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September 16, 2006

Auburn wins SEC West showdown 7-3

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Notebook: The No-Call Game  |  Box score

AUBURN, Ala. – Electrifying spread offenses, elusive running quarterbacks and fast, physical receivers have seduced us into believing that the keys to success in college football may be changing.

The popular clichι that defense wins championships is as old as your grandfather, who would probably still wear the raccoon-skin coat and sing "Bula Bula" if you'd just let him out of the home on autumn weekends.

But with age comes wisdom, and on Saturday the Auburn Tigers, who may boast the fastest defense in America, offered the sellout crowd of 87,451 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and millions more biting their nails in front of the television sets, a not-so-subtle reminder that grandpa does indeed know a thing or two.

Third-ranked Auburn hog-tied the sixth-ranked LSU Tigers and posted an exciting 7-3 victory that provides an inside track to the Southeastern Conference West Division championship and a berth in the SEC championship game in December.

"When you look at the score and the stats everybody thinks that was a boring," said Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville, who made his bones as a defensive coach. "There was a lot of excitement."

Yeah, there was. Especially in the last three minutes when LSU, which had scored 45 points in each of its first two games, twice was deep in Auburn's end of the field and was turned away both times.

Junior strong safety Eric Brock came up big on the game's final play, knocking LSU receiver Buster Davis to the ground at the Auburn 4 as time finally ran out.

It was his second game-saving play in the final 2½ minutes. On LSU's previous series Brock raced across the field to deflect a pass away from Early Doucet at the goal line – a deflection which nullified a pass interference penalty that would have given LSU first down at the Auburn 16.

"I felt we won some critical situations," Auburn linebacker Karibi Dede understated. "We have to win third downs and we have to get off the field. When there was two minutes left we needed a big stop and we got it, and we did it again with just a few seconds left in the game. We did a great job covering."

LSU appeared to have an edge with its big physical receivers – Davis, Dwayne Bowe and Doucet are all about 6-2, 210 pounds – against Auburn's smallish secondary, led by 5-foot-11, 190-pound cornerback David Irons.

Yet, big guys can trip when little guys are under foot and that was the case with the Auburn secondary. When you put four guys together who are that fast there is usually a baton involved.

In fact, Auburn actually dared LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell to pass, and was quick to come up and play the run – allowing just 42 rushing yards.

"We played against a pretty good defense," said Bowe, who had four catches for 56 yards. "We just had a hard time running the ball."

LSU either crossed midfield or started in Auburn territory on its first three possessions, but was forced into two punts and turned the ball over on downs. A 42-yard field goal on the last play of the first half was all LSU could manage.

And Auburn wasn't even at full strength. Linebackers Tray Blackmon and Kevin Sears, potential starters, have been suspended indefinitely by Tuberville for off-season transgressions.

Also, reserve cornerback Patrick Lee came down with a fever before kickoff and was unavailable. Starting cornerback Jonathan Wilhite pulled a hamstring in the first half and did not return to action.

That left, Auburn with 5-foot-9, 177-pound redshirt freshman Jerraud Powers, playing opposite David Irons, but Auburn didn't flinch.

"A lot of people were saying LSU has a great defense," Irons said. "We've got a great defense, too. We showed them."

Auburn's defensive unit might have showed that it was equal to LSU's defense – of 2003 when LSU won the national championship.

Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp held that same position at LSU that year, and he's not about to compare his Tigers of now with those Tigers of then.

He could even find fault in Saturday's masterpiece for allowing LSU to have a final shot at the end zone.

"We played poorly," he said. "My job is to get them in the best position and I didn't do it. We'll get better."

His defense wouldn't expect any other response.

"He makes us work," Irons said. "He won't tell you how good you are. He's hard on you. He doesn't want us to be average."

No danger there. These Tigers are way above average. So much so that they figure to move up to No. 2 in next week's national rankings after second-ranked Notre Dame lost to Michigan.

You remember Notre Dame. That's one of those teams that seduced everybody with its high-powered offense.

Everybody but grandpa, that is.

For more coverage of the Auburn Tigers, check out AuburnSports.com; for more coverage of the LSU Tigers check out TigerBait.com.



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