Even LSU graduate transfer linebacker Jabril Cox could see the bigger picture from two weeks away and it wasn’t very appealing.
In the moments following Saturday’s historic 48-11 loss at Auburn, the Tigers fell below .500 for the second time this season – this time heading into a scheduled open date with a 2-3 overall record and motivated No. 2 Alabama coming to town on Nov. 14.
“After a loss it hurts, but you can’t dwell on this,” Cox said. “We know who we have in two weeks. That’s something we have to prepare and get our minds right. We have to put this in the past, let it set in and just know the feeling we have for this game and not to let it carry on until the next two weeks.”
It may take that long to get the stench out of LSU’s latest lopsided defeat, one that had the early makings of following in its recent series with Auburn of being another down-to-the-wire thriller.
The drama that carried over from a scoreless opening quarter hardly dictated the remainder of the game’s theme.
Auburn’s offense converted three LSU turnovers into 21 points, all at the hands of true freshman quarterback T.J. Finley, and the homestanding Tigers (4-2, 4-2 in SEC) piled up 506 total yards behind the play of quarterback Bo Nix to put the game away after three quarters.
“We just did not play very well, and Auburn played their best game,” LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron said. “We have to play with consistency. We have to get better at a lot of things.”
Auburn handed LSU its worst loss (37 points) since a 56-13 home loss to Florida in 1996.
In a competitive series that over the past four years was decided by no less than five points, LSU suffered its worst loss in the 55-year history of the series with Auburn which enjoyed its best scoring output ever against LSU.
Nix, last season’s SEC’s Freshman of the Year, accounted for 381 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. He passed for 300 yards and 2 TDs and led his team in rushing with 81 yards and a score.
“We just got punched in the face, we got absolutely killed,” LSU graduate transfer center Liam Shanahan said. “We have to respond. It’s tough to say that now. It stings a lot right now. We just got embarrassed on a national stage. We’re going to get back at it. We’re going to look at film and I’m sure there will be a lot to correct.”
They won’t lack for flaws to clean up.
Finley, making his second career start in place of injured starter Myles Brennan, opened the door for Auburn’s offensive fireworks with a pair of interceptions and a fumble – all of which resulted in the homestanding Tigers’ 21-3 halftime lead.
Finley’s overthrow for Terrace Marshall Jr. was picked off and returned 52 yards by Nehemiah Pritchett and led to Nix’s 10-yard screen pass to Eli Stove at the 12:45 mark of the second quarter.
“We just have to keep making strides. We showed some promise early on in the game by getting stops, but we have to continue to go forth with that throughout the whole entire game, all four quarters,” Cox said. “We just can’t have one quarter of good defense. We have to keep on striving through the game as a whole and put it all together.”
After not being sacked in last week’s win over South Carolina, Finley was pressured by Auburn’s Colby Wood and Derick Hall with Hall knocking the ball out of the hands of LSU’s 6-foot-6 quarterback which Christian Tutt scooped and scored from 20 yards out for a 14-0 lead with 5:27 to go before halftime.
Auburn’s offense put together its first true scoring drive, taking over from LSU’s 1-yard line and required eight plays and just over three minutes to make it 21-0 on Nix’s 9-yard TD pass to Ze’Vian Capers.
LSU avoided being shut out on Cade York’s 50-yard field goal to close out the half.
“They were playing well and all of a sudden we give up two touchdowns on offense,” Orgeron said of his defense. “That deflated those guys a little bit. It shouldn’t, we’ve got to be mentally tough not to let that happen, but I believe we let that happen.”
Auburn opened the second half with another marathon drive that covered 75 yards and seven plays with Nix keeping from five yards out and a 28-3 advantage at the 11:35 mark.
That turned out to be the origin of a stretch of 27 unanswered points LSU couldn’t recover from. The Tigers trailed 48-3 after the first play of the fourth quarter on Nix’s 91-yard TD pass to Anthony Schwartz.
For the third time in defeat this season LSU’s offense was unable to generate a consistent ground game and wound up with 27 carries for 32 yards – a paltry 1.2 yard-per-carry average.
“We tried, we couldn’t block those guys,” Orgeron said. “I saw other people block their fronts. I was really surprised we couldn’t block them. I thought we could run the football. I was worried about our pass protection a bit.”
There was little solace in LSU’s final score – a 43-yard TD pass from back up freshman quarterback Max Johnson to Kayshon Boutte with 8:43 remaining.
Finley, whose second interception was the result of a batted ball at the line of scrimmage, completed 13 of 24 passes for 143 yards. Johnson came on as a replacement in the fourth quarter and threw for 172 yards on 15 of 24 passing.
Freshman tight end Arik Gilbert led LSU in receiving with six catches for 55 yards and Racey McMath added five catches for 51 yards.
“It seemed when it rained it poured and in the second half it got out of hand really quick,” Shanahan said. “We just couldn’t get anything going.”