War Eagle Extra

Auburn football games against LSU are often cardiac contests, so expect another last-play thriller tonight

Expect another last-play thriller

By ANDY BITTER

abitter@ledger-enquirer.com

AUBURN, Ala. — Fans wanting to know how Auburn’s game at LSU will turn out tonight probably don’t have to tune in immediately when it starts at 7:30 p.m.

Click over when there’s about one minute left in the game, and you probably will see the deciding play.

If history is any indicator, tonight’s game between visiting Auburn (5-2, 2-2 SEC) and No. 9 LSU (5-1, 3-1 SEC) will go down to the final seconds. Of 21 meetings since 1988, 12 have been decided by a touchdown or less, including the past five.

“My experience right now is if you win the last play, you win the game,” Auburn cornerback Walt McFadden said. “That’s my whole thing. If we can just go out there and play that last play, we’ll win.”

Although several games have been etched in history with clever names — “Earthquake Game,” “The Interception Game,” “The Night the Barn Burned,” “The Comeback” — the past two, though lacking a moniker, stick out to the current crop of Auburn players — and not for good reasons.

Two years ago in Baton Rouge, Matt Flynn completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Byrd over tight coverage from Jerraud Powers with 1 second left for a 30-24 victory, launching LSU toward an eventual national title.

“That last catch, it killed me,” linebacker Josh Bynes said. “If you look at the game, we had the game.”

Last year in Auburn, when both teams were still ranked in the top 10, Jarrett Lee completed an 18-yard touchdown to Brandon LaFell with 1:03 remaining to lift LSU to a 26-21 victory.

“They always play us tough, and we play them tough, no matter what the record is or where either team is ranked,” Auburn running back Ben Tate said. “It’s going to be a tough game, and I think it will come down to the end, and it’s just going to be who’s better prepared.”

Auburn hopes to rebound after two puzzling sub-par offensive performances, not an easy task against an LSU defense fresh and angry after a bye week following a disappointing 13-3 loss to No. 1 Florida at home. LSU’s defense is allowing 322.5 yards per game, which ranks 35th in the nation.

Its last time out, Auburn finished with season lows in points (14, a number that was aided by a special teams touchdown) and yards (315). It has left many wondering what happened to the team that averaged 41.4 points and 512.8 yards while beginning the season with five straight wins.

“Sobering? That’s not the word,” Auburn left tackle Lee Ziemba said of the team’s struggles. “The word is motivating. Go back out there and get to where we were.”

Defensively, Auburn has even more concerns. The Tigers looked solid for three quarters against Kentucky, but the Wildcats broke free in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of what defensive coordinator Ted Roof called “an epidemic of missed tackles” to run for 142 yards. Two touchdowns later, the Wildcats had pulled off a stunning come-from-behind win.

Auburn knows that kind of effort, even against an LSU offense that has struggled in all facets, simply won’t cut it tonight.

“You’ve got to play 60 minutes against those guys because they play until the clock says zero-zero,” McFadden said. “That was our whole thing from last week, the reason we lost: We didn’t play the fourth quarter.”

“We have to be able to hold up,” said Auburn coach Gene Chizik, a refrain he has echoed often. “It can’t be for three quarters; it needs to be for all four.”

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