By JIM ENGSTER | President, Tiger Rag Magazine
LSU’s 27-23 victory over Auburn was as improbable as Troy’s 24-21 triumph over LSU two weeks earlier. Auburn appeared to be on the brink of competing with Alabama for SEC West honors and looked invincible in amassing a 20-0 lead over the Tigers in the first half.
But them it appeared Auburn hit the cruise control button, and LSU waged a furious comeback against a beleaguered foe. Suddenly, LSU has a better than average SEC quarterback in Danny Etling and a solid field goal kicker in Conner Culp, who hit the game-winner against Florida and booted three-pointers from 42 and 36 yards against Auburn.
The often maligned LSU defense held Auburn to six yards passing in the second half. It was reminiscent of the 1982 unit which demolished Florida, Auburn and Florida State. The anchor of the ’82 unit, Ramsey Dardar, talked with several players last week. The 58-year-old Dardar is out of prison after 19 years and looks like he can still bench press his weight.
Maybe Dardar should address the team every week until LSU loses. With the comeback over Auburn, the Tigers are 5-2 and eight more wins from a national title. First comes a test at Ole Miss followed by two weeks to prep for Nov. 4 at Alabama. Despite recent woes against the Tide, LSU is 9-9 vs. Alabama in the new millennium and 9-0 against Auburn in games played in Baton Rouge in the 21st Century.
Sometimes teams just can’t win in certain places against certain opponents. For LSU, it was damned near impossible to beat Alabama in Baton Rouge until Nick Saban became the head coach of the Tigers.
From 1971 to 1998, LSU was 0-14-1 at Death Valley against Alabama. Some of the battles were memorable, such as a 14-14 tie in 1985, an epic 3-0 loss in 1979 and a 14-7 loss in 1971. After the seven-point defeat to Johnny Musso and the ‘71 Crimson Tide team that went 11-0 on its way to the Orange Bowl, LSU was whipped consecutively at home by Bama minus the tie in ’85 by scores of 21-7, 23-10, 24-3, 3-0, 24-7, 32-26, 22-10, 32-16, 20-17, 31-11, 35-17, 26-0 and 22-16.
The final tally for the 15 games at Tiger Stadium with Alabama to close the 20th Century was Alabama 319 LSU 154.
Then, Nick Saban came to TigerTown and promptly beat Alabama 30-28 in his rookie season of 2000. In the 21st Century, LSU has improved to 4-5 in Baton Rouge, including two overtime setbacks, vs. Alabama with the Tide holding the edge on the scoreboard 182-159.
By contrast, LSU dominates Auburn in Baton Rouge. Saturday’s 27-23 victory over the War Eagles provided an edge of the seat rally to overcome a 20-0 deficit, but considering LSU’s command over Auburn at Tiger Stadium, it should have come as no surprise.
In the 21st Century, these are contests vs. Auburn at LSU.
2001: LSU 27 Auburn 14
2003: LSU 31 Auburn 7
2005: LSU 20 Auburn 17
2007: LSU 30 Auburn 24
2009: LSU 31 Auburn 10
2011: LSU 45 Auburn 10
2013: LSU 35 Auburn 21
2015: LSU 45 Auburn 21
2017: LSU 27 Auburn 23
The last time LSU dropped a game to Auburn in Death Valley, Gerry DiNardo was coaching the Bengals as Tommy Tuberville smoked his celebratory cigar on the hallowed field in a 41-7 War Eagle rout on Sept. 18, 1999.
The loss to Auburn in ’99 was the first game of an infamous eight-game losing streak that cost DiNardo his job.
Since then, LSU has won nine straight times at home vs. Auburn and has outpointed its rival by a margin of 301-147.
In the years that LSU has pounded the War Eagles in Baton Rouge (2001-17), LSU has won 165 games overall to Auburn’s 153, a difference of 12 victories. Minus the head-to-head confrontations in Baton Rouge, the programs are relatively even over the last 17 years.
During the same period of 2001-17, Auburn is 7-1 vs. LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium. In those matchups, Auburn has outscored the Tigers, 162-94.
In 2000, Saban dropped a 34-17 decision at Auburn in his first SEC game. So the overall record through 18 clashes in the 21st Century is LSU 10, Auburn 8. It arguably is LSU’s most evenly matched rivalry.
The following list shows the LSU record against other foes which have been on the schedule in every year of the 21st Century. Curiously, LSU is even against Alabama but has dropped six in a row to the Tide.
Mississippi State 16-2
Ole Miss 12-5
In the 21st Century, LSU is 173-54 (76.2 percent) in all games.
Against yearly foes, the record is 67-39 (63.2 percent) and against everybody else in the Century, LSU is 106-15 (87.6 percent).
Beckham should follow Nola’s example
With Odell Beckham Jr. lost for the NFL season with a broken ankle, he is where baseball standout Aaron Nola was a year ago. Beckham must prove in 2018 that he remains the dominant and dangerous wide receiver who captivated the NFL in his first three seasons.
Odell turns 25 on Nov. 5. He has 313 catches for 4,424 yards and 38 touchdowns in four NFL years with the New York Giants. By comparison, all-time great Jerry Rice had 264 receptions for 4,881 yards and 49 touchdowns in his four years with San Francisco.
The bet here is that Beckham will respond the same way Nola did when he was shut down for more than 200 days after injuring his throwing arm in 2016.
Nola rebounded with a strong season on a bad team. The 24-year-old ace was 12-11 on a Philadelphia Phillies team which posted a 66-96 record.
According to the modern wins above replacement number, Nola was the 44th best player in the majors in 2017 and the 12th best pitcher with a WAR number of 4.3.
The WAR number for Alex Bregman was 4.1. The Houston Astros infielder enjoyed a solid season with 39 doubles, five triples, 19 homers, a .284 batting average and a .475 slugging percentage.
At press time, the Astros have a 2-0 lead over the Yankees in the race for the American League pennant.
Nola spent some time on the disabled list early in the season but finished the year with 184 strikeouts in 168 innings, allowing 154 hits and 49 walks. His ERA was 3.54 in 27 starts. He is poised for a big season in 2018.
These are the top WAR seasons for LSU MLB players in the modern era. Is there any doubt that Albert Belle is the greatest player in LSU baseball history?
- Albert Belle 1998 1
- Albert Belle 1995 9
- Alvin Dark 1951 1
- Aaron Hill 2009 8
- Alvin Dark 1952 8
- Albert Belle 1994 7
- Albert Belle 1996 6
- Ben McDonald 1996 4
- J. LeMahieu 2016 5.2
- Aaron Hill 2007 1