AUBURN, Ala. — Two graduate transfers made all the difference for LSU in its 22-21 win over Auburn.
Quarterback Joe Burrow and kicker Cole Tracy combined for likely some of the biggest points in LSU's season as the Tigers overcame a double-digit deficit for the second year in a row.
Burrow was solid under center, going 15-of-34, with 249 yards and a touchdown. Tracy missed his first field goal of the season, a 53-yarder in the first quarter, but then hit three field goals from distances of 27, 33 and 42.
“I didn’t play great, especially during the first half when I missed throws that I usually make," Burrow said. "I was upset with myself at halftime because we should have been up. My coaches kept trusting me and my teammates kept trusting me and I tried to execute the game plan as good as I could."
Coach Ed Orgeron was impressed with Burrow's fight after the offense stalled following the first-quarter touchdown run by Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
“He showed today that he’s a competitor," Orgeron said. "Things weren’t always good, he competed his butt off. I thought he played well, didn’t play great, but played well. He’s 3-0 as our starting quarterback — that’s pretty good. He’s going to make the right decisions. [Offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger] is going to make the right calls, and when you have a quarterback that competes, you have a chance.”
Last year, Orgeron often talked about how former-quarterback Danny Etling needed a big game to prove himself. He believes Burrow did that Saturday.
A 71-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to junior Derrick Dillon with eight minutes left in the game put LSU's within a field goal at 21-19. Burrow placed the ball perfectly
“It was huge," Burrow said. "These games are about momentum. We started out strong, trailed by the end of the half and they started picking it up and we didn’t get it going until the 4th quarter. I think that play sparked us throughout the rest of the game.”
“I saw it was two high safeties, cover two," Burrow said. "And for every coverage we have somewhere we got to go with the ball and against two high safeties that is where you have to go. I just tried to go over that linebacker, and my teammates did a great play for me.”
On the following drive — the game-winning drive — Burrow made two crucial first down passes to junior Dee Anderson for eight yards and senior Stephen Sullivan for nine yards on 4th down.
“On the 4th down I saw the safety coming down into the box, and we had a one-on-one," Burrow said. "[Stephen] is 6’6” so it is easy to throw to him. You just have to put it right in his face, and you make the play.”
"Give Coach Ensminger credit," Orgeron said. "The touchdown before to Derrick Dillon gave us a chance to win the game. We had defensive stops, obviously, we come back, we converted on 4th down on the slant to Stephen Sullivan, which I thought was a tremendous call, and then we ran the football and put ourselves in position to win the game. Exactly how you'd draw it up."
As the LSU offense drove downfield, Tracy was on the sideline going through his normal routine. In fact, both sophomore cornerback Greedy Williams and junior defensive end Rashard Lawrence said Tracy was confident and joking while he waited for his time.
Auburn's 86,787 fans did not even deter him.
“Well, kinda like what I’ve been going with the entire season is the uprights are the exact same that they were in Worcester, they were in Jerry World, they were in Tiger Stadium and now at Auburn," Tracy said. "So, I just want to go out there and perform every week and kinda keep that same mindset that it doesn’t necessarily matter where you’re playing, you just got to go out and do what you’ve been doing.”
The biggest theme of the game seemed to be the trust and confidence the entire team had in one another to get the job done.
"We always thought we’d win the football game," Orgeron said. "We’re 3-0. That’s why we came on the plane. Give the credit to our players, our coaches, and the leadership on our football team, the way they prepare, the way they believe in each other. Obviously, they’re a very happy football team. Just like any other week, we're 3-0, we'll look at the film, enjoy tonight, protect the team and go back to work."