It wasn't pretty. But Auburn win shows again that LSU football isn't afraid to fight back

Koki Riley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

AUBURN, Ala - Down 17-0 to Auburn in the second quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium, LSU football could have thrown in the towel.

Nothing was going right. The defense couldn't stop surrendering big plays. The offense couldn't complete passes or stop committing penalties.

But instead of spiraling out of control, LSU did what its done all year: fight back.

"It's been the DNA of this group to battle, to fight. And they certainly did that tonight," first-year LSU coach Brian Kelly said.

The end wasn't pretty either. But when the final whistle sounded, LSU had won 21-17 for the first road victory of the Kelly era.

"They found a way to win," Kelly said. "Look, at the end of the day, there's a saying in golf that there are no pictures on the scorecard, there's just what you score."

LSU (4-1, 2-0 SEC) was outgained by 168 yards, failed to prevent Auburn (3-2, 1-1) from making big plays and scored just one touchdown on offense in the first half. LSU's quarterbacks – Jayden Daniels was replaced by Garrett Nussmeier in the fourth quarter after Kelly was concerned with Daniels' sore knee – combined to throw for 85 yards.

Countless issues arose, new and old. A fourth quarter fumble from running back John Emery with less than five minutes to play could have handed the game to Auburn.

But none of it deterred LSU.

Holding a 17-0 lead in the second quarter and with its offense scuffling, it was BJ Ojulari's forced fumble on quarterback Robby Ashford and Jay Ward's recovery and touchdown run that kept LSU in the game. When Auburn had second-and-goal at the LSU 10-yard line in the fourth quarter, Harold Perkins snatched an interception.

After the Emery fumble, another interception, this time from Greg Brooks Jr. at the LSU 25-yard line with 2:18 left to play, was the play of the game and gave LSU the ball back, allowing Josh Williams to ice it with three runs up the middle.

"They ran (the same play) like six times and I was like 'Colby (Richardson), help me over the top. I'm just going to jump it,' " Brooks said. "And I did and made a play on the ball."

LSU always punched back.

"We just found a way to win this game. And that's really what you're trying to do in the SEC West," Kelly said. "It's tough competition going on the road. It's a tough crowd that you have to overcome."

Saturday night wasn't the first time LSU has done this. It constructed a 99-yard touchdown drive in the final minute and 20 seconds to potentially tie the game against Florida State in the season opener. When it fell into a 13-0 hole against Mississippi State in Week 3, LSU finished on a 31-3 run and scored 21 points in the fourth quarter.

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There's no denying that LSU needs to get off to better starts. It will catch up to them at some point if the issue doesn't get fixed. Also, generating more than five second half passing yards and not allowing eight completions of more than 15 yards will be necessary for LSU to beat visiting Tennessee next week.

But if there's anything we've learned about Kelly's first LSU team through these first five games, it's that they will fight.

"Was that our best performance? I hope not," Kelly said. "But it was gutty, it was gritty and it was one that I'm proud of our guys in the way that they hung in there down 17-0.

"As I told our guys, that's a culture win. That's a program win."

Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.