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Three Observations from LSU's 23-20 win over Auburn

LSU defense steps up in second half, Edwards-Helaire pours it on late

It wasn't the traditional win LSU fans have come to know this season as the explosive offense, for once, wasn't as explosive. It took a total team effort Saturday night, with the defense stepping up when the offense needed it most.

Senior quarterback Joe Burrow had another great day at the office, but did it in an uncharacteristic way, using a combination of his arm and legs that hasn't been showcased as much in 2019.

Second Half Defense Fuels LSU to win Saturday

There's no other way to slice it, the LSU defense was sensational in the second half Saturday afternoon. The yardage totals between the first and second half are admittedly, similar. 

LSU surrendered 147 yards of offense in the first half and an additional 140 in the second half. But that doesn't paint the actual picture. On the first play of the second half, Auburn running back DJ Williams ripped off a 70-yard run. It was a disastrous start to a second half in a tie game.

After that one play, Auburn would accumulate just 70 yards of offense the rest of the half. In fact, over the next four drives, the LSU defense forced four three-and-outs for a total of four yards.

"I feel like we played a complete second half," defensive end Breiden Fehoko said. "Auburn is an explosive offense if you give them the opportunities and they came out with that first [70 yard] run and that was just us having to man up and make a tackle. We got that fixed and that was really only their biggest play of the second half."

Junior safety JaCoby Stevens said it wasn't the defense's best half of football because they allowed 10 points to be scored. 

"There's been second halves where we've shut teams out," Stevens said. "Until we do that again, I feel like we can play better in the second half or in any half."

Senior Rashard Lawrence said the gameplan was to throw as much at freshman quarter Bo Nix as possible and it worked. Nix went 15-of-35 for 157 yards, a touchdown and an interception. 

Whatever switch the defense flipped in the second half, it worked as the unit played one of, if not the best half of football all season.

Clyde's Big Day

It was a career day for junior Clyde Edwards-Helaire Saturday afternoon as his 120 second half rushing yards fueled a struggling offense.

In total, Edwards-Helaire rushed for 136 yards on 26 carries, good for a five-yard average. But it was one drive in the second half that sticks out over all the rest.

With LSU struggling to get the ball in the endzone and trailing 13-10 as the third quarter ticked past the six minute mark, offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and passing game coordinator Joe Brady made a decision. LSU was going to run it down Auburn's throats.

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"I think the run game really opens up the rest of our offense," Burrow said. "Coach Steve and coach Joe said let's just pound it on this drive and see if they can stop it."

Auburn couldn't stop what was coming as Edwards-Helaire rattled off runs of 22, 12, five and six yards to put the finishing touches on a touchdown drive that would put LSU up 16-13.

"It was a special moment and understanding the time of the game that it was in," Edwards-Helaire said of the drive. "It's a moment I grew up always wanting so being able to be in that situation and finishing drives was something that was exciting for me."

Edwards-Helaire knew that the offense was planning on running the ball the whole drive and said remaining calm and reading his keys were what led to the success on the drive.

"If I have the opportunity to create, I create but for the most part our offensive line was doing an amazing job, knocking guys off the ball, and I was able to make my reads," Edwards-Helaire said. "Being able to take over a game like this is something special."

Burrow had a great night on the ground Saturday as well, rushing for 31 yards and what would be the game-clinching touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. 

Using his legs hasn't been in the arsenal as much as people thought heading into the season, but that's just because he's been ridiculously good in the passing attack. If Burrow can keep defenses on its toes by scrambling like he did tonight, it'll add a layer to an already sensational offense. 

Not a pretty game on special teams, or for penalties

While Saturday's game was a full team effort, it didn't come without its mistakes as special teams and 12 total penalties were very real issues that could've just as easily led to a loss.

It all started in the closing minutes of the first half as the LSU defense had forced a three-and-out with a little under eight minutes to go before halftime.

Freshman cornerback and punt returner Derek Stingley stood at the 25-yard line and what happened next can be chalked up to a freshman mistake. Stingley muffed the ensuing punt, giving Auburn an extra possession in the first half with great field position, a possession that would lead to seven points and a 10-7 Auburn lead.

It was a stunning momentum swing early in the game and it wouldn't stop there. As LSU put the finishing touches on Edwards-Helaire’s four play touchdown drive in the third quarter, a missed extra point kept it a three point game.

Holder and punter Zach Von Rosenberg bobbled the snap, leading to freshman Cade York's blocked extra point to keep the game at an uneasy 16-13 LSU lead.

Luckily for LSU, those two plays didn't come back to bite the team down the stretch but with Alabama two weeks away, the Tigers will need to play a squeaky clean game to have a chance at winning in Tuscaloosa for the first time since 2011. Those plays are game changers and can lead to losses.

So can the 12 penalties that added up to an extra 112 yards for Auburn. Five on offense, five on defense and two on special teams, which affects field position and stalls drives.

LSU played a great team Saturday night and will no doubt be happy to walk away with the win. But there's plenty to work on between now and Nov. 9 for a likely 1 vs 2 matchup at Alabama.