked to the locker room with a little more time on the clock than usual.
The junior linebacker was disqualified for leading with the crown of his helmet tackling LSU quarterback Danny Etling in the second quarter.
Officials on the field didn’t initially throw a flag, but the instant replay officials in the booth reviewed the play and made the call leading to Williams’ ejection.
Auburn defenders called the moment a turning point in the 18-13 win.
“To see a brother go down like that, it hurt especially for me that’s my childhood friend,” Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis said. “I’m probably closer to him than anybody. I knew what this game meant to him cause he was here last year.”
The coaching staff didn’t shy away from using Williams’ absence as a motivational tool either.
“The rest of the game anytime we came to the sidelines we was like we have a brother out,” Davis said. “They didn’t let us forget that. Everyone was like ‘do it for 30, do it for Tre.’ We kept that chip on our shoulder for the rest of the game.”
More fuel was added to the fire when LSU defensive lineman Arden Key avoided a targeting call in the third quarter. Key lowered his helmet into the back of quarterback Sean White, but was only flagged for reviewing the passer.
The instant replay booth confirmed the on field ruling.
“We were going to go out and get a win for Tre, we didn’t think he should have got disqualified,” Auburn defensive lineman Carl Lawson said.
It helped that Montavius Atkinson played well in a relief role.
The sophomore played what Davis described as “the most reps all year” to help keep the defense rolling. TJ Neal also played his first defensive snaps in Williams’ absence.
“I tip my hat to Montravius Atkinson,” Davis said. “He was the back up for Tre. He came in and made a lot of plays. He made a lot of checks and played real confident.”
Davis was happy to go back into the locker room having kept the promise he made to Williams on the linebacker’s way off the field.
“I told him we had his back,” Davis said with a smile.