Top 25 Football: No. 1 LSU 45, No. 19 Auburn 10
BATON ROUGE, La. ó It didnít matter who was launching long passes to Rueben Randle and it certainly didnít matter that LSU was missing three key players.
Randle caught scoring passes of 42 yards from Jordan Jefferson and 46 yards from Jarrett Lee, and No. 1 LSU once again overcame off-the-field distractions in style with a 45-10 victory over 19th-ranked Auburn on Saturday.
ěIt just seems like no matter who goes down or whoís out, we have guys who are ready to step in … and not just to fill a spot but to go in and dominate,î said LSU center T-Bob Hebert.
LSU was without star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, leading rusher Spencer Ware and defensive back Tharold Simon ó all suspended one game for violating the teamís drug policy. They watched the game on TV, teammates said, after being told to stay away from Tiger Stadium.
Yet LSU continued to make team history with its eighth double-digit win in as many games this season, a streak that started with a season-opening triumph over Oregon without then-suspended Jefferson and receiver Russell Shepard.
ěI almost feel like everybody else makes a bigger deal about it than we do,î Hebert said of the periodic lineup upheaval, and the public scrutiny of the misbehavior that has caused it.
ěItís not distracting to us. This team is so good about staying focused, one-track mind, not letting anything on the outside get to them because we donít want to have any regrets.î
Off next week, LSU (8-0, 5-0 SEC) will be unbeaten entering what is bound to be a highly hyped showdown at No. 2 Alabama on Nov. 5. The Crimson Tide were playing at home Saturday night against struggling Tennessee.
The beneficiary of Wareís absence was freshman Kenny Hilliard, who scored the first two touchdowns of his career while rushing for 65 yards on only 10 carries.
Randle finished with five receptions for 106 yards.
ěWe all know our roles on this team and we know if we come out and do our jobs that we are going to be tough to beat,î Randle said. ěKenny came in and really stepped up when we needed him.î
Lee was 14 of 20 for 165 yards and two touchdowns, the second a 10-yarder to Shepard. Jefferson completed two of three passes for 54 yards.
ěI feel really comfortable with the rhythm that I have with both quarterbacks,î Randle said. ěThat was shown in both touchdown passes today.î
With Michael Ford leading the way (12 rushes, 82 yards), LSU gained 174 yards on the ground.
Even without two key defensive backs, LSU held Auburn first-time starter Clint Moseley to 145 yards passing, sacked him six times and intercepted him once.
ěItís really difficult to really assess how he did,î Auburn coach Gene Chizik said of Moseley. ěThat was an anemic job of protecting the quarterback. We have a lot of work to do and a lot of research to do to figure out how to stop the bleeding in that regard.î
If anyone questioned how deep LSU could really be at defensive back, it was none other than Mathieuís replacement, Ron Brooks, who made the interception and returned it 28 yards for a score that made it 42-3 only half way through the third quarter.
Shortly after Brooks scored, the message: ěI see you Ron baby!!! THATS WHAT WE DO …î appeared on Mathieuís Twitter page.
ěI just tried to keep myself calm, not try to do too much and just play within the game plan and do what the coaches were asking me to do,î said Brooks, a senior who has been part of LSUís six-defensive back formation for three seasons.
Auburn (5-3, 3-2) was held to 87 yards rushing, led by Michael Dyerís 60 yards.
ěThe reality of it is we got beat in just about every phase of the game,î Chizik said. ěThey did a lot of whatever they wanted.î
All season, LSU has appeared increasingly galvanized by each potential pitfall and coach Les Miles even mentioned several weeks ago that adversity seems to strengthen his tight-knit teamís resolve.
ěThat is the mark of a great team,î Miles said.
Itís getting pretty hard to argue with that, considering LSU responded to its latest crisis with the most lopsided victory by either team in the 46-game history of the LSU-Auburn series. It was Auburnís worst loss since a 51-10 demolition at the hands of then-No. 1 Florida in 1996.
Wearing special edition uniforms, LSU defenders and coverage teams swarmed to the ball like blazing streaks of white, delivering crushing hits that provoked collective gasps from the Death Valley crowd.
One such hit was delivered by safety Eric Reid, who jarred the ball from kickoff returner Tre Mason. LSUís Tahj Jones found the football while losing his helmet, rising in celebration with his dreadlocks aflutter at the Auburn 22.
That set up Hilliardís second score on a 1-yard dive to make it 35-3.
Hilliardís first touchdown came on a 9-yard run on gameís opening drive, giving LSU the lead for good. The Tigers still have not trailed since the second quarter of their season opener against Oregon.
Auburn was threatening to tie it at 7, but Barkevious Mingoís second sack of the game forced Auburn to settle for Cody Parkeyís 42 field goal.
That was as close as it ever got.
The Associated Press