LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC) won its nation-leading 17th-straight game in the regular season, but it was its own worst enemy in the process. Les Miles' Tigers committed nine penalties for 80 yards and had two fumbles its quarterback.
"Anytime you come down to Auburn and you get a victory on the road, it's a great win, and if I look back in the times of being here in many different scenarios, this was just like a traditional LSU-Auburn game," Miles said.
The LSU defense again proved its rating as one of the best in the league if not the nation. The second of LSU's two interception came on the final play of the game and sealed the win, and a safety early in the game proved the difference. The Tigers added four sacks of Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier and adjusted when Auburn switched from its pro style back to a spread offense in the second quarter.
"It was a shock to our system," LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery said following a 3.5 tackles-for-loss performance. "It was some young guy's first time on the road and not knowing what to expect. A couple of veteran guys hadn't been in that situation in a long time. It was really a shock to our whole program, but we adjusted."
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, whose first fumble at the Auburn 2-yard line led to the LSU safety, made big plays passing when called upon. A 33-yard catch and run to Spencer Ware in the final three minutes switched field position and helped LSU finish on top. Mettenberger was 15-of-27 passing for 169 yards without an interception.
Ware led LSU rushing with 90 yards on 16 carries, while Michael Ford added 41 yards on eight touches. Kenny Hilliard burned the clock on LSU's final drive and finished with 40 yards.
Wide receiver Kadron Boone's 29-yard catch on second-and-13 setup what became the game-winning field goal by Drew Alleman with 5:26 remaining the third quarter. Boone had 49 yards receiving on three catches. James Wright and Jarvis Landry each added three catches for 25 and 23 yards, respectively. Ware had two grabs for 44 yards.
LSU out-gained Auburn, 351-183.
Auburn (1-3, 0-2 SEC), which was held to 2-for-12 on third down, managed only 86 net yards rushing against LSU's swarming defense. LSU had 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for minus-44 yards, and held speedy Onterio McCalebb to only 24 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Frazier was 13-of-22 passing for 97 yards and two interceptions.
LSU won the coin toss and deferred its decision until the second half, as the Tigers kicked off from the north to south to open the game.
Auburn's Frazier looked to test LSU cornerback Tharold Simon on the second play from scrimmage but overthrew freshman wide receiver Sammy Coates nearly 50 yards down the left sideline. Another incomplete pass led to a 37-yard punt by Stevan Clark.
Despite center P.J. Lonergan missing most of the drive with an injury, LSU pounded the ball into Auburn territory with a 5-yard run by Ford. An 18-yard gain up the middle by Ford was made possible by a dominating block by fullback J.C. Copeland.
A 4-yard run on a dive by Copeland gave LSU first-and-10 at the Auburn 11. Ware pushed LSU to the Auburn 2 and setup a third-and-1, but Mettenberger couldn't handle the snap from backup center Elliott Porter. Auburn defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker wrestled the loose ball from Mettenberger to deny LSU points.
The mistake may have cost LSU at least three points, but the Tigers defense got most of it back on the next play from scrimmage. After a false start backed Auburn to its 1, Montgomery pulled down running back Tre Mason in the endzone for a safety.
LSU led 2-0 at the 8:21 mark of the first quarter.
A 22-yard Jarvis Landry return of the free kick gave LSU a short field starting at its 41. With Lonergan back at center, Mettenberger found Ware for a third-down conversion and 11 yards to the Auburn 41. The pass setup a 28-yard run over the right side by Ware to the Auburn 13. A 6-yard catch by tight end Chase Clement put LSU at first-and-goal at the 2. Though the dive to Copeland didn't reach pay dirt on first down, Mettenberger faked a second dive to the fullback and pitched left to Ford who outran defensive end LaDarius Owens for a 1-yard touchdown run over the pylon.
Ford's first touchdown of the season and Drew Alleman's PAT gave LSU a 9-0 lead with 4:18 remaining in the first quarter.
Auburn again went nowhere offensively, as a tackle for loss by Montgomery and Bennie Logan, and a sack by Micah Engene forced another punt. Clark's perfect 54-yard punt prevented a return by Odell Beckham Jr., and LSU started the drive on its 26.
Mettenberger's second third-down miscue of the night again cost LSU points, as the quarterback was spun around and had the ball stripped by Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier. Tackle Angelo Blackson recovered the fumble, and Auburn was in great position to get on the board at LSU's 26.
Auburn switched gears offensively, turning to its spread offense that was so successful in past seasons.
Though LSU linebacker Kevin Minter stopped McCalebb behind the line on first down, Mason ran a counter around the left end for 25 yards to setup a 3-yard run by McCalebb.
Auburn pulled within two, 9-7, on the final play of the first quarter.
Just as Auburn's offense began to figure ways to out-maneuver LSU's defense, the Auburn defense found its footing.
A 23-yard catch and run by tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen to the LSU 49 gave Auburn momentum, however, a false start and a 6-yard tackle for loss by LSU defensive end Lavar Edwards stalled the drive. Clark's second 47-yard punt was downed at the LSU 11, but a personal foul on LSU pushed the Tigers back to the 6.
LSU got out of the shadow of its endzone with a face mask penalty but punted when Ford's third-and-2 run was stopped in the backfield. After a series of penalties, Brad Wing's 49-yard punt was fair caught at the Auburn 35. Auburn gained a first down with a short run in the wildcat formation by Jonathan Wallace, a 22-yard catch by wide receiver Emory Blake put Auburn in scoring position at the LSU 29. With 1:21 remaining in the half, placekicker Cody Parkey improved to 7-for-7 on the season with a 40-yard field goal that gave Auburn a 10-9 lead.
A 30-yard run by Ware quickly advanced LSU into Auburn territory, but a sack ended the threat short of field goal range.
Auburn took the one-point lead into the lockerroom.
With emotions at a fever pitch, both teams struggled to gain traction in the opening drives of the second half. However, a fumble on a punt return by Auburn's Quan Bray at the Auburn 48 was recovered by Landry to give LSU a change in field position.
Mettenberger turned the advantage into a scoring opportunity when he found wide receiver Kadron Boone for a back-shoulder catch and 29 yards to the Auburn 22. A false start penalty moved LSU into a second-and-14 situation, and Hilliard came up a yard short of a first down after two runs. Alleman entered for a 30-yard field goal that gave LSU a 12-10 lead with 5:26 remaining in the third quarter.
After a 43-yard kickoff return by McCalebb, LSU's defense came up with another third down stop with a turnover. LSU linebacker Luke Muncie backed into coverage and intercepted Frazier's pass at the LSU 44.
Another dead-ball personal foul took away the field position, however, as LSU started from its 29. A false start on the first snap cost LSU more ground and the Tigers quickly punted back to Auburn.
Auburn continued to use the spread offense against LSU's stellar defensive front, and it almost resulted in a long touchdown run by McCalebb. However, Eric Reid grabbed the speedy back by the jersey and limited the damage to 20 yards at the LSU 44. The tackle was rewarded when defensive tackle Anthony Johnson stuffed Mason on second-and-2. Frazier's third-down pass intended for McCalebb was overthrown down the right sideline and Auburn elected to punt from the LSU 41.
Backed to its 9-yard line, LSU gained only four yards and punted back. This time, Wing got a hold of a 60-yarder that bounded to the Auburn 27 before being downed.
The defensive struggle continued into the fourth quarter as neither team punctured the other's territory until the LSU's final drive. With 2:39 to play and facing third-and-4 from his 33, Mettenberger rolled right and instead of throwing to a streaking Landry, he threw back across the hash marks to Ware. The running back dodged the tackle of linebacker Jonathan Evans and galloped 33 yards to the Auburn 34.
Auburn used its final two timeouts in an attempt to get another chance, and it worked out when LSU missed a 34-yard field goal with 39 seconds to play.
Auburn advanced no further than its 37 and Frazier's final heave was intercepted by Simon to give LSU the victory.
LSU returns to action on Saturday, Sept. 29, when Football Championship Subdivision Towson comes to Tiger Stadium for the first time. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT on ESPNU.