Updated: Oct 16
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BY LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
For the second straight year, Head Coach Brian Kelly's LSU Tigers beat Auburn thanks to a fantastic showing from Matt House's defense, but unlike last season's comeback thriller sealed by a Greg Brooks Jr interception, in 2023, LSU dominated for 4 quarters, and led by double digits throughout grim proceedings for anyone donning blue & orange.
Pounding Auburn into submission 48-18 on the back of a 17-0 first quarter kickstart, followed by a 28-11 second half point differential, LSU played a complete performance for all 4 quarters on both sides of the ball, featuring standout contributions by their best players (Daniels, Perkins, Wingo, Nabers, Diggs) and breakout games by overlooked, thus far underwhelming, or under-played Tigers (Lacy, Shand, Emery Jr, Ryan).
Despite a few hiccups, 12 sloppy penalties, and an injury to Emery Jones Jr (only a sprained ankle luckily), this was the best team display we've seen thus far from Brian Kelly's Tigers through 7 games, theoretically peaking at the right time.
Leading Mike Denbrock's offense to 500+ yards for the 6th time this season (563), QB Jayden Daniels eclipsed 400 total yards once again (418), his 5th passing exhibition above 300 (325), rushing for just under 100 on the ground as well (93), Daniels was poised, confident, and assured vs Auburn, hitting his receivers for 16.3 yards per completion on another red hot night that should see him become the undisputed Heisman frontrunner.
Assisted by LSU's skill position threats, specifically Kyren Lacy's best game as a Tiger (fighting an early 3rd down drop to rack up 111 yards, 4 catches & a TD), Biletnikoff-leading WR Malik Nabers (89 yards, 6 catches & 1 TD) and Frank Wilson's running backs producing dual threat playmaking, QB Jayden Daniels and the offense started off hot, racing to a 17-0 first quarter lead (238 yards in the 1st quarter).
In a return to the fold, veteran 2019 National Champion RB John Emery Jr's 49 yard catch kicked down the doors, ripping off 91 total yards plus 1 rushing TD;
RB1 Logan Diggs' opening 35 yard run was just an overture (97 yards, 1 TD, 65 after the 1st quarter alone), while Josh Williams scored a brilliant 13 yard touchdown catch that sealed the deal (also providing excellent pass protection);
Even freshman stud Kaleb Jackson got in on the action by trucking a defender once again (84 total yards, 3 touches, including LSU's best special teams play in more than 2 seasons when his otherworldly athleticism was thoroughly displayed on a blistering 60 yard kickoff return).
However, this is an offense that has made a habit of annihilating teams in a variety of ways...we knew what Daniels & Co would deliver on Saturday against Auburn......
....what we all really wondered before this game???
Would Matt House's under fire unit wake the hell up, play dominant LSU Tiger defense for 4 quarters, get mean, nasty & aggressive, get off the field on 3rd down, refuse to give Auburn cheap points or big plays, and alleviate the pressure on their quarterback?
For 95% of the night, House's defense put the clamp down on Hugh Freeze and his ugly Auburn offense, playing their best game of 2023 in front of a collection of America's top national recruits.
Held to 3/12 on 3rd down, Auburn had -3 yards after the first quarter, only 104 total yards during the opening half (a paltry 46 passing yards from Payton Thorne and Robby Ashford), all as LSU took an early 20-7 lead....which would explode by the 3rd quarter, becoming 27-10 following a Harold Perkins sack on 3rd down inside the red zone.
Giving their secondary an easier night, LSU's front seven consistently made plays in the backfield, burying Payton Thorne, Jarquez Hunter, and Robby Ashford for 2 sacks, a pair of batted passes at the line (Jefferson & Shand), 5 tackles for loss (5 or more stops right at the line of scrimmage), 4 QB hits while halting 8 different drives (just 3 points given up over that span, holding Auburn to 6 punts, 1 turnover on downs, and 1 field goal allowed).
Harold Perkins continues to prove why he is deserving of the "best defender in college football" title, stuffing the stat book for yet another game, supplying 5 tackles, 4 Pressures, 2 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 QB hit and his 5th pass break up of 2023.
Perkins was all over the field, must-see-TV unfolding right before our very eyes.
Rushing off the edge with subterranean brutality, locking down receivers or tight ends, flying around sideline to sideline in predatory delight, making hard nosed tackles & closing fast thanks to his supersonic pace.....it is all too much fun watching #4 do what he does best.
But Harold wasn't alone tonight:
Paris Shand stood out in a major way, providing 6 stuffing tackles up front, 1.5 TFLs, as well as a batted pass at the line to cap his breakout performance;
Jordan Jefferson was statistically cheated out of another tackle for loss, clogging, wrecking or busting beyond the interior at will whenever he played;
#18 captain Mekhi Wingo grabbed a crucial sack, now at 2.5 on the season (3 over 14 games last fall), leading LSU's resurgent defensive front to their best performance of the season;
Edge rushing titan Bradyn Swinson was also a repeat menace off the edge, harrassing both Auburn QBs and burning passed offensive tackles for a handful of key 3rd down pressures.
In coverage, Sage Ryan was lockdown all game, breaking up a pass down the sideline and allowing just a single catch his way. Ryan received multiple moments of praise during the TV copy via commentator and former SEC QB Jesse Palmer, calling him "someone the coaches rely on".
Zy Alexander responded to a few surrendered receptions by knocking down 2 passes, leading the team in PBUs; Zy also led House's defense in tackles for a 2nd consecutive appearance (9 total).
Limiting Auburn to 18 points, 293 total yards, 154 through the air, 15 completions & merely 1 offensive touchdown, LSU's defense continued to set the table for Daniels and Co to devour Auburn.
It was another comprehensive display from what has to now be considered the best attack in America; If Denbrock's squad continue producing like this, 2023's Showtime juggernaut would only trail Burrow's 2019 as the greatest offense in program history.
Now, with a defense that can supply enough possessions, beginning to cause havoc in the backfield, as well as getting off the field on 3rd down, LSU are beginning to build a combination (overwhelming, suffocating offense + complimentary, opportunistic defense) that all of their remaining opponents will find difficult to beat.
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By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
©️ 2023 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
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