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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn's early fire extinguished by another second-half letdown in loss to LSU

<p>LSU Quarterback hurdles Auburn player in a match at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Oct. 1, 2022.</p>

LSU Quarterback hurdles Auburn player in a match at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Oct. 1, 2022.

Editor's note: Story has been updated with post-game quotes.

When Anders Carlson drilled a 29-yard field goal to put Auburn up by 17 in the second quarter, it looked like Auburn was set up perfectly to beat LSU for the third straight year.

That was a faulty assumption. Auburn didn't score in the second half for the second straight week, and LSU scored three unanswered touchdowns to get the 21-17 victory.

"We put the ball on the ground too many times, and (LSU) won the turnover battle," said head coach Bryan Harsin. "That’s going to be a huge factor when it’s all said and done. It goes back to just a matter of fact in football... We’ve got to find ways to finish and play four quarters."

Despite Auburn reaching the LSU 10-yard line in the start of the fourth quarter, wide receiver Koy Moore was asked to throw the ball instead of the hot arm of Robby Ashford. 

While Auburn quarterbacks have struggled with interceptions this season, Ashford was living it up on his birthday. He had 219 yards at halftime with two TDs and no interceptions, but the ball went into the LSU transfer's hands and it ended up in the hands of Moore's former teammate, Harold Perkins Jr. 

Auburn's defense continued to hang on and keep QB Jayden Daniels on his toes, but LSU won a game of hot potato before it lined up ing victory formation. Punt returner Keionte Scott muffed a punt that bounced directly to LSU, but it ended up working out for Auburn when nose tackle Jayson Jones recovered a fumble two plays later. 

But it didn't work out for Auburn. Five plays later, Ashford turned the ball over for the second time of the day with an interception over the middle of the field with 2:18 left in the game. From there, LSU ran the ball three times for a first down before Daniels kneeled three times to run out the remainder of the clock.

“I mean, it hurts, and I know what we have to do. We just have to execute," said senior offensive lineman Brandon Council. "We have to keep the same momentum we have in the first half and carry it over to the second half. We have to get better at that."

Auburn got its second turnover of the year in the fourth quarter, but it still is yet to win the turnover battle. LSU stole the ball from Auburn four times as opposed to Auburn's sole takeaway. The turnovers late in the game overshadowed a big day from Ashford and the Auburn offense.

The offense racked up a season-best 430 yards, and the defense held LSU to 270 total yards, and Ashford recorded the most passing yards by an Auburn QB this season (337). 

Ashford also dished the ball out beautifully, and the receivers spread the field well. Auburn had eight passing plays of over 15 yards to seven different receivers. Ja'Varrius Johnson led the way with 3 catches for 74 yards, including a 53-yard TD to cap off Auburn's opening drive.

Wide Receiver Ja'Varrius Johnson (#6) gets a touchdown in match of Auburn and LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Oct. 1, 2022.

Moore followed up his team-leading performance last week with four more receptions for 55 yards, and true freshman Camden Brown and Omari Kelley each had big grabs, the former an 18-yarder for a TD and the latter for 25 yards to get Auburn to the LSU 24-yard line in the second quarter. That catch preceded a missed field goal by Carlson from 40 yards out.

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But Ashford's final pass ended in the hands of an LSU defender, and his birthday bash got spoiled when John Emery Jr. took a handoff 20 yards to the house to put LSU ahead in the third quarter. 

“We have been able to assert our will in the second half against most teams this year," said LSU head coach Brian Kelly. "The conditioning of our football team has been better than our opponents this year...  As the game went on, it was pretty clear that we were able to exert our will and physically control the line of scrimmage.”

No one scored in the fourth quarter, hence the trio of turnovers, and Auburn fell to a 3-2 record despite another dominant start. Auburn has now scored six total points over the last three games, and the Tigers are left scrambling to find an answer for their second-half struggles in preparation for the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs next week in Athens.

“We're flipping the page tomorrow," said senior tight end John Samuel Shenker. "We want to be 2-0 in the SEC, and we're not, we are 1-1. But it's still early in the season and we're going to get to work tomorrow, get ready for Georgia, and just be a better team next Saturday.”

Noah Griffith | Assistant Sports Editor

Noah is a senior in journalism from Salem, Alabama. He joined the Plainsman in August of 2021 after transferring in from Southern Union Community College.

Twitter: @NoahGG01

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