AP photo by Todd Van Emst|
In front of a sea of LSU purple and gold, Bengal Tigers receiver Demetrius Byrd, left, catches the winning touchdown despite tight coverage from Auburn’s Jerraud Powers.
Late LSU touchdown pass haunts Auburn’s Powers
By Ross Dellenger
AUBURN — Early Sunday morning, just hours after Auburn’s 30-24 loss to LSU, Jerraud Powers sat on the team plane imagining a different outcome.
Instead of LSU receiver Demetrius Byrd hauling in Matt Flynn’s perfectly thrown touchdown pass, Powers visualized himself swatting the pass into the air.
He imagined the clock reading triple zeros as the ball hit the grass. And he envisioned Auburn players pouring onto the field, piling on top of him to celebrate a monumental victory.
“I was picturing if it would have went the other way, how everything would have happened,” said Powers, a starting cornerback for Auburn and a Decatur High grad. “Like, if I just tipped that ball, the game is over.”
But it didn’t happen that way.
Instead, Powers stood shocked in the end zone. He watched as LSU players greeted Byrd with the same affection Powers would have received if he had just knocked the ball away.
Down by a point with time ticking off the game clock, LSU coach Les Miles took a risk when he elected not to call his remaining timeout to set up a field goal.
Miles gambled even more with the play call.
Auburn was thinking run, stacking the line of scrimmage. That left Powers in a one-on-one match with Byrd. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville called Powers’ coverage “great.”
“He couldn’t cover any better,” Tuberville said. “It couldn’t have been a better throw.”
Fellow cornerback Jonathan Wilhite went a step further.
“Jerraud had perfect coverage,” he said. “We watched it in slow motion: You can’t get better coverage.”
But in the end, it wasn’t good enough. And now Auburn finds itself on the outside looking in. The Tigers (5-3, 3-2 SEC) no longer control their own destiny in the race to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
No. 3 LSU and No. 22 Alabama are tied atop the Western Division standings with 4-1 conference marks. Auburn, dropping to 23rd in the polls this week, needs to win its remaining games and hope LSU loses two more conference contests.
“It’s tough,” quarterback Brandon Cox said, “but there’s a ways to go in the season. LSU has some tough games coming up.”
Cox and his teammates can only hope that LSU loses at Alabama and then Ole Miss or Arkansas pulls off an upset victory. If that happens and the Tigers win their remaining games, Auburn would need to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl to represent the SEC West in Atlanta for the title game.
If Alabama, LSU and Auburn tie for the Western championship with two losses each, the tiebreaker wouldn’t favor the Tigers.
“If we’re going to get to Atlanta, to have an opportunity to seal your own fate, we have to go win,” Tuberville said. “There was no doubt about that after losing to Mississippi State.”
And the Tigers nearly did that. Powers said his hand actually was on the ball for a short time during the final play.
“When he caught it, my hand was on the ball, too,” said Powers. “When he was falling down, I tried to rip it out, and I just couldn’t.”
AP photo by Alex Brandon|
Auburn defensive back Jerraud Powers, left, can’t stop the winning touchdown catch by LSU receiver Demetrius Byrd.
Standing on the sideline watching everything unfold, Cox thought Flynn might throw a quick pass, but he was shocked when the LSU quarterback threw deep into the end zone for the 22-yard touchdown.
Also shocked, Powers still read the play and the route. Powers said Byrd’s alignment gave him the cue. On running plays, Byrd lined up wide — close to the sideline. But on the final snap, he set up closer to the tight end. Powers figured “they were going to try something.”
And it looked that way. He raced toe-to-toe down the field with Byrd, but Flynn’s pass was placed too perfectly.
“That was a huge gamble for them,” Powers said. “It could have went the wrong way for them. If I just tip that ball, we win.”
Auburn Monday playback
Three points Auburn should remember after a 30-24 loss at LSU.
You competed with arguably the most talented team in the nation: Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said Sunday what many might’ve thought: “If you go look back a month ago, you wouldn’t have given us much of a chance against Florida, Arkansas or LSU on the road.” The Tigers have come a long way from their 1-2 start.
Lowly Ole Miss is next, and this one is at home: The Tigers return home for the first time in three weeks to face the worst team in the SEC. Ole Miss is the only team with no conference victories. The Rebels are 0-5 in the SEC and 2-6 overall. They were beaten 44-8 at home last week against Arkansas, a team Auburn beat on the road.
Lester is rolling: Running back Brad Lester led all players in all-purpose yards Saturday night with 156. Returning from a six-game suspension against Vanderbilt, Lester hasn’t showed any rust. He ran for 68 yards, had 56 receiving yards and gained 32 on kick returns.
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