By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
In a defensive dominated list, you won't find too many offensive participants in what was another ugly showing from Mike Denbrock's unit.
Still, a pair of Tiger skill position players make the cut due to their heady playmaking, driving our lukewarm offense along.
Regardless of their inclusion, this is an extremely defensive dominated entry into our Top 5 Performers series.
Honorable mentions must go to Greg Brooks Jr, Mekhi Wingo and Jaquelin Roy, all three deserving of a place, however, in a game of such fine margins, LSU Odyssey had to give priority to the biggest playmakers on Saturday night.
5. JOSH WILLIAMS / JOHN EMERY JR
WILLIAMS VS AUBURN
7 1ST DOWNS
EMERY JR VS AUBURN
42 RUSHING YARDS
39 RECEIVING YARDS
Josh Williams' grueling 68 yards on Saturday stands as the embodiment of LSU's comeback road win over Auburn:
Rushing against the current...
Earning 7 first downs as his legs guided the Tigers on two scoring drives, Williams' contributions were paramount for an LSU victory on the road.
Though most of his carries were tough sledding, Josh broke through contact for 39 of his 68 on the ground.
The running attack wasn't flashy, but it was effective, #27 visibly bruising and bloodying Auburn's front across 4 quarters.
Carrying a couple touchdowns to his name in 2022, this fall is already Josh Williams' best season as a Tiger....and it's about to keep getting better.
John Emery Jr may have fumbled the ball inside the final minutes for his second consecutive outing, yet without his recovering bursts of pace, surprising power at the line of scrimmage, or dual threat capability, LSU don't leave Auburn with their 4th straight win.
Hauling in the longest play of the game for LSU's disturbing offense, a 39 yard dump off, John raced down the sidelines in order to set up Jayden Daniels' touchdown run.
Later, Emery Jr followed his aerial prowess by tearing up Auburn defenders on the ground: scoring the game winning touchdown, his first end zone trip since December 2020.
Breaking through a monstrous hit at the line of scrimmage, knocked off balance but keeping his legs driving forward, Emery Jr threw Auburn's linebacker away as if he were nothing more than a gnat before striding through another low, diving tackle attempt at his legs....then....suddenly, his familiar blurring pace finally hit daylight.
As he high-stepped the ball 20 yards into the end zone, Emery Jr handed the Tigers a lead they would not relinquish.
Beginning to dust off 2 years of athletic rust, roster uncertainty, outside doubt and well-publicized struggles with the NCAA's academic compliance in one breathtaking run, John reached deep in that moment. Knocked backwards at the line, he kept his feet and found another level of toughness few identified previously in order to reach the ultimate goal.
Life imitating football.....playing out right before our very eyes...
Despite the former Destrehan back's lack of eye popping stats or his near costly fumble, on a night where LSU's leading wide receiver recorded 26 yards and Josh Williams led the way on the ground with 68, Emery Jr's combined 81 yards and 1 TD separated the two teams on the scoreboard and supplied the largest single player gains on the ground or through the air.
4. HAROLD PERKINS
Likely to be named an All-SEC Freshman for his outstanding first year exploits, LSU debutant Harold Perkins' legend only grows by the game.
Attacking QB Robby Ashford for 2 vicious pressures, hitting the QB both times and forcing incompletions, Perkins' speed was utilized once again to disrupt Auburn's passing rhythm as well as supply chaos.
Contributing 3 tackles, Harold also displayed mental toughness in the clutch.
After allowing a few catches earlier, Perkins responded with a huge 4th quarter interception off former Tiger WR Koy Moore, a play which should have sealed a remarkable 17 point comeback victory and second half shutout for Brian Kelly's squad.
A young Tiger developing light years beyond his age, witnessing Harold Perkins' rise on college football's biggest stages is worth the price of admission alone.
Happy Birthday Uncle Kevin!
3. JARRICK BERNARD-CONVERSE
-#1 RATED DEFENDER (81.3)
-#1 COVERAGE GRADE (84.7)
There is no way LSU's highest graded defender of the night wouldn't make our Top 5 vs Auburn, also ranking #1 in coverage, posting one of the highest tackling marks and recovering a decisive 4th quarter fumble.
One of four total 4th quarter turnovers between both teams, LSU's former Oklahoma State transfer recovered a muffed punt inside Auburn's own 20 yard line, a turnover which helped to whittle away the clock as LSU's defense protected a slim 4 point lead.
Following Week 4 vs New Mexico, Bernard-Converse received the game ball from Coach Kelly, not only for his solid performance but because the transfer corner's willingness to step out of his comfort zone to help the team deserved acknowledgement.
After 2021's All-Big 12 cornerback switched to safety and played well in the absence of both Major Burns or Jay Ward, Safeties Coach Kerry Cooks & Cornerbacks Coach Robert Steeples can now call upon JBC's expertise at either corner or safety, given the need.
Once again, JBC was tasked with making the move vs Auburn, taking over for Joe Foucha after the Arkansas transfer allowed a touchdown over the top.
Making the most of his opportunities, Bernard-Converse was shut down once again, giving up 2 catches from 2 targets for 5 total yards, 1 solitary yard after the catch while forcing 3 errant incompletions through tight coverage.
His first time taking a spot on our Top 5 Performers Lists for 2022, JBC is starting to settle into his versatile role at DBU.
2. JAY WARD
5 TACKLES (4 SOLO)
1 QB HIT
1 DEF. TD (FR RET)
Scoring his 2nd career touchdown during the biggest moment of the game, Jay Ward & BJ Ojulari combined to flip the script, evaporating Auburn's 17 point lead when Ojulari strip-sacked QB Robby Ashford and Jay scooped, ran and scored.
Yet another timely play from Jay Ward, LSU's biggest defensive playmaker over the prior 3 seasons:
Picking off 6 passes, forcing 2 fumbles, recovering another, breaking up 16 passes and now scoring his 2nd defensive score during that timeframe.
Outside of the night's most crucially timed play, Ward continued his big time playmaking in a gritty win, helping to shut out Auburn for the entire second half.
Jay broke up another pass, added the team's second most tackles, plastered opponents for a trio of official stops and posted the highest percentage pass rush rating of Week 5 (2 pressures, 1 QB hit).
Once again, Ward repeated his turnover-creating, ball-hawking abilities in 2022, all together forcing 2 turnovers, collecting an SEC Defender of the Week award while leading the team in tackles (24) after 4 appearances.
It's time Jay Ward begins to see his name placed among the best defensive backs in the country.
The Georgia native's resume speaks for itself, his current performances keep ascending by the rep and he's displayed a consistent leadership by example within LSU's better than advertised secondary, holding opponents to just a single 100 yard receiver & under 200 yards passing per game.
1 . BJ OJULARI
-CREATED DEF. TD
Named the SEC's Defensive Lineman of the Week for a second time in 3 games, it isn't a stretch or even the slightest bit of hyperbole to say BJ Ojulari's strip sack completely changed the game in LSU's favor.
Needing a play, down 17-0 with Robby Ashford putting up over 300 passing yards, BJ Ojulari relentlessly pursued Ashford around the edge, beat his blocker utilizing his pure motorhead pace and silenced Auburn's engaged crowd by slamming into their freshman quarterback, knocking the ball loose for Jay Ward to collect....his teammate rattling off toward the end zone.
Suddenly the score was 17-7 and momentum swung quickly.....all thanks to #18's unbelievable strip sack, a moment Brian Kelly called "a captain's play".
From first snap to last, Ojulari attacked the backfield or line of scrimmage like a man possessed by fury, even showcasing next level athleticism when he tracked down an Ashford pass 20 yards downfield with his back turned, managing to get a hand on the ball.
Kelly's choice for #18 is a next level athletic freak, realizing his full potential as a Tiger right before our very eyes........at 3.5 sacks, 5 hurries and 7 QB hits through just 3 appearances, collecting a pair of national SEC awards as the best in his position, Tiger fans are witnessing the start of what could become an incredible season from Jamar Cain's edge rushing phenom.
At LSU, Ojulari has reached bewildering heights before.
The future 1st Round pick once recorded a sack-trick (3 sacks) as a freshman during a massacre of South Carolina, created sacks or turnovers vs Florida & Ole Miss in 2020 & 2021, recorded strong displays vs Alabama, Arkansas or A&M last year, posted 1.5 sacks and 6 pressures vs Mississippi State this season, still, Ojulari's achievement on Saturday night looms largest among the highlights of his LSU career thus far.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
©️ Uninterrupted Writings Inc
DEDICATED TO JAMER & SWEET HARLEY