Auburn Tiger fans can now party like it is 1999.
“The curse is finally broken,” quarterback Bo Nix said.
Prior to tonight, the Auburn Tigers had not beaten the LSU Tigers in Death Valley since 1999. Nix was not even born at that point.
Fast-forward to 2021, and Auburn now has back-to-back historic victories over LSU. Both orchestrated by Nix.
Last season, Auburn routed LSU 48-11 in the largest margin of victory in the rivalry’s history.
On Saturday, No. 22 Auburn beat LSU in Death Valley 24-19. Similar to last week’s slog with Georgia State, Auburn had to come from behind to win. In true Auburn fashion, it took almost every second of the game and a couple of memorable plays, but the team won nonetheless.
"I thought guys stepped up and made some really great plays tonight," said head coach Bryan Harsin. "That needs to happen in games like this."
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To the chagrin of fans and coaches alike, Auburn went into halftime losing for the second straight week. The offense couldn’t capitalize on its possessions, the run game was stifled and the defense was getting picked apart by LSU quarterback Max Johnson.
Still, the game was close at 13-10. LSU scored on its first drive of the game, behind 99 receiving yards and an eventual score from Kayson Boutte, a highly-rated NFL prospect. Auburn took six drives into LSU territory, but only had 10 points to show for it.
How Auburn scored its first touchdown of the game though, is truly a story in itself.
Nix to Tyler Fromm, a tight end who had zero career catches before tonight, will be a play that hangs in the Auburn-Louvre for decades to come.
On fourth-and-2, a down and distance that kept coming up for Auburn on Saturday, Nix took an under center snap from the LSU 23.
Fromm motioned out of the backfield, leaving John Samuel Shenker and Jarquez Hunter behind the signal caller.
Nix rolled out right, following Fromm’s path, but the play was blown up. Nix had to retreat to almost the LSU 35, dodging a defender diving at his ankles. Nix then stepped up, made a jab step to make another guy miss, and went running towards the Auburn sideline. He was running out of real estate.
LSU’s Micah Baskerville came screaming at Nix. The play was over. Until it wasn’t.
Nix shook the 223-pound linebacker off his shoulder. Nix took a step up, a step back, then rifled a pass as he was falling to the ground. With four guys on him, Nix found Fromm, who had found himself on the other side of the field. His defender could only watch as Fromm’s flowing yellow hair trotted into the endzone.
"I will never forget the vision in my head of the hair in his helmet flopping around while he was open," Nix said.
The play took almost 11 seconds and it was all made possible by the same quarterback who was benched last week against a Sun Belt team. But Nix made it work, and Fromm was more than happy to be the recipient of Nix’s pass.
“Well to be honest, we didn't draw that up at all,” Fromm said. “I saw him roll out and I thought 'Heck, might as well start running.' I didn't think I would ever get my first touchdown here. At this point, I don't even remember catching it."
Auburn had made magic happen, but still, there was more game to be played.
To open the second half, LSU’s Cade York connected on one of his four made field goals to push the score to 16-10.
To follow, Auburn lined up for a 52-yard field goal of its own, but LSU blocked it. On the night, Auburn kicker Anders Carlson had two missed field goals. One miss on the first possession of the game and the blocked kick.
York again answered the call and Auburn faced a 19-10 deficit heading into the fourth quarter. It might have been time for any long-time Auburn fan to start fearing the worst. This might not be the year. The curse is still alive.
But Nix had other plans.
To start the fourth, Nix got the ball at the LSU 11 and charged forward for six yards. Nix’s legs were the difference maker tonight for Auburn’s offense, as he was six yards shy of being the game’s leading rusher.
The following play, Nix dove to the endzone on a five yard rush and Auburn found itself down 19-17.
Auburn’s final drive of the game started at the Auburn 8-yard line. Reminiscent of last week’s march down the entirety of the field, Auburn found itself facing the same issue.
Nix opened the drive with a rush for 11 yards and a pass to Shaun Shivers that went for 10. Then came the moment Auburn fans had been looking for all night.
Off a pitch to freshman phenom Jarquez Hunter, Hunter barreled through a defender and took the ball 44 yards up the Auburn sideline. He was caught from behind, but Auburn now had flipped the field and the end zone was near. Auburn was now at the opposing 34.
Nix found Ze’Vian Capers, then Shivers again to put the team at theLSU 15. Then Hunter took another run eight yards up the gut. Hunter hit paydirt next with a one-yard score to give Auburn the lead. A lead that was not relinquished.
“My first SEC game was great. I had to make plays and do what I had to do," Hunter said.
On its ensuing possession, LSU marched about 20 yards up the field before Johnson hit Boutte on a third-and-6 play that potentially was going to flip the field for LSU. However, the play was reversed due to Boutte bobbling the ball as he came down to the turf.
On fourth-and-6, a desperation heave from Johnson found the chest of Bydarrius Knighton for an Auburn pick. Game over. Streak over.
“We made some plays tonight. LSU made plays. We were able to finish," Harsin said.
In the fourth quarter, Auburn put up 14 points to LSU’s zero. Nix made it work. The defense got stops when it needed to. And Auburn is undefeated in SEC play.
“We are going to enjoy an LSU win," Harsin said.
At least for tonight, Nix has silenced the haters. He had 255 passing yards, 74 yards on the ground and two total scores. He led his team, cheered on T.J. Finley when the backup quarterback’s name was called and earned a much needed team victory.
"If it doesn't go perfectly, we can still make a play,” Harsin said. “You are going to have four of five of those in a game where things break down. Tonight Bo made some things happen."
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