For an LSU fan, I couldn’t think of a bigger disappointment than playing Auburn on the road in the past decade and a half. Of course, Auburn fans may hold the same bit of dread for LSU.
Since about 1994, this series has been peppered with exciting finishes and is probably underrated by the national media partially because it’s usually played earlier in the year.
But both sets of Tigers have had their share of disappointment in the series. Here’s a look back.
This was my freshman year at LSU. That year, LSU traveled to the Plains and were heartbroken by a 31-26 loss in which Tigers quarterback Jamie Howard threw six interceptions.
That’s not a typo. Three of them went for TD’s, including two the fourth quarter, to catapult Auburn to a comeback victory. Unranked LSU was ready to stun the No.11 War Eagles, but it was not to be.
The next year, LSU had a chance to return the favor in Baton Rouge, and they did.
In Gerry Dinardo’s first season as coach, unranked LSU hosted No. 5 Auburn in Death Valley. This year, Coach D appealed the NCAA ruling that said home teams must wear their dark jerseys at home.
LSU went back to their traditional white jerseys in Death Valley. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the interview with Auburn QB Patrick Nix before the match up. When asked about the white jerseys LSU would be donning, he said:
“White jerseys? I’m not afraid of no white jerseys. I’ve never lost as a starter.”
That game was truly one of the loudest games I’ve been to, and the defensive struggle that LSU won wasn’t decided until the last play. Nix looked into the corner of the end zone on the game’s final play, but LSU DB Troy Twillie picked it off and the Tigers won the “Bring Back the Magic” game by a score of 12-7.
I actually made the trip to Auburn in 1996. The “fire” game, dubbed so because a building adjacent to Jordan-Hare Stadium burned during the game, was another back and forth battle in which the purple and gold Tigers actually won on the road.
My friends and I were surrounded by Auburn fans in our seats, and many of them congratulated us after No. 21 LSU’s 19-15 win over the 14th-ranked Auburn Tigers. We had a great weekend of partying and I developed a healthy respect for those “other” Tigers that weekend.
Two things I’ll always remember about the 1997 match up between the 10th- ranked Bayou Bengals and the twelfth ranked Auburn Tigers:
1) Another epic see-saw battle that started with Auburn up 14-0 only to see LSU tie it at the half 21-21 before losing a heartbreaker by three.
2) A very large LSU student sat weeping uncontrollably with head in hands as we exited the student section after the game. My roommate whispered to me as we passed him “He probably bet his left testicle on this game.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen true sadness like that. I really felt devastated after the game until I saw this guy and thought, “Maybe it wasn’t so bad.”
Actually, this was the game LSU running back Cecil Collins went psycho (on the field this time) for 242 yards. When it was said and done, LSU rushed for 377 yards in the game but still lost 31-28.
LSU signal caller Herb Tyler went 6-21 with two interceptions, and on the flip-side, AU’s Dameyune Craig went for 342 yards with no picks.
We’ll skip ahead a few years:
’98 LSU 31 AU 19 @ Auburn
’99 Auburn 41 LSU 7 @ Baton Rouge
’00 Auburn 34 LSU 17 @ Auburn
In 2001, the battle to go to Atlanta for the SEC championship happened in December (because of 9/11) between No. 25 AU and No. 22 LSU in Baton Rouge. I experienced a first in this game. Tickets were hard to find so I actually sat in the visitor’s section at Tiger Stadium.
At the end of the 27-14 LSU win, I followed many other Tigers fans as they rushed the field to celebrate LSU’s first trip to the SEC Championship in the ATL.
As I walked down the steps, I passed an Auburn fan who said, “Well that’s just sick, y’all need to act like you’ve been there before.”
I responded pretty innocently with “But we haven’t been there before.”
LSU’s last SEC Championship before then was in 1988. I was 12. In 2001, I was 25 so to me, it was a long time coming.
LSU got beat pretty badly the following year (2002) on the Plains 31-7. LSU returned the favor with the same score (31-7) in 2003 at home.
The series got back to dishing out disappointment in 2004. It did so in a 10-9 AU victory in Auburn.
LSU was fifth in the country and Auburn was fourteenth. The game was more or less decided when Auburn tied the score on a touchdown to make it 9-9 late in the game. The ensuing PAT would give Auburn the lead.
AU missed the attempt, but a leaping penalty (which is called about as frequently as traveling on Kobe) was called on LSU. Auburn made the second attempt and won the game 10-9.
In 2005, it was Auburn’s turn to be crushed by disappointment. Auburn’s PK John Vaughn missed five FG attempts on the night and LSU’s PK Kris Jackson made good on his overtime attempt to give LSU a 20-17 OT victory. Auburn’s defense played valiantly in the loss.
2006 saw another defensive struggle on the Plains. There were many controversial calls against LSU. The most devastating was a pass interference call that was overruled to a no-call against Auburn. Many still frames show LSU WR Early Doucet was contacted before the ball got to him and before the ball was batted.
Despite this no call at a pivotal moment, LSU still had a chance to win but simply ran out of time. The game ended 7-3.
Last season after Auburn dominated the first half, LSU slowly crept back into the game. LSU mounted a final drive while trailing by one, 24-23.
It looked like LSU would settle for a 39-yard game-winning field goal attempt in the waning seconds. Instead, Matt Flynn chucked a last second fade route to Demetrius Byrd and the Tiger receiver came down with the ball in the end zone with :01 on the clock.
Byrd saw the way AU DB Jerraud Powers was playing him, so he and QB Matt Flynn thought they could exploit it. The call was seen as a stupid gamble but the only gamble was a possible interception. In fact, if anyone was to blame for a so called “gamble” it would be Flynn for taking so long to get the play off.
Byrd caught the ball with :04 left on the clock and it ticked down to :01. Had the ball been incomplete, LSU would have had time to attempt the field goal. Despite pretty decent coverage it took a perfect throw and great concentration by Byrd to make the game winner much to the traveling War Eagles’ disappointment.
So why should 2008 be any different? LSU travels to Auburn on September 20, 2008. These two teams play epic battles that become instant classics so you might want to tune in to this one. This series has seen fires, earthquakes, cigars, and the absolute bizarre.
If recent history is any indication, look for one set of Tigers to be devastatingly disappointed on September 21.