LSU football senior quarterback Joe Burrow said LSU can win 7-6 or 70-62.
On Saturday, LSU won 23-20 against Auburn. It was the lowest scoring output for LSU all season. The Tigers were held scoreless in a quarter for only the second time this season.
Burrow said Auburn came out in a new defense LSU hadn’t seen all year. Junior center Lloyd Cushenberry described Auburn’s defense as an odd front, which means it lined up both its defensive ends on the outside shoulder of the guards and the nose tackle over the center.
Instead of playing linebackers in between the ends and the nose tackle, Auburn stacked both linebackers behind the center, giving its defense a single-column look in the middle.
It was a way for Auburn to limit LSU’s passing game in the middle of the field while dropping more defenders in coverage. With the extra defenders deep, Auburn was able to double both junior wide receiver Justin Jefferson and sophomore wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
Burrow was 8-of-9 passing for 42 yards in the first quarter, but none of his passes were longer than 10 yards due to Auburn’s pass rush.
LSU didn’t throw downfield until Burrow’s 12th pass with 13:09 remaining in the second quarter.
On the next play, Auburn abandoned the defensive look, switching to an over-guard, even front, according to Cushenberry. Burrow connected with Chase on a crossing route for a gain of 19 yards and a contested back-shoulder pass to Chase for gains of 27 yards on consecutive plays respectively.
The four-play series was capped off with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to sophomore wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr.
“We thought we could win our one-on-ones,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron. “We had some batted balls with the slants. Those guys were getting their hands up. I thought the play Ja’Marr Chase made on the sidelines was a phenomenal catch. We felt he could win his one-on-ones, and he did most of them.
“Now we threw the pick, probably went to it one too many times, but I think that opened up the game a little bit by Ja’Marr Chase beating those guys one-on-one.”
Auburn went back to its original defense on the next series and LSU was able to find some success with passes underneath, but the Auburn defense stiffened and stopped LSU on fourth-and-one.
With Auburn focused on limiting Chase and loading his side of the field, LSU had success with the short-passing game on its next possession, but settled for a 20-yard field goal before halftime.
“They were putting a lot of people over [on Chase’s side] and were giving us easy throws to the field on slants,” Burrow said. “Then we figured out in the second half, what if we started running the ball?”
It took some time after halftime for LSU to get going. LSU came up short on fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line and Burrow threw an interception, but then LSU’s run game led by junior running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire asserted itself.
LSU took a 16-13 lead over Auburn on a four-play, 45-yard touchdown drive that solely featured runs by Edwards-Helaire.
“I got on the headset, and [offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger] and [passing game coordinator Joe Brady] said let’s just pound it on this drive,” Burrow said. “We’re just going to run the ball, and see if they can stop it. The o-line and [junior tight end Thaddeus Moss] did a great job up front, and Clyde made everybody miss.”
Once Edwards-Helaire began moving the ball, Auburn rarely returned to its original defense, instead opting for more of a traditional nickel defense with four down lineman and two linebackers.
In the second half, LSU ran the ball 29 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Burrow kept the ball for a seven-yard touchdown on LSU’s final touchdown to give the Tigers a 23-13 lead in the fourth quarter, and Edwards-Helaire finished with 26 carries for 136 yards and his one touchdown along with seven catches for 51 yards.
Burrow credited Edwards-Helaire for opening up the passing game. The senior quarterback finished Saturday’s game with 321 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 32-of-42 passing. LSU totaled 508 yards of offense and 30 first downs against a defense that was considered to be one of the top units in the country.
“I don’t know what their gameplan was, so I guess they were trying to stop the pass,” Cushenberry said about LSU’s rushing attack in the second half. “We felt like we could get moving on the double teams and the backers weren’t really shooting gaps. We just adjusted on the sidelnes and got things going.”