As soon as the sun came out after a gloomy morning in Baton Rouge, so too did No. 2 LSU’s offense.
No. 9 Auburn (6-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) held down LSU’s offense much of the first half and into the third quarter on a water-logged field. Auburn sacked LSU senior quarterback Joe Burrow three times and held LSU to 29 rushing yards in the first half.
But then LSU’s offense came to life. LSU (8-0, 4-0 SEC) scored 13 unanswered points in the second half, propelling them to a 23-20 win. Junior running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s success on the ground was pivotal as he rushed 21 times for 117 yards and a touchdown in the second half.
"I think a lesser team would not have won that game today," said LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who improved to 8-3 against top-10 teams as LSU's coach. "They came to play, and adversity hit us. We weren't playing very well in the first half. They got up ahead, but our guys kept fighting."
In the opening quarter, Auburn struck first with a field goal after some assistance by penalties on LSU. Then Burrow connected with sophomore wide receiver Terrace Marshall on a 20-yard touchdown pass to give LSU a 7-3 lead.
But later in the first half, freshman cornerback Derek Stingley muffed a punt on LSU’s 22. Auburn took advantage, and on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, quarterback Bo Nix pushed his way into the end zone for a touchdown.
Stingley later made up for his mistake right before halftime. After a 20-yard field goal by freshman kicker Cade York, Auburn looked content to run out the last 33 seconds of the first half, but running back DJ Williams picked up 40 yards on a draw.
On the next play, Nix threw to the end zone, and his pass was intercepted by Stingley to keep things deadlocked at 10 going into halftime.
Another long run, this time for 70 yards, by Williams set up an Auburn field goal on its first possession of the second half.
LSU tried to respond but were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line early in the third quarter and then Burrow threw an interception at the 2-yard line on the next possession, keeping the Auburn lead at 13-10.
After the miscues by the LSU offense, the Tigers defense forced two three-and-outs, which led to Auburn punting from the back of its end zone on both occasions.
Finally, LSU’s offense was able to punch the ball in for a touchdown on its next drive. Edwards-Helaire rushed four straight times for 45 yards and a touchdown to give LSU a 16-13 lead after a missed extra point by freshman kicker Cade York.
LSU’s defense forced another three-and-out, and the offense capitalized once again. This time it was Burrow on the ground from seven yards out to extend LSU’s lead to 23-13.
Late in the fourth quarter, Nix threw a five-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Seth Williams to cut LSU’s lead to 23-20, but LSU senior receiver Derrick Dillon recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal LSU’s win.
Edwards-Helaire finished with 26 carries for 136 yards and a touchdown, and Burrow threw for over 300 yards once again. The Heisman contender completed 32-of-42 passes for 321 yards and a touchdown and added 31 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Defensively, junior safety JaCoby Stevens led LSU with 10 tackles. LSU held Auburn to 287 yards of offense, forcing 10 punts and six three-and-outs.
“We definitely showed toughness today," Burrow said. "It wasn’t pretty by any means, but SEC games aren’t going to be pretty. When you can come out with a win over a top-10 team and think you could play better, it’s always a good thing.”
Next up for LSU is No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Both teams have a bye next week before the big matchup on Nov. 9.