AUBURN, Ala. – This was no dream at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It was a nightmare.
LSU’s offense relived another frightful night at a place of horrors for coach Les Miles’ squad, squandering a host of chances in an 18-13 loss on Saturday night to shatter any momentum built after back-to-back wins.
The Tigers scored just one offensive touchdown, ran only 59 plays and failed to score on a final drive that went to the Auburn 15-yard line.
It was a wacky ending that had each team celebrating victory within a minute of one another.
“I thought we won the game. I thought the game was over,” quarterback Danny Etling said.
The craziness unfolded on that last drive by the Tigers (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference).
On fourth down with less than 20 seconds left, Etling hit Malachi Dupre for a first down at the Auburn 2-yard line, but the Tigers, out of timeouts, were called for an illegal shift. It negated the play but left just 1 second on the clock. LSU frantically scrambled to the line to retry a fourth down from the Auburn 15.
Etling rolled right and found D.J. Chark in the end zone for what was initially ruled a game-winning touchdown. LSU players celebrated wildly, storming onto the playing surface and lifting Chark onto their shoulders in front of the LSU band.
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After a review by officials, they reversed the call: LSU did not get the snap off in time. A replay showed on the program’s massive jumbotron told the tale: the 1 second on the clock hit double zeroes before Etling took the snap.
Miles, even, was confused about the play in his post-game news conference. He said the illegal shift should have ended the game and that no team can snap a play in 1 second.
“We knew that the ref was not going to blow a whistle,” Miles said. “He was going to raise a hand and drop it and clock would start.”
Said Etling: “There was a second left. As soon as the whistle sounded, I called for the ball.”
It's just another wild ending in this crazy series. Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson booted six field goals, including the go-ahead 37-yarder early in the fourth quarter, helping Auburn (2-2, 1-1 SEC) end a nasty streak in Jordan-Hare Stadium. He tacked on a 29-yarder with less than 3 minutes left.
Auburn’s win snapped its seven-game home losing streak to Power 5 conference teams, the second longest nationally and a skid that dates back to a home loss to Texas A&M in 2014.
“I don't know I've come as close to winning a game and finished second,” Miles said.
Jordan-Hare continued to be a place of horrors for LSU and its starting quarterbacks. In its previous eight trips to this place, the Tigers have scored an average of 12 points. They’ve now been held to less than 18 points in seven of those nine games, and Etling continued a nasty streak for starting QBs here.
Up until LSU’s final march, Etling struggled to find open receivers down field, and he often stood in a collapsing pocket. Running back Leonard Fournette had his 18th career 100-yard rushing game on 16 carries, but he had just 7 carries in a first half that saw Miles’ team run just 24 plays.
Cam Cameron’s offense had a whopping six drives of four or fewer plays and finished with 338 yards — 60 of which came on that final, 13-play march down the field. It started with 2 minutes, 56 seconds left from LSU’s 25-yard line and ended in misery for the Tigers.
“We put together a great drive. Couldn’t capitalize at the very last second,” fullback J.D. Moore said.
"Anybody who wants to be down on us after this, then they’ve got other issues," Etling said. "We played so hard."
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot and doing it way too often,” Moore said of the offensive woes.
The offense missed a host of opportunities when its defense stood tall for much of the game. Auburn drove inside LSU’s 20-yard line four drives in the first two and a half quarters and never scored a touchdown, and Dave Aranda’s group had two goal line stands inside the 5-yard line.
LSU’s best chance on offense came after a forced fumble by sophomore Arden Key and a recovery by defensive lineman Davon Godchaux. It gave LSU possession at the Auburn 16-yard line late in the third quarter. They moved 9 yards in three plays, and kicker Colby Delahoussaye banged through a 25-yard field goal to put LSU up 13-12 with 2:32 left in the third quarter.
Etling then lost a fumble early in the fourth quarter at the Auburn 31. AU recovered.
Early in the fourth quarter, Auburn converted a third-and-4 near midfield with a swing pass that went for 23 yards down to the LSU 29. The defense held again, though, stuffing Auburn on third-and-2 and forcing a 37-yard field goal from Carlson, the eventual game-winner.
Carlson made field goals of 51, 29, 29, 31, 37 and 29 yards.
“We did good as a defense. Held to field goals,” Key said. “Offense side, we need a little work. Need a little work on both sides. That’s all I’ve got to say."