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Posts Tagged ‘Jimbo Fisher’

More on CFP Championship; Pelini back at LSU

In College Football, College Football Playoff, General LSU, History, Post-game on February 9, 2020 at 1:57 PM
Mike VII became the third Mike in a row to celebrate a national championship. If LSU manages another in the next few years, he would be the first tiger to preside over a second.

Although I haven’t written since the night of the championship, I have been reading, listening, and thinking about the season that has just ended. 

I wanted to start with some stats I found interesting and didn’t know until after that night. 

Clemson had won 50 games in a row when scoring first and 89 in a row after leading by at least 10 points. 

This isn’t to be disrespectful, I just thought it was funny. Clemson’s loss was also Lawrence’s first as a starting quarterback.

Of course they had also won 29 games in a row overall, meaning that for the second season in a row LSU ended a winning streak of 25 or more (Central Florida had won exactly 25).  This was the first time a program ended such streaks two years in a row.  Only one program has ended such streaks more than twice in its history.  That was Notre Dame in 1946 (Army, which was a winning streak ended by a tie), 1957 (Oklahoma), and 1970 (Texas), so none were even within a decade of the other.  Princeton is the only other program to end such a streak twice, in 1889 and 1893 (both over Yale).  (The Ivy League was considered top-division college football at the time.)

Something else I noticed when re-watching the game was that on average this season Clemson had given up 264 yards per game. LSU eclipsed 500 yards in the first minute of the fourth quarter.

It was not surprising that Joe Brady was hired away.  What was slightly surprising was that after the LSU defense was underestimated through most of the year, the defensive coordinator (DC) Dave Aranda got one of the best available coaching vacancies, at least in terms of how good the team was last season.  Baylor was a close second to Oklahoma twice and lost no other games until the Sugar Bowl.  Like Oklahoma, the Bears also ran into an SEC team who finished in the same place in the Big XII (LSU and Oklahoma were both champions; Baylor and Georgia were both runners-up).  It was also an odd coincidence that the person who hired Brady for the Carolina Panthers is the one who left the vacancy in Waco.

Bo Pelini (left in gray) celebrates an interception during LSU’s 2007 BCS Championship.

It’s also interesting that after the DC for this year’s championship team was hired away, we decided to bring back Bo Pelini, the DC who was hired away directly after our last championship in 2007.  Pelini had also left to coach a Big XII team, although Nebraska is now in the Big Ten.  Also worth noting that LSU had top-three overall defenses all three years under Pelini, which corresponded with Les Miles first three years, during which the Tigers had an overall record of 34-6.  Pelini was the first DC hired by Miles, and Aranda was the last.  Pelini will make over 10 times more per year as the LSU DC than he had been making as the Youngstown St. head coach; but he did coach there while still being paid by Nebraska.

I’ll be interested to see if there is any trouble readjusting to major college football for Pelini, but Coach Orgeron has had a good record in hiring assistants so far.  So I’m not overly worried.

I don’t think LSU has a tremendously good chance to repeat as champions even if all the coaches had stayed, but I’m not greedy. I’m OK with someone else winning next year.  I just hope it’s not Alabama and preferably not Clemson or Ohio St. either.  By the way, I enjoyed a segment with former LSU coach/current Alabama coach Nick Saban and his former offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher (Fisher and Pelini overlapped as coordinators at LSU in 2005 and 2006, by the way).  That segment has been taken down from YouTube, but you can find Fisher (who was the only head coach to go against both LSU and Clemson this season) and Saban (who coached against Clemson a few months before Fisher did) comment separately.

Jimbo Fisher discusses LSU’s BCS championship on Jan. 4, 2004.

Saban and Fisher are two of only six active head coaches who have won national championships.  Orgeron and Miles are two others, so it’s interesting that four of the six have worked at LSU during one of our national championships.  The other two are Dabo Swinney and Mack Brown.  Mack Brown does have Louisiana ties though.  He was LSU’s QB coach in 1982 (shortly after Steve Ensimger graduated) and was the head coach (and athletic director) at Tulane from 1985 to 1987.

LSU/Auburn Series and Preview

In College Football, History, Preview, Rivalry on October 25, 2019 at 7:45 PM

As I’ve been doing with these series recaps, I’m only going to focus on a portion of Auburn’s rivalry with LSU.  The rivalry did pick up intensity in the 1990s as I’ll explain, but the really interesting time was 2000 to 2007.

My original entry in the Rivalry Series covers mostly the same games, but there are different emphases.  Here I won’t talk as much about the records or rankings of teams going into the game, and I won’t refer back to the significance of each game within the greater rivalry.

Deciding the SEC West and Home Field Advantage

When LSU became relevant in SEC title races starting around the time Saban showed up, the main obstacles every year were Florida and Auburn. Except for Arkansas in 2002 and 2006 (the Hogs had the benefit of not having an annual series with either Georgia or Florida), the winner of the LSU-Auburn game would represent the SEC West in the title game every year from 2000 to 2007.

By the way, for some reason, the SEC calls you a winner of the division if you don’t play in the title game; but the way I look at it is if you lose the tiebreaker for first you’re second.  You’re not still in the broken tie for first.  So when I talk about winning the SEC West, I’m going to mean winning the tiebreaker as well. 

LSU has still never won the SEC West in an even year largely because the Tigers play both Auburn and Florida on the road in even years (and historically LSU is less likely to beat Alabama at home than on the road anyway).  You’ve probably seen it mentioned that LSU hasn’t lost to Auburn at home since 1999, but for a while that was mutual.  Nick Saban went 0-3 at Auburn as LSU head coach, and Les Miles also lost his first game at Auburn.  Miles would win two of the next three before losing his last two, the last of which lost him his job. 

Auburn players celebrate the win in 1999. LSU has had its longest home winning streak against Auburn in the years since.

LSU would end that streak in 2008, but speaking of Nick Saban, that was when Alabama became the team to beat in the division.  LSU beat Alabama and Auburn to win the SEC West in 2011, and Auburn beat LSU and Alabama to win the SEC West in 2010.  The three teams went 1-1 against each other in 2013; but LSU lost to two other teams (Georgia and Ole Miss), so that allowed Auburn to win a two-team head-to-head tiebreaker.  I think we all know who won the other 8 SEC West titles since then. 

In addition to being less important for the division, those three games just didn’t have the drama to go into much detail.  The 2010 game was the relatively close one, decided by only 7; but the LSU defense and offense both seemed defeated once Auburn took the lead with a about 5 minutes to go. Auburn could have scored again at the end of the game but ran out the clock instead.  They took the last snap from the LSU 3.

The 2012 LSU win, which at the time was only the second win at Auburn since 1998, was close; but Auburn turned out to be a terrible team.  Gene Chizik has not been a head coach since that season and may never be one again.  There were also only 6 points scored after the first quarter – a field goal by Auburn in the second quarter and a field goal by LSU in the third quarter. I like to watch good defenses more than most fans, but there are only so many ways to describe not scoring points. 

Other than it being an important game since one or both teams has been a major force in the conference (if not nationally), it’s also been a close game – again, not unlike LSU-Florida.

The Making of a Rivalry: 1993 to 1999

Unlike Florida though, it was typically a competitive game even going back before 2000.  It wasn’t even an annual series until 1993. That first game wasn’t very close, as Auburn went undefeated that season (but since they were on probation they weren’t considered in the national-title hunt), but that changed in a hurry. 

LSU led 23-9 in 1994 before Jamie Howard threw three pick-sixes and the Bayou Bengals lost 30-26.  Auburn had a quarterback named Nix, but other than a field goal drive in the second quarter, he was unsuccessful.  The four defensive scores were enough for the Plainsmen though.

In Death Valley the next year, the home team won by only 6 points.  That would be LSU’s first winning season in 7 years.

In 1996, LSU won on “the night the barn burned”.  It wasn’t a barnburner as neither team was able to get to 20 points.  It was 17-15 with 38 seconds to go when the home-standing War Tigers decided to go for two.  That backfired (no pun intended) as LSU returned the botched conversion attempt for two points.  The game was given the nickname because an old gym caught on fire during the game.

The next year, an Auburn touchdown in the last minute of the game would make the difference as LSU was only ahead by 4 before the score. 

Both programs went downhill the following two seasons with the road team winning fairly easily both times.  However, Auburn made a coaching change between 1998 and 1999, while LSU waited until after the 1999 season.  Auburn’s new coach Tommy Tuberville happened to have been the coach of Ole Miss when they beat LSU in 1997, which in retrospect would keep LSU from winning the SEC West for the first time.

After that 1999 win by Auburn, Tuberville smoked cigars with his team on the field.  He rationalized it by saying it was only Auburn’s third win there since World War II, but he didn’t mention that it was also Auburn’s third win at LSU in four tries.  Now he explains that it was also his birthday, but you don’t have to linger in an opponent’s stadium to celebrate your birthday.  Even if he just had shared a big cake on the field with his team, that would have been weird. 

2004 to 2007 Game Narratives

That wouldn’t be the end of the weirdness.  It was a big game, but none of the games were very interesting or exciting the next few years.

Then in 2004 it got interesting again.  I know a lot of people blame Les Miles for ushering in low-scoring games, but the offense wasn’t always exciting in Saban’s last year either.  LSU led 9-3 after 58 minutes of play. Auburn would score on third and 12 from the LSU 16, but the extra point was blocked. Apparently a new rule had been implemented in the offseason that if you land on another player after attempting to block or successfully blocking a field goal, it was a personal foul. Auburn got to try again and would win by that one point.

Since 2004 would become known as the extra point game, it only followed that we needed a field goal game.  This would happen 13 months later when the two teams would miss a combined 7 field goals in 10 attempts. 

LSU led 14-10 after Auburn made its one field goal in the second quarter and the teams exchanged touchdowns in the third.  The Plains Tigers would score another touchdown with just under 5 minutes to go in the game. LSU would get its first field goal a few minutes later to tie the game at 17 and eventually send it to overtime.  LSU would have the ball to begin the overtime and would settle for a field goal.  The Bayou Tigers had gotten one first down to help out the kicker Chris Jackson.  Auburn would go nowhere during their possession, and John Vaughn would miss from 39 to end the game, his fifth miss of the game.

Auburn K John Vaughn collapses to the field after missing a field goal (his fifth miss of the game) to give LSU the win in 2005.

2006 was another weird low-scoring game.  Les Miles was the coach, but he had inherited his offensive coordinator from Saban.  That was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jimbo Fisher.  But somehow (with the help of the referees of course), he only managed to guide the Tigers to 3 points for the whole game.  Auburn didn’t need any field goals and won 7-3 despite LSU having gained about twice as many yards.

Nonetheless, Fisher would do an impressive enough job with LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell the rest of the season to be offered a similar position with Florida St. but with more incentive and under an aging head coach being gently nudged into retirement.

LSU’s offense seemed to work just fine without him in 2007 (although you can’t really say the same for the 10 years afterward).  LSU-Auburn was another close game though.  Auburn led 17-13 going into the fourth quarter.  Matt Flynn led the home team on an 8-play 85-yard drive to put LSU up 20-17.  After a punt, the Fighting Tigers expanded that lead to 23-17.  Auburn responded with a 9-play, 83-yard drive to go up 1 with 3:21 remaining.

Unlike the last time Auburn played in Tiger Stadium, K Colt David was having a good day, having gone 3 for 3 on field goals.  It seemed like that was what LSU was playing for.  There was a number of running plays (including spontaneous runs by the QB) that took time off the clock as Flynn drove the Tigers downfield.  LSU also converted a key third and 3 from the Auburn 41 to keep the drive going (on a Richard Murphy run). Jacob Hester, the hero of the Florida game a couple of weeks before, would come in with his own 10-yard run. 

When LSU had a third and 7 from the 23 with just under 10 seconds left, Auburn probably expected another run to set up a field goal (LSU still had a timeout).  Instead Flynn threw to the end zone just to the outside of Demetrius Byrd, who turned at just the right time to catch the ball (see here if the picture doesn’t do it justice).

Along with Jacob Hester’s winning touchdown (see the final picture) two weeks earlier, Demetrius Byrd’s catch in the final moments against Auburn was one of the iconic plays in LSU’s national-championship season in 2007.

Since the extra point was taken with 1 second left, a lot of people thought the pass was an unacceptable risk.  I never bought into that since Byrd began to catch the ball with :04 showing on the clock.  It just didn’t really matter whether they stopped it at 4 seconds or 1 second at that point.  If he had dropped the ball or missed it completely, it probably would have been 3 seconds.  Maybe if he had juggled it several times and then dropped it, it would have run out the clock though.

2016

One second would make all the difference 9 years later, but I’d rather not rehash that game again.  SBNation did a good job though. You can’t tell for sure that the center wasn’t beginning the snap in the picture though.

(I already said all I needed to say about the games from 2008 to 2015.)

2017

I mentioned in the Florida summary how LSU had two ugly losses in the first five weeks of the season in 2017 but came back to beat Florida by 1.  The next week, it looked like the Tigers were going to have three ugly losses in seven weeks when #10 Auburn went out to a 20-0 lead in Tiger Stadium. 

See my 2017 blog about the game for details, but I’ll just set up how LSU reduced the lead to 9 before halftime.

The defense holding Auburn to a field goal (meaning it was 20-0 and not 24-0) wouldn’t have meant anything if the LSU offense hadn’t gotten into gear on the next drive. LSU wouldn’t even require a single pass to be thrown.  Six rushing plays got the Fighting Tigers 90 yards and touchdown (70 of the yards by on a carry Russell Gage).

Auburn looked ready to bring the lead back up to 20 a couple of drives later, but once again the defense bent but didn’t break.  After a first and goal from the 10, Auburn was only at the 8 before settling for a field goal. 

LSU took possession back with 2:16 left.  Given the passing struggles, success didn’t seem likely, but that didn’t stop Danny Etling.  On the drive, Etling completed 5 of 6 pass attempts for 67 yards and a touchdown. 

The comeback wasn’t complete yet, but a 9-point deficit at halftime looks a lot better than a 20-point deficit early in the second quarter. 

2018

I didn’t even talk about the details of the last LSU-Auburn game last year, I just debunked some of the whining after the fact by Auburn fans. 

LSU went out to an early 10-point lead midway through the second quarter, but Auburn roared back to go up 21-10 with about 25 minutes to go in the game.

Like in the previous year, it just seemed like the LSU defense drew a line in the sand at that point.  Auburn went three and out on their next drive, then after one first down Stidham threw an interception in LSU territory.  The next drive, Auburn missed a 52-yard field goal.  The only reason they got that far downfield was a targeting call, and Auburn would not get beyond their own 30 again.

LSU also had to score in the meantime of course.  After one three and out, LSU was able to vary run and pass to get into first and goal at the Auburn 8 but had to settle for a field goal.

The next drive was really quick, too quick to watch in real time.  Here is the slow-motion replay.

Derrick Dillon catches a pass over the middle before running for the end zone on a 71-yard completion to bring LSU within two at Auburn last year.

But LSU couldn’t get the two-point conversion.  As mentioned, Auburn could do nothing on offense, so LSU had to win the game with a field goal. 

LSU had a third and 11 right away, but that’s when there was one of the major pass interference calls I talked about in the blog above. After an incompletion on first down, Burrow ran a few yards on second down to make it a more reasonable third and 7, which the Fighting Tigers just barely converted. 

Burrow also ran on the next second down (which was also 2nd and 10), but he was tackled for a loss on third down.  Again, LSU was just able to get past the marker, this time to Stephen Sullivan. After yet another first-down incompletion, another pass interference was called on third down.  This put LSU into field goal position, and of course Cole Tracy made it.

This Year

Until the game last week (when LSU settled for field goals on the first three offensive possessions), I might have said how Auburn shouldn’t expect to hold this offense out of the end zone for long stretches of time.  LSU would eventually score as many points against Mississippi St. in the first half as they scored against Auburn the whole game last year though, so I’m still expecting this year’s LSU team to easily outscore last year’s in this game.

I watched parts of the Auburn games against Oregon and Florida.  Although, the LSU defense hasn’t always been great (though it is underrated by people who look at scores rather than watching games), I still think there will be stretches where Auburn can’t score.  Auburn scored only 3 points in the first four drives and 6 in the first nine drives against the Ducks   Against Florida, which let’s remember allowed 42 to LSU, Auburn couldn’t score for the last 40 minutes of the game. 

I do think Auburn’s pass rush will cause some incompletions and might get sacks (unlike Florida’s), but the defensive backfield might be even less able to keep up with LSU wide receivers.

Auburn does have a good front, hence the concerns about the pass rush, but pass rush and run defense aren’t the same thing.  If Auburn sends too much pressure, that could leave open lanes for Burrow or one of the backs.  If Auburn is trying too hard to defend the run, that often requires staying near the line of scrimmage rather than rushing the backfield. 

Auburn also has a good offensive line, so LSU could have some of the same dilemmas.  But I’m more confident in Burrow making good decisions in a game like this than Auburn fans should be in (the younger) Nix even if Nix ends up with more time.  Whitlow ran for about 4.5 yards per carry against both Oregon and Florida, but he won’t be playing.  Kam Martin (who had a few good carries against Florida but ran poorly against Oregon) ran well in his first full game as Whitlow’s replacement, but I don’t know how comparable running against Arkansas is to running against LSU.

I would lean toward taking the points.  I know I guessed wrong about Florida, but Auburn can probably score about what Florida did and maybe hold LSU out of the end zone on one or two more drives.  Maybe LSU just doesn’t have that final score to go up double digits like they did against Florida.  I would give Auburn about a 1 in 3 chance to win.  I think having a week off after Florida and not having to do anything fancy against Arkansas could be a slight advantage.  Florida did beat Auburn, but I think it was harder for the Gators to get back up for the LSU game than it will be for Auburn.  Also, despite the eventual loss by 14, Florida did still have a decent chance to win late.

Nega-Tiger Time & Head Coach Position

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game on November 20, 2016 at 4:14 PM

A few preliminaries:
Computer ratings of all teams after Week 11
Updated Florida Rivalry Blog
Texas A&M Rivalry Blog

I don’t know where this comes from exactly, but somehow on message boards there developed the concept of “nega-Tigers,” the more skeptical and pessimistic LSU fans, and “sunshine pumpers,” those who were more optimistic and stressed the positives. I try to be accurate and have seen the merits of both sides, but people have called me a sunshine pumper in recent seasons for pointing out that Les Miles had the best winning percentage of any coach of a substantial number of games in LSU history. Nega-Tigers tend to stress things like recent losses to teams like Alabama and Arkansas and the issues I’m about to discuss below.

One of the reasons I didn’t want to talk much about the Arkansas game was I didn’t want to get my confidence up too high. It’s just so disheartening that we can’t win a close game to save our lives. I don’t understand how you score one touchdown, you get a few yards away from another touchdown after driving for 75 yards, and then you can only come up with a single field goal for the last 37 ½ minutes of the game.

Technically, the Tigers beat Mississippi St. in a close game, but LSU was ahead by 17 with five minutes left. So let’s look at it another way:

Close game (<17 points) with 5 minutes left … result
Wisconsin 16, LSU 14 … Wisconsin 16, LSU 14
Auburn 18, LSU 13 … Auburn 18, LSU 13
Alabama 7, LSU 0 … Alabama 10, LSU 0
Florida 13, LSU 10 … Florida 16, LSU 10
Total: 0-4, scored 0 points, gave up 6 points

I don’t see a way out either even with a coaching change. We have to know how to win close games somehow. I know we were one positive play from beating Wisconsin, one second away from beating Auburn, and maybe one foot away from beating Florida, but losing all three is almost unforgivable.

Jimbo Fisher (right) with Nick Saban.  Fisher also coached under Les Miles for two seasons as the offensive coordinator.

Jimbo Fisher (right) with Nick Saban. Fisher also coached under Les Miles for two seasons as the offensive coordinator.

Jimbo Fisher is going to fix it (assuming we can get him anyway)? We had one of our best offenses in 2006 when Fisher was the offensive coordinator, and we lost to Auburn 7-3 and Florida 23-10. We also only managed 20 points in regulation against a pretty sorry Ole Miss team (coached by a guy called Ed Orgeron). You can’t tell me we can rest assured about not having games like this again.

Florida State has 3 losses against an ACC schedule and their best out-of-conference opponent was Ole Miss. If they’d played Wisconsin instead, that likely already puts them at 4 losses right now even if we pretend their conference schedule was just as hard as LSU’s.

Had the Seminoles played SEC opponents instead of North Carolina St. (won by 4) and U. Miami (won by a missed extra point), that could have made 5 or 6 losses.

That’s great that they only had two regular-season losses over the previous three seasons, but again, I think that has a lot to do with schedule. In 2014, there were five games that came down to one possession.

Jameis Winston was a great college football player and 2013 was a great season for the Noles; but we’re not talking about Gene Chizik, and he had a great season with Cam Newton as his QB in 2010. This is not a motivated team who plays to the best of its ability every week either. When you have an off game in the SEC, you lose the majority of the time no matter how good of a coach you are.

One big reason Alabama doesn’t have more losses is they don’t really have off games against teams that can beat them. They have sloppy games sometimes, but they seem motivated and ready to play every time, and the sloppiness is rare in big games. So I don’t mean that you can prevent guys in their late teens and early 20 from having an off night in all cases, but you can have a focused team that responds appropriately when things go wrong.

The Guice fumble was an example of sloppiness, but there is no way in the world Alabama would respond to something like that by shutting down on offense and allowing the other team to get ahead like LSU did. Outside of maybe a bowl game or two, I can’t think of an example of Alabama doing that since Saban’s first season.

Houston's Tom Herman

Houston’s Tom Herman

I’m even less impressed with Houston, led by Tom Herman (who actually beat the Seminoles in the Peach Bowl last year). There is no way Navy or SMU has even close to Houston’s level of talent, but the Cougars lost to both within 3 weeks this season. They had a full month of subpar play. In addition to those two games, they needed overtime to beat Tulsa in between, and then after the SMU game (which they lost handily), they struggled against Central Florida. Tulsa and Central Florida were home games. Houston apparently needed a bye week to snap out of it before easily beating Tulane and Louisville.

Maybe if we get a better offensive coordinator or maybe even if Ensminger is allowed to develop his own offense and playbook over an off-season, Orgeron can still be the guy, but how many chances did Les Miles get to figure out the right combination of coordinators to no avail?

Pretty soon recruits aren’t even going to remember the 2011 regular season, and LSU is going to be that team that gets hyped up every so often only to lose the big games.

I hope we give A&M a serious beat-down, and Orgeron somehow figures out a better plan for the offense and keeps his job, but here we are waiting till next year again. I’m not even talking about a national championship. I’m talking about losing fewer than 3 conference games in a season. 2011 was the last time that happened.

Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Auburn

In College Football, Rivalry on October 21, 2010 at 9:29 PM

(Alternate title, LSU/Auburn: Battle of the Nicknames)

Overall records (Now includes 2019)

LSU leads, 31-22-1
In Baton Rouge, LSU leads, 19-5-1
In the state of Alabama, Auburn leads, 17-12

      In Auburn, Auburn leads, 12-8
      In Birmingham, Auburn leads, 3-2
      In Mobile, Auburn leads, 2-0
      In Montgomery, LSU leads, 2-0

Longest winning/unbeaten streak–6 wins by LSU, 1926-1937

Longest Auburn winning streak–4 wins, 1989-1994

Home/away streaks
LSU won 3 in a row at Auburn, 1926-1936
Auburn won 2 in a row at LSU, 1997 & 1999
LSU has won 10 in a row at home, 2001-present
Auburn won 4 in a row at home, 1981-1994 and 2000-2006

Longest streaks with only one loss (pure winning streaks excluded):
LSU, 6/7, 1969-1988 and 2007-2013
Auburn, 5/6, 1981-1994

Biggest wins:
LSU, 35, 45-10 in 2011
Auburn, 34, 41-7 in 1999 (@ LSU) and 2014 (at home)
LSU’s biggest win at Auburn was 20-6 in 1973. Their largest point total at Auburn was 31, in a 12-point win in 1998.

Highest-scoring games:
@LSU : LSU 45, Auburn 21, 2015
@Auburn: Auburn 30, LSU 28, 1992

The lowest-scoring post-war game was a 7-3 home win for Auburn in 2006. There has not been a shutout in this series since 1935.

Highest scores by either team:
45, LSU in 2011 and 2015
41, Auburn in 1999 and 2014
35, LSU in 1972 and 2013
34, Auburn in 2000
31, LSU in 1998, 2003, and 2009; Auburn in 1997

2016 reaction blog

In 2011, LSU once again tied up Auburn in games since the start of the 1980 season, 12-12. It also tied the teams at 10 since the start of the 1992 season. (Both ties were of course broken by LSU’s win in 2012.) The 1999 Cigar Game (see below for more background) is no longer the record-holder in a couple of aspects, but it remains Auburn’s last win at LSU. It is one of only four Auburn wins at LSU ever. The first happened in 1939, but the last three all happened from 1993 to 1999. The one tie took place in 1941, and then Auburn did not return to LSU until 1969. It is also worth noting that LSU surpassed the 1999 Auburn point total in the first 38 minutes of the 2011 game.

Intro (written before 2010 game)

I called it the battle of nicknames, because they’re both nicknamed, in the simplest sense, “Tigers” but have other monikers. LSU added “Fighting” at some point to their nickname. Supposedly “war eagle” was always just a live mascot/battle cry and never a nickname, but people have called them War Eagles (I fail to see how that’s a bad thing, but far be it from me to judge other fans’ sensitivities). Auburn’s teams have also been referred to as the Plainsmen, and LSU’s teams have also been referred to as the Bayou Bengals, both in reference to the local geography. (Who said sports weren’t educational?) Many of the recent games have nicknames as well.

With the win last season, LSU became the first team to win three in a row in the series since Auburn won four in a row from 1989 to 1994 (obviously non-consecutive seasons…this corresponds to the six consecutive seasons in which LSU finished with a losing record). But even at that time, even though Auburn won 9 games or more in three of those seasons, three of those four games were still decided by 4 points or fewer.

Before 2008, the home team had won for 8 consecutive seasons. This was one reason LSU has never won the SEC West in an even year (which, since SEC expansion in 1992, are the only years that LSU has traveled to Auburn).

LSU’s 21-point win {in 2009} was the largest margin since LSU won 31-7 in 2003, but the 5 games from 2004 to 2008 were decided by a total of 19 points. That’s actually a deceptively high number since the whistle blew after LSU’s go-ahead touchdown in 2007 with only a second left, and LSU won by 6. Also, the games between the two teams are typically defensive struggles. In 1988, LSU won, 7-6. Since 1988, there have also been final scores of 10-6, 12-6, 19-15, 20-17, 10-9, and 7-3. There have only been 3 games since 1972 in which either team scored more than 31 points (all Auburn wins).

This may be quite a different game in light of Auburn’s SEC-record-breaking 65-43 win last week. On the other hand, LSU has played in four games (Vanderbilt, Mississippi St., WVU, and Tennessee) this season with a combined point total under 37. Auburn has played in one, a 17-14 win at Mississippi St.

The series is knotted up at 11 wins apiece since 1980 (inclusive), so I’ll say it could go either way. Both teams were also undefeated in 2008, 2006, 2004, and 2000, but none of those games were after September. Each team had one loss in 2005, the mutually best recent October match-up. Except for 2001 (only due to 9/11), 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007, all of the games since 1992 (inclusive) had been in September.

The following is mostly copied and pasted from a post on TSN on October 17, 2007, so some references are to that time and not to the present…

The rivalry

(In the following, I’ve used “Fighting Tigers” to denote LSU.)

This is different from many of the other LSU series since I actually remember most of the significant games in the series. I think that has helped endear the rivalry to those my age (late 20s) and younger. When people start talking about Bear Bryant or John Vaught (prominent opposing coaches, neither of whom I remember, for rivals Alabama and Ole Miss, respectively), it doesn’t really register as well. LSU and Auburn only played 6 times between 1942 and 1988. Even though this became a yearly event in 1992 and Tulane left the SEC after the 1965 season, Auburn still played Tulane more times in the 20th century than it played LSU.

The flashpoint in the LSU/AU rivalry was the 1988 Earthquake Game, when an earthquake was actually recorded at LSU’s geology department after Tommy Hodson threw the winning touchdown to Eddie Fuller with less than two minutes left in the game. Likely contributing to the earthquake was the fact that the score was the Fighting Tigers’ only in the game, as LSU won 7-6.

Auburn had been ranked #4 in the country and LSU had lost consecutive games, at Ohio St. and at Florida, to fall out of the top 25. The two teams would be co-champions that year, and despite LSU having beaten Auburn, the Tigers went to the Sugar Bowl as a one-loss team. Auburn would lose in the Sugar Bowl to Florida St., and LSU would lose in the Hall of Fame Bowl (now known as the Outback Bowl) to Syracuse to finish with 4 losses. The Fighting Tigers’ only regular-season loss after the Auburn game was to #3 Miami.

The Earthquake Game had been the first meeting between LSU and Auburn in 7 years. It was only the 26th meeting between the two teams, and the first meeting had been in 1901. The two teams met in 1989 then didn’t meet again until 1992, when the SEC split into two divisions, mandating annual meetings between LSU and Auburn.

A long series of games with nicknames followed. They weren’t consecutive, but there are a lot of them.

Close games intensify rivalry

The 1989 and 1992 games did not merit any nicknames that I know of, but they were close as well, with Auburn winning 10-6 and 30-28, respectively. Auburn had hosted both games.

The 1993 meeting (the year of Terry Bowden’s undefeated probation season) does not have a nickname that I know of, but it was the first time Auburn had won @ LSU in 54 years. It also gave Auburn its first three-game winning streak over LSU since 1924. Auburn, of course, would finish undefeated but would not make a bowl game or join any serious national championship discussion because the Tigers were on probation.

The Disaster on the Plains

The 1994 game, the fourth game in the series after the Earthquake game, was hosted by #11 (AP) Auburn, who was still on probation so was unranked in the coaches’ poll, in the third week of the season.

LSU had not qualified for a bowl game since the year of the Earthquake Game but had scored a major victory over then-undefeated Alabama (see Alabama link below) the prior year on the way to finishing 5-6. After starting the previous season 2-5, LSU had won 4 of 6, one of the losses by only five against #15 Texas A&M to start the season.

When the Fighting Tigers beat a good Mississippi St. team (who would finish 8-4) by 20 in week 2, it seemed that LSU head coach Curley Hallman may have finally been turning the team around in his fourth season. Hallman was starting to be seen as the opposite of his predecessor Mike Archer, who was a good game manager but after his first two seasons seem to waste away the talent that had been recruited by Bill Arnsparger.

Seemingly maintaining this momentum, the Fighting Tigers led the 2-0 Tigers 23-9 with 12 minutes left in the game.

On second down, deep in his own territory, LSU quarterback Jamie Howard inexplicably threw the ball into triple coverage, and it was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. LSU got the ball back, and Howard did the same exact thing, but on third down this time. The game was now tied.

The Fighting Tigers responded though, driving down to the Auburn 5 before kicking a field goal. LSU would lead by 3 with 2:14 left in the game.

On third and short at the LSU 30, the Fighting Tigers should have run the ball again, followed by a punt if unsuccessful, to force the hapless Auburn offense into the two-minute drill, which probably would have resulted in no worse than a tie since the Tigers had not had an offensive touchdown all game.

But Howard threw to a crossing wide receiver, once again into triple coverage. That was tipped and a fourth defender caught it and ran for a touchdown as well. Auburn won 30-26.

Auburn fans call it The Comeback Game or The Interception Game. Auburn would finish the season 9-1-1, losing only to Alabama.

It was the third time in four meetings and fourth time in six meetings that the game was decided by 4 or fewer.

It was almost all downhill from there for Hallman, who was fired after LSU lost five of its next six–six of seven including the Auburn game–before relatively meaningless wins over Tulane and Arkansas to end the season. Hallman has not been a college head coach since and briefly (and unsuccessfully) coached a high-school team in Alabama.

More close games

In 1995, after only losing 1 game over the previous two seasons and starting 2-0 again, Auburn was ranked #5 in the AP poll (#6 in the coaches poll), and made a return trip to Baton Rouge to face its benefactor from the previous season, Jamie Howard. LSU had recently hired as head coach Vanderbilt’s Gerry DiNardo, whose most impressive record as head coach had been 5-6.

LSU had again lost to Texas A&M and had beaten Mississippi St.

The Auburn offense had a similar performance to the one in 1994, but their defense was held scoreless this time; the Fighting Tigers won, 12-6. Although that wasn’t exactly an impressive achievement for LSU’s offense, the redeemed Howard was carried off the field as a hero.

LSU would end that long bowl-less streak by beating Nick Saban’s Michigan St. Spartans in the Independence Bowl. Both Auburn and LSU would lose four games on the year.

The Night the Barn Burned

LSU also won the next year (1996) at Auburn, 19-15, on the way to a 10-2 record. During the game, an old gymnasium caught fire on the Auburn campus (this has been blamed on LSU fans, although I’ve never heard of any actual evidence substantiating this), and smoke could be seen from the stadium. This also happened to be LSU’s first win @ Auburn since 1973.

But Auburn took a road game back the next year, winning 31-28.

Back and forth

In the nine years beginning in 1998, LSU won 4 and Auburn won five.

1999 was the last game of the series under DiNardo, who, after beating Auburn on the way to a 3-0 start in 1998, would lose 15 of his last 18 games as head coach.

This didn’t stop Tommy Tuberville from lighting up a cigar after his Tigers’ 41-7 win in Baton Rouge, hence “The Cigar Game.” Auburn has not won a road game in the series since.

In fact, every game in the series since then {no longer true} has been won by the home team. Of possible interest to those other Tiger fans, Auburn was 3-2 against Saban with all three wins coming at home.

Auburn won by 17 in 2000, followed by a 13-point loss in 2001, which, due to Sept. 11, had been postponed to December and acted as a playoff for LSU’s first SEC West Championship. LSU started only 4-3, so the timing may have affected the outcome. In 2001, LSU won its first outright SEC Championship since 1986 and its first Sugar Bowl since the 1967 season. LSU has won 2 Sugar Bowls, 2 SEC West titles {now 3}, and once SEC title {now 2} since.

The two teams then exchanged 31-7 victories, the second of course by LSU on the way to the Fighting Tigers’ first national championship since 1958.

2004 – The Extra Point Game

This set up quite a meeting in 2004, as LSU was ranked #4 and #5 (AP) and visited #13 Auburn, who had gone through a tumultuous off-season that had almost ended Tommy Tuberville’s employment on the Plains.

After an impressive opening drive and a missed extra point, the Fighting Tigers led only 9-3 at halftime. That score stood until Auburn got the ball with about 8 minutes to play. LSU at one point forced Auburn into a 4th and 12 from LSU’s 28-yard line.

Not only did Courtney Taylor catch Jason Campbell’s pass for a first down on that play, but he also later caught his first touchdown pass with 1:14 to play, also on fourth down.

In what seemed apropos, John Vaughn then missed the extra point after a low snap.

Vaughn got another chance though, as Ronnie Prude was whistled for doing something (I still don’t quite understand this rule or why it applied) that involved trying to use another player for support in an effort to block the kick when actually he hit the player coming down from a jump.

Even if it was the correct call, I think it should be like the opposite of roughing the punter. If he successfully blocks the kick, then make it a penalty. If not, why call a penalty? Because he could have hurt himself? So what? It’s football. That seems to be how it’s called in practice—I’ve only seen it called twice at the most since then—but I think it was a rule modification and therefore fresh in the official’s minds. Nick Saban was on the rules committee and claimed not to understand the rule himself.

This game is now known as the “Extra-Point Game.” The winning points are shown on YouTube.

You could probably guess that Vaughn’s second try sailed through and Auburn held on for a 10-9 win. That game and the 8-point win over Alabama were the Tigers’ only games decided by fewer than 18 during the regular season that year. Saban’s last LSU team would finish 9-3 after a hail-mary loss to Iowa in the CapitalOne Bowl.

2005 – The Field Goal Game

Maybe it was bad juju from 2004, but Vaughn (same guy) missed field goals from 41, 54, 37, and 49 yards during regulation. He did make one from 26 yards and converted both extra points attempted without any drama. LSU’s two kickers were 1 for 2 in regulation.

Vaughn missed the 49-yarder in the waning seconds of regulation, after LSU had tied it with about 90 seconds left in the game, sending the contest into overtime.

Chris Jackson redeemed himself from a 38-yard miss with a 30-yard successful attempt for his only field goal of the game (Colt David, LSU’s primary kicker {in 2007}, had kicked the first from 44 yards). Auburn, unlike LSU, could not pick up the initial first down when it got the ball. Ronnie Prude (same guy who was flagged for the penalty on the try in 2004) broke up Brandon Cox’s third-and-long throw to Anthony Mix, who had caught Auburn’s go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Vaughn’s 40-yard attempt at the tie hit the left side of the upright, putting him at 1 for 6 for the game and ending the game.

LSU won despite being out-gained by 112 yards and only converting 4 third downs to Auburn’s 8.

2006

The game is known as Ref Gate–you know which side calls it that since the official final score was 7-3 Auburn. It’s also called “The Play,” and I think I’ve also seen it called “The Call,” since the most pivotal referee decision was to pick up a flag that had been thrown for pass interference. But there were a number of important calls that went against LSU. Also, the Mad Hatter may have played a role in this one (although Jimbo Fisher was the offensive coordinator, and I think Miles deferred more to him at the time), as LSU had many potential field-goal chances that the Fighting Tigers bypassed in an effort to get in the end zone. I don’t want to post the video of calls again, but it can easily be found on Youtube.

Auburn won despite being out-gained 311-182.

More series facts from the 2007 blog

Auburn has not led in the series since it lost in 1934.

The only Auburn opponents that the Plainsmen have played 10 times or more and have a worse winning percentage against are Alabama and, wait for it…

Tulane. It is a compliment to only have losing records against three teams that you’ve played that many times, but I wasn’t expecting one of them to be Tulane. Also in Auburn’s defense, they’ve only played the Green Wave once since playing them every year from 1921-1955.

The largest margin of victory in the series was 34 in the 1999 Cigar Game, surpassing the previous record of 28 (Auburn had won by 28 in 1901, and LSU had won by 28 in 1972). The 31-7 contests are in a 3-way tie with Auburn’s 34-10 win in 1993.

Right now (2010), LSU has won 3 in a row and 8 of the last 11 contests in Baton Rouge, the first of the group being in 1969.

Last year was only the second time in 6 years that the winner of the LSU/Auburn game did not win the SEC West. Along with LSU’s co-championship in 1988, Auburn of course finished with the best record in the SEC in 1993 but was not eligible for the SEC Championship.

Auburn is only LSU’s 10th most-common opponent, and LSU is Auburn’s 8th most-common opponent, but Auburn appears in the list of the top 15 Tiger Stadium crowds three times, for each of the last three games there. Arkansas and Florida, with 2 each, are the only other teams on that list more than once.

The two teams have also done a good job filling Jordan-Hare stadium recently. According to the Auburn CSTV website (I’m not sure when it was last updated, I assume after the 2004 season), the Extra-Point Game was tied for first with only two other contests (Georgia and Arkansas in 2004). LSU also appeared in the top 15 for the 2000 contest won by Auburn, 34-17. LSU’s two appearances were tied for second with Alabama, among others.

The other blogs in this series can be accessed through the LSU Rivalry Series tab above.

Post-2014 Additional info

LSU lost by an identical score when the Fighting Tigers started 0-7 in conference before Gerry DiNardo was relieved of his duties (leading to the hiring of Nick Saban in the following offseason).  LSU won by 35 in 2011, so that’s still the biggest win in the series by either team.  This is the fifth time Auburn has beaten LSU by more than 20 (49 games dating back to 1901), but it is only the third time since 1938.  The closest of the three was by 24 in 1993.

LSU did have five losses of 28 or more since then, but only once was under Les Miles.  They were Florida 2000, Florida 2001, Alabama 2002, Georgia 2004, and Florida 2008.

Since the SEC expanded to 12 teams in 1992, LSU has traveled to both Auburn and Florida in every even year.  LSU has never won both games and not coincidentally has never won the SEC West in an even year, so this pretty much assures it won’t happen this year either. This pattern momentarily changed when LSU and Florida traded home games in 2016 and 2017. This allowed LSU to win a road game against Florida in the same year they beat Auburn for the first time since 1980.

I didn’t realize this going into the 2017 game, but this was actually the first competitive LSU-Auburn game in Tiger Stadium since 2007. That was when LSU only needed a field goal to win, but Matt Flynn threw a touchdown to Demetrius Byrd that was caught with about 3 seconds left (although the ensuing kickoff was with 1 second left). Appropriately enough, the 2007 team was in attendance on Saturday. The 2007 game came two years after an overtime win by LSU which resulted from multiple missed field goals by Auburn.

It was nice to get another close win against Auburn in light of the 4-point loss in 1994 (the disaster on the plains), the 1-point loss in 2004 (the extra point game), the 4-point loss in 2006 (Refgate), the 7-point loss in 2010 (I don’t think it had a nickname; it was just a good close game on the way to Auburn’s national championship), and the 5-point loss last season (I guess we can call it the final nail in the Miles coffin game). The other games mentioned in this paragraph were all at Auburn, where LSU has only won twice since 1998.