Agony and fear for the Auburn fans swept through Jordan-Hare Stadium when Greg Brooks Jr. intercepted a pass from Robby Ashford for Koy Moore with 2:18 left in the fourth quarter.
Auburn had one last chance to regain the lost 17-0 advantage before Brooks Jr. snatched the ball and ran it 30 yards to Auburn’s 45-yard line. Bryan Harsin’s squad was powerless to stop LSU from finishing the game in winning formation.
Ashford had 337 passing yards. He got off to a hot start with a 53-yard pass to Ja’Varrius Johnson for Auburn’s first touchdown. His 18-yard pass to Camden Brown gave Auburn a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter against LSU.
Read more Maroon Soccer: Instant Analysis: Auburn loses a 17-point lead in a 21-17 loss to LSU
Rewinding Auburn’s 21-17 loss to LSU
What LSU coach Brian Kelly and players said about the 21-17 win over Auburn
Anders Carlson hit a 29-yard field goal set up by a 31-yard pass to LSU transfer Koy Moore and an 11-yard reception from John Samuel Shenker.
It was all good for Auburn until it wasn’t.
“We knew we had this game and there were a couple of opportunities.” We gave that game away. We have to be more careful with the ball and defending and of course we have to get more stops. We will keep grinding, working tomorrow and getting ready for Georgia.”
Let’s dive into a few observations on a disappointing loss for Auburn.
— Harsin is 9-9 in his tenure on the levels. One of the problems is that Auburn has given up double-digit leads in the last five SEC games and squandered another 28-3 lead against Mississippi State last season. The Tigers are 1-4 in these games and needed Nathaniel Peat’s fumble in overtime and a missed chip-shot field goal last week to beat Missouri.
Auburn failed to score in the second half in consecutive games. Giving up leads and outscoring in the second half against conference opponents means the press conference’s first question is about his job security in his second season.
“I mean, that’s — that’s my job, to show up every day and make sure I’m prepared and that we’re preparing this football team,” Harsin said when asked if he was confident of finishing the season as Auburn’s head coach . “That doesn’t change at all and I told the team that. That’s how I’ve approached every day of every job I’ve had. It won’t be any different.”
— Auburn and LSU played a game full of penalties. Auburn had eight violations for 80 yards. LSU committed 10 penalties for 96 yards. One of Auburn’s more costly fouls came in the second quarter. Auburn led 1:43 in the first half by 17:7. Harsin called for a timeout after LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels gained three yards from LSU 23 on the first down and a second timeout after LSU lost three yards on the second down.
Harsin tried to get the ball back with some time on the clock for a possible goal. It made sense considering LSU had 73 yards in the first half before the 3rd and 10th games. Derick Hall was called out for illegal hands to receive a 15-yard penalty on an incomplete pass. Hall attempted to get past a larger offensive lineman and the umpires threw the flag.
“Any time you have an opportunity to stop the ball and there’s a penalty that extends the drive, obviously that will affect your team,” Harsin said of the third game. “So those ended up being hurtful. Again, we send these pieces each week (to the SEC Conference Bureau for review). I can’t tell you now if that was the case or not, but the flag was raised and it affected us especially on this trip.
LSU scored a touchdown on a Daniels quarterback sneaking nine players to complete a scoring drive. Auburn had a chance to forge a 20-7 lead when Carlson didn’t miss a 40-yard field goal to forge a three-point lead after forging a 17-0 lead in the first half would have. Auburn led 17-14 at halftime.
— LSU scored their first touchdown with a stripsack in the second quarter. Auburn allowed four turnovers against one from LSU.
I think the story of the game boils down to sales, and you look at the numbers there,” Harsin said. We put the ball on the floor too many times and they won the turnover fight tonight.”
— Wide receiver Koy Moore threw a costly interception on a trick play in the fourth quarter. It’s hard to blame Moore because there’s a reason he’s not a quarterback; However, the throw was not advisable.
“We tried to give our playmakers the opportunity to go out and make games,” Harsin said. This one didn’t go our way, but a few others did. That is the story of the game.”
Moore had a similar game against Missouri last week. He made a better choice, running for a 20-yard gain when no receivers were open. Against LSU, he threw into double cover and got picked up.
— Auburn had chances to win but couldn’t finish LSU. Despite all the mistakes, the Tigers fought to the end. Donovan Kaufman forced a fumble that Jayson Jones recovered less than five minutes into the game. Kaufman gave Auburn’s offense another chance two games after a muffled punt from Keionte Scott, with Auburn trailing by three points.
— Ashford threw for two touchdowns. He also fumbled four times, lost once and threw the game-ending interception in the fourth quarter. It’s important to remember that this was his second start in college. Ashford showed a lot of promise despite his mistakes. If Ashford continues to develop, there could be hope for Auburn in the future.
— Auburn finishes five-game homestand 3-2 and 1-1 in SEC play. Wins over Mercer, San Jose State and Missouri were uninspiring, while a 29-point loss and 17-point lead against LSU is a sobering dose of reality. Next up for Auburn is a visit to defending champions UGA.
“We’ll turn the page tomorrow. We want to be 2-0 in the SEC and we’re not, we’re 1-1. But it’s still early in the season and we’ll get to work tomorrow, prepare for Georgia and be a better team next Saturday.”
Nubyjas Wilborn covers Auburn for the Alabama Media Group.