It's a mixed bag of emotions for LSU fans heading into their SEC road opener against Auburn on Saturday.
It’s a mixed bag of emotions for LSU fans heading into their SEC road opener against Auburn on Saturday.
Many are encouraged by what they saw in LSU’s conference victory over Mississippi State, and many others left the game scratching their heads.
The game was full of highs and lows for the Tigers. Most of the highs came in the first three quarters.
With Danny Etling making his first start at quarterback, the LSU passing game finally showed signs of life, and the rest of the offense fed off of the success.
The Tigers exploded for over 280 total yards and 23 points just in the first half after scoring a grand total of 32 offensive points in the first two games.
Etling went a very efficient 19-30 for 215 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
Malachi Dupre got out of his two-game slump to corral four balls for 54 yards, and D.J. Chark established himself as a solid No. 3 receiver with 52 yards receiving and a score.
The offensive line did not surrender a single sack, and they paved the way for 147 yards rushing and two touchdowns by Leonard Fournette.
Meanwhile, the defense put up their best performance of the season as they held Mississippi State to just 280 total yards.
The Bulldogs were held to just 56 rushing yards, their quarterbacks were sacked six times and they only converted one of 14 third downs.
However, there were some downs in the second half that almost spelled disaster.
Two Tiger drives were hindered by penalties, and a possible scoring drive was ended after a rare Fournette fumble.
The Tigers later put together an impressive march from their own 1-yard line to the Mississippi State 33 that looked to be a game-clincher, but a Fournette fumble on a seemingly converted fourth down came into question.
The replay officials made a highly questionable call to overturn the first down and award the ball to Mississippi State with 6:50 remaining in the game.
From there, the Bulldogs quickly scored two touchdowns and recovered an onside kick.
They later got the ball with more than two minutes remaining and a chance to tie or win the game.
Thankfully for LSU, the defense stood tall and didn’t give up a single first down. Arden Key came up with a huge game-clinching sack.
Many of the positives produced by the Tigers in the first three quarters were overshadowed by their miscues in the final seven minutes.
If they want to improve to 2-0 in SEC play, they will have to perform like they did when they were surging to a 23-3 advantage over the Bulldogs.
LSU will be facing a 1-2 Auburn team desperate for a victory in a venue that has not been kind to them.
The Tigers are just 2-6 in their last eight trips to Jordan-Hare Stadium. The last time LSU was there, they were embarrassed, 41-7.
Former LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has the Auburn defense playing much better in 2016, but they have still shown chinks in the armor.
They rank just 95th against the pass and 65th against the run. Though, they will certainly be motivated to stop Fournette after he embarrassed them for 228 yards and three touchdowns in LSU’s emphatic 45-21 victory last season.
Offensively, Auburn has been in the same boat with LSU. They have struggled mightily in the passing game.
They have alternated between three quarterbacks this season, but they still rank just 94th in passing yards.
Though, starting quarterback Sean White is completing 63 percent of his passes, and he has only thrown one interception all season.
It’s their run game that has flourished. They rank 15th in the country, churning out 262 yards per contest.
The tailback tandem of Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway have combined for 553 yards and five touchdowns through three games.
Speedy quarterback John Franklin III has also been dangerous when he has entered the game. Running the option, he has accounted for 117 yards.
The ground attack will be one of the stiffest tests so far for the LSU defense.
The Tigers have yet to allow a runner to surpass 86 yards this season. They rank 28th against the run—surrendering just 103 yards per contest.