War Eagle Extra

Auburn football: Defense steps up with clutch plays in victory over LSU

Notches 3 sacks, yields 243 yards

By CHRIS WHITE

cwhite@ledger-enquirer.com

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s undefeated season was open with possibilities heading into Saturday’s game against LSU, but the defense played as if it were wading through more dire straights.

“We played like every down was our last, and we kept thinking about getting three-and-outs,” said linebacker Josh Bynes, who finished with a team-best 11 tackles. “We figured out their game plan and got to it. We went out there and didn’t make any mistakes.”

Fourth-ranked Auburn’s defense sacked No. 6 LSU’s quarterbacks three times and limited the team to 115 yards rushing and 243 yards of total offense, factors Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said allowed Auburn to remain undefeated with a 24-17 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“I could not be more proud of my defensive staff and my defensive players,” Chizik said. “We were playing a true freshman, we were playing a walk-on, and we fought and clawed and scrapped our way to playing well tonight. I really appreciated that from our guys.”

Chizik’s confidence in his defense showed in the fourth quarter. Auburn had a fourth-and-6 at the LSU 40-yard-line with less than 8 minutes remaining and the game tied at 17. When asked if the defense’s performance to that point made him feel more comfortable taking a risk by attempting a conversion near midfield, Chizik said it was an easy call.

“No question,” Chizik said.

Newton’s pass to Darvin Adams fell incomplete, turning over the ball. But Auburn’s defense forced a quick punt with a sack and a tackle for a loss of 9 yards by Nick Fairley. Auburn got the ball back at its 10. Three plays later, a 70-yard Onterio McCalebb run put Auburn ahead for good.

Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof said he never questioned the decision to go for it on fourth down with an Auburn defense that blanked LSU on six third-down conversion attempts in the second half.

“Our kids were playing well, and we were confident,” Roof said. “So it was the right thing to do.”

Auburn even excelled at shutting down LSU’s dual-quarterback passing game while dealing with the absence of two starting defensive backs. Aairon Savage sat after breaking a bone in his ankle a week earlier, and T’Sharvan Bell was out with a hamstring injury.

LSU swapped Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee in and out for each other throughout the game, and neither could muster much. The tandem was a combined 15-for-29 passing with an interception for 89 yards.

The longest LSU pass of the day — and the only one to score — came on a trick play in which Spencer Ware caught a lateral along the LSU sideline and tossed it to Rueben Randle, who shook one Auburn defender and scored on the 39-yard play.

“What the defense did this week, with a scheme with two quarterbacks, that gets challenging,” Chizik said. “But again, it goes to our players executing and doing what the coaches are asking them to do.”

Chris White, 706-571-8571; follow Chris online at twitter.com/le_chriswhite.

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