Auburn's Agony Of The Feet

John Vaughn

Auburn's kicking game falters as the Tigers lose in overtime 20-17 vs. LSU.

Baton Rouge, La.--Breakdowns in the kickoff were the difference as Auburn's 13-game SEC winning streak came to an agonizing end in overtime on Saturday night as John Vaughn's 40-yard field goal hit the upright to allow seventh-ranked LSU escape with a 20-17 victory.

On a night in which Auburn outrushed and outpassed the home team and didn't have a turnover, five Auburn missed field goals and a line drive punt returned for a touchdown by the Bayou Bengals were the difference.

"The kicking game let us down at times," said Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville. "That's my fault. "We must not have worked enough on it, but we will work on it."

Auburn fell to 3-1 in the SEC and 5-2 overall while LSU improved to 4-1 in the league and 5-1 overall.

LSU was just 2-4 on field goals, but the two makes were crucial. The first, with 1:40 left by Chris Jackson, tied the game at 17-17 to set up overtime.

Jackson made his next attempt, a 30-yarder, after LSU got the ball first in the OT period.

Brandon Cox and the Auburn offense, despite being out of timeouts, moved the ball into field goal range for Vaughn to have a chance to win the game in the closing seconds, but his 49-yarder was wide left.

In the overtime, Auburn couldn't make a first down and Vaughn's 40-yarder hit the upright, sparking a wild celebration by a record Tiger Stadium crowd of 92,664.

"I guess it was fitting for the situation," Vaughn said of the ball just missing on the final kick, commenting on the ending of what he said was the low point of his football career.

"I was just missing them tonight, there is really no excuse for it," Vaughn said. "I just have to work harder and do better next week."

LSU's late heroics trumped a potential come-from-behind win for an Auburn team that drove 87 yards on 13 plays to take the lead on a fourth and goal five-yard pass from Brandon Cox to Anthony Mix with 1:40 to play to put the visitors ahead with 1:40 left. LSU blitzed, Cox stood firm in the pocket and lofted a touch pass to his big wideout.

The loss spoiled an inspired performance by junior tailback Kenny Irons, who rushed for 218 yards and one score on 27 carries. Joseph Addai gained 105 on 24 carries for LSU, which totaled 339 yards to 451 for the Tigers.

Kenny Irons breaks loose for a 74-yard touchdown run against LSU. It was Auburn's longest run of the season.

Auburn defensive coordinator David Gibbs said he liked the effort he saw. "This was a great football game and it would have been wonderful to win it. I am sure they are enjoying it in the other locker room.

"Knowing the character of our kids, we will go back to work on Sunday and keep trying to get better," Gibbs added. "We made some mistakes, but we played hard the whole night. This one was a tough game to lose."

Tuberville noted that he thought it was a very good college football team that his Tigers had lots of chances to win. "We fought the crowd noise and I thought our guys hung in there mentally, which is what it is all about on the road," the head coach said.

LSU won the toss and deferred. Auburn took the football and LSU got the wind in the opening period.

Auburn moved the ball steadily on the opening possession from its own 24. The Tigers moved into LSU territory as Cox connected with Mix for pass of 11 and 26 yards to convert third down plays.

A third conversion on third down, a two-yard run by Irons, put the visitors in business at the LSU 21. However, they stalled there with Irons running a single yard on first down. On second down Cox couldn't find an open receiver and took a sack for a loss of four yards. His third down pass was incomplete setting up a 41-yard field goal attempt by John Vaughn that sailed right.

Like it did much of the first half, the Auburn defense kept the LSU offense in check on the opening possession. After a three and out, the Tigers started at their own 20 but were forced to punt on fourth and two. That proved to be a disaster and led to the only touchdown of the first half.

Kody Bliss hit a low line drive into the wind that Skyler Green fielded at his 34 yard line. With nobody close to him when he caught the ball, Green used his speed to break free going down the right sideline. Bliss, the last man who had a shot at the dangerous returner, couldn't touch him as the home team took the lead with 5:20 left in the opening period.

Auburn moved for a pair of first downs on its next possession, but stalled at the LSU 49. The period ended with LSU's Chris Jackson's 55-yard punt and a 14-yard return by Tre Smith.

Auburn's second long drive of the night produced points, but just three as the Tigers settled for a 26-yard field goal by Vaughn with 12:49 left in the second quarter. A 31-yard pass to Devin Aromashodu on the sideline on the first play of the drive put the Tigers in business at the LSU 35.

Kenny Irons then ran for six, 14 and four yards, but the drive stalled when a pass to Cooper Wallace netted just a yard and Cox just missed hooking up with Aromashodu for a touchdown as the senior tried to make a catch in the corner of the end zone.

It was then LSU's turn to make a long drive and come up empty on a missed field goal. LSU kept the football for 13 plays and moved 59 yards before Jackson was wide left on a 38-yarder into the wind.

Neither team had a scoring threat the rest of the period. At halftime, Auburn had 153 net yards to 111 for LSU. Cox was 5-15 for 83 yards and Irons had 54 yards rushing on 15 carries. Jamarcus Russell had 43 yards in the air, hitting 7-16 passes while Joseph Addai had netted 52 rushing yards on 11 carries.

Auburn's defense forced a three and out to start the third quarter. The Tigers moved the football into LSU territory, but came up empty when Vaughn's 54-yard field goal was just a couple yards short with 9:46 left.

However, the Tigers would take the lead on their next try after another defensive stand by their teammates.

Irons, like he has done in practice so many times, showed his home run ability by breaking out of a pack in the middle of the LSU defense to score from 74 yards on a one-play touchdown drive. Irons ran through an attempted tackle by Melvin Oliver, the defensive lineman from Opelika High School, then used his speed to outrace the LSU defense to the end zone. With 7:40 left in the third, the Tigers were on top for the first time at 10-7.

Auburn's lead didn't last long, thanks to the passing of Russell, who hit a 41-yard deep sideline pass to Craig Davis to convert a third down. On the seventh play of the drive, on second and nine at the AU 18, he faked a handoff, rolled right and found his receiver, Dewayne Bowe, open in the end zone for a touchdown. LSU led 14-10 with 4:35 left in the third quarter.

The score didn't change until 4:52 was left when Cox hit Mix on a touchdown to put Auburn ahead, setting the stage for the wild finish.

"It was a good football game, we just came up short," said Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville.

Senior noseguard Tommy Jackson said, "It wasn't Vaughn's fault. We had so many opportunities to win this game. We aren't putting it on one guy.

"We just have one loss in the SEC so we still have a chance to reach our goal of playing in Atlanta," he added. "We are a long way from being done."

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