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Auburn running back Carl Stewart scores Auburn’s second touchdown in the first half  at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday night. LSU rallied to win 30-24.
AP photo by Todd Van Emst
Auburn running back Carl Stewart scores Auburn’s second touchdown in the first half at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday night. LSU rallied to win 30-24.

Auburn can’t stop LSU in second half

By Ross Dellenger
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

BATON ROUGE, La. — Brad Lester could only watch in dismay as Mario Fannin tumbled out of bounds, likely ending Auburn’s hopes of winning an SEC title.

After trailing most of the game, No. 5 LSU exploded in the second half for a 30-24 win over No. 18 Auburn on Saturday night in front of 92,630 strong in Tiger Stadium. A 22-yard touchdown pass from LSU quarterback Matt Flynn to Demetrius Byrd with one second left sealed the Bengal Tigers’ victory.

LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC) rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to score 23 points in a lively second half as Auburn’s defense wilted and its offense stalled.

Even so, once again, it looked as if Auburn (5-3, 3-2) would have its fifth straight win and its third win of the season through a last-minute touchdown drive.

Down 23-17 with about five minutes remaining, Brandon Cox hooked up with Lester twice, giving Auburn a first-and-goal at the LSU 8. On the next play, Cox hit receiver Rod Smith in the corner of the end zone with 3:21 to play. Place-kicker Wes Byrum hit what looked to be a game-winning extra point, putting Auburn up 24-23.

But Auburn elected to have Byrum kick a short, running kick that bounced on the ground and rolled about 30 yards. LSU took over at its own 42 with more than three minutes left.

“We still felt good about it,” Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. “We didn’t make the plays.”

Flynn scrambled out of the pocket on the next two plays, moving LSU to the Auburn 41.

The Bayou Bengals continued to move down field, creeping inside the Auburn 25-yard line on a 10-yard carry by running back Jacob Hester with just over a minute to play. Instead of using his remaining time out and setting up a field goal, LSU coach Les Miles elected to leave his offense on the field as time ticked away.

LSU scrambled to the line of scrimmage, and Flynn surprisingly dropped back to pass. He found Byrd in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown with one second remaining, despite having Auburn cornerback Jerraud Powers draped on him.

“That was a great throw and catch,” Tuberville said. “We made a great throw and catch on our touchdown before that.”

Said Powers: “As soon as I turned my head to look at the ball, it was already there.”

Ben Tate fielded LSU’s ensuing kickoff. He passed the ball behind him to Tommy Trott, who then lateraled the football to Fannin.

Fannin was run out of bounds and LSU’s national championship hopes remained alive, while Auburn suffered a crushing blow to its chance at winning the SEC West. With Alabama beating Tennessee on Saturday, LSU and the Tide are tied atop the SEC West with 4-1 conference records. Auburn fell into third place with a 3-2 mark.

Cox began the scoring with a 17-yard touchdown pass to receiver Montez Billings.

LSU quickly answered with a 46-yard screen pass from Flynn to Keiland Williams.

LSU safety Craig Steltz, right, pushes Auburn quarterback Kodi Burns  out of bounds in the first half of LSU’s 30-24 win.
AP photo by Alex Brandon
LSU safety Craig Steltz, right, pushes Auburn quarterback Kodi Burns out of bounds in the first half of LSU’s 30-24 win.
Powers, a Decatur High grad, returned a fumble 36 yards to the Auburn 3-yard line in the second quarter. Three plays later, fullback Carl Stewart leaped into the end zone from a yard out to put Auburn up 14-7 with 9:34 left in the second.

Byrum added a field goal before the half to give Auburn a 17-7 lead.

But LSU’s offensive weapons exploded in the second half for 350 yards.

“First half, we had them on the ropes, and in the second half, they had us on the ropes,” Tuberville said.

The home-standing Tigers used a long pass play and a successful reverse to move down field on their first possession of the second half. Place-kicker Colt David capped the drive with a 29-yard field goal that made the score 17-10.

LSU continued with its big plays.

With 2:31 left in the third quarter,
Flynn hit Byrd for a 53-yard gain down to the Auburn 9-yard line. David made a 26-yard field goal to make the score 17-13 with 2:03 left in the third quarter.

On the next series, Flynn hooked up with Hester for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 12:55 left in the game. It was LSU’s first lead.

Hester caught the ball a couple yards shy of the end zone, then lunged at the pylon. The play was reviewed and confirmed. A flag that had been dropped during the play was waved off after the review, inducing a livid tirade from Tuberville.

LSU forced Auburn to punt on the next series and the Bayou Bengals then drove 55 yards down the field, ending in a 33-yard field goal by David that put LSU up 23-17 with 8:12 to play.

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