For the first time in two years, it felt like a Saturday night in Death Valley and LSU's conference home opener with Auburn delivered with some dazzling moments.
After jumping out to a 13-0 lead, the LSU offense sputtered and the defense succumbed to a jaw dropping performance from Bo Nix to drop a tightly contested game 24-19 in Death Valley. A 92-yard, 11 play drive in the fourth quarter was the dagger in LSU's heart as the Auburn running backs were able to finally get cooking.
LSU controlled the first 20 minutes of the contest, forcing Auburn into no points on its first three drives and completely shut down a running attack that averaged 257 yards heading into the night. LSU covered well down field and was wrapping up its tackles on the first three drives of the game.
But after being benched for TJ Finley early, veteran Bo Nix responded in a slippery way. The Auburn quarterback simply made it impossible for the LSU defense to get a hand on him as his scrambling single handedly brought Auburn back into the game after an early 13-0 deficit.
Two separate fourth-and-2 conversions directly led to the only 10 points in the first half, including this mesmerizing touchdown play.
Nix's play late in the second quarter silenced a raucous LSU crowd and got Auburn back into the mix, leaving this LSU defense with one question. How do we get Nix on the ground?
It was a question this defense faced during the opening drive of the third quarter as well. Nix's improv skills allowed him to evade an Ali Gaye sack and complete a 33-yard pass downfield, one of many he had in the game. He continued to torch LSU's defense with his feet as tackling became a huge issue for the front seven as the game wore on.
Nix would finish with 255 yards passing and an additional 74 on the ground but it was ability to evade tackles and extend plays that made it such a great performance. The LSU defense would force two three-and-outs in the fourth quarter but were not helped one bit by a one dimensional offense.
The LSU offenses plan of attack was to beat Auburn with Max Johnson and the passing attack and it got off to an explosive start. But the gameplan became predictable very quickly and Auburn made the necessary adjustments.
LSU's inability to capitalize in the redzone made this game much closer then it probably should've been. LSU settled for field goals three times when getting inside the Auburn 20-yard line, largely because of a lack of run game presence. The purple and gold combined for 25 yards on 23 carries Saturday night, putting a ton of stress on Johnson and the passing game.
Everytime LSU would get off to solid starts on drives, it would be held to field goals or punts because of penalties, lost yardage and no threat of a run game. The one saving grace was the leg of Cade York who nailed kicks of 52, 33, 26 and 22 yards throughout the game.
In need of a fourth quarter drive clinging to a one score lead LSU came up empty three separate times as the lack of a run game allowed Auburn to drop as many as nine players in coverage, completely rendering LSU's offense one dimensional.
Moving Kayshon Boutte into the slot proved to be a winning move a couple of weeks ago. Boutte and Johnson continued that success into Saturday, combining for six catches and 127 yards, including the lone touchdown in the first half on a beautifully placed ball.
But LSU was just too predictable all night on offense and it kept Auburn alive long enough so it could make its final punch.