BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Running back Kerryon Johnson was willing to give LSU only so much credit for shutting down him and the rest of Auburn's offense during a decisive second half.
"We just have to face facts," Johnson said. "We had a lead and we took our foot off the gas."
Auburn had climbed to 10th in The Associated Press College football poll following three straight victories by 21 or more points over Southeastern Conference opponents. It started to look like more of the same in Tiger Stadium on Saturday when Johnson powered through LSU's defensive line and into the end zone, giving Auburn a 17-0 first-quarter lead.
But after punting only once in the first half, Auburn couldn't even cross midfield in the second, punting five times and then failing to convert a pair of desperate fourth-down attempts en route to a surprising 27-23 loss to resurgent LSU. Auburn fell to No. 21 in the AP Top 25 out Sunday, while LSU moved back into the rankings at No. 24.
Johnson's production mirrored the fate of Auburn's offense. He rushed 21 times for 123 yards in the first half. In the second half, Johnson was held to just 33 yards on 10 carries, and Auburn netted only 64 yards total during the final two quarters.
"At halftime we felt good," Malzahn said. "We were running the ball pretty effectively in the first half. We were trying to get to those third-down-and-shorts. We just couldn't (in the second half). ... We must do a better job."
Auburn's offensive statistics were ugly in the second half.
Auburn converted only four of 14 third downs in the third and fourth quarters, but one was gifted to them when LSU's Arden Key was flagged for roughing the passer.
During the same period, quarterback Jarrett Stidham completed just two of 13 passes for six yards and was sacked twice — the final time by Key with 2 seconds left to effectively end the game.
Auburn's defense wasn't allowing LSU's offense much success, but LSU scored on D.J. Chark's 75-yard punt return and then set up the go-ahead field goal by gaining a field position advantage.
After pinning Auburn at its own 3 with a punt from near mid field, LSU quickly forced Auburn to punt it back from the back if its own end zone, setting LSU up on the Auburn 45.
LSU needed only 19 yards to set up Connor Culp's 42-year field goal with 2:36 left.
"The difference in the football game overall was the way our defense came out and shut them out in the second half, and the way our special teams played," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said.
But Auburn players didn't recall noticing major changes in LSU's scheme or personnel.
"I don't think LSU really ... changed anything. We knew what they were doing sometimes before they did it," said Auburn receiver Ryan Davis, who also lamented three drives that ended with field goals in the first half. "We just have to capitalize on the opportunities we present for ourselves, especially in the red zone. Third downs were key as well. We have to make the plays."
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Posted on Mon, October 16, 2017
by By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer