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Auburn wide receiver Emory Blake  is stopped by LSU's Jalen Mills, Tharold Simon and Lamin Barrow during the first half Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. (Associated Press)

Auburn wide receiver Emory Blake is stopped by LSU's Jalen Mills, Tharold Simon and Lamin Barrow during the first half Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. (Associated Press)

Hobbs: At least there was nothing wrong with LSU’s defense

Last Modified: Sunday, September 23, 2012 9:27 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

AUBURN, Ala. —  LSU struggled to beat Auburn 12-10. So, the debate rages over whether Auburn completely exposed LSU as a massive fraud and a sham or if it merely provided a handy blueprint for up-and-comers looking to put a big scalp on the wall.

There are counter-arguments that it was a wake-up call for a talented team or perhaps another fine example of the perils of loading up the early schedule with pastry.

Good points, all.

Or, maybe it was just an ugly victory.

They happen on occasion, sometimes when you least expect them (but they are as likely to show with Auburn involved as anywhere).

These victories count just as much in the standings — LSU is 4-0, 1-0 in the SEC —  but can wreak havoc with message boards and Twitter accounts, even the rankings, especially the polls.

In short order, the pollsters have reacted predictably (and reasonably), dropping the Tigers a spot to No. 3 in the nation, which at this young stage of the season means absolutely nothing.

I’d be afraid to get near an LSU message board, but I’m sure panic has set in, complete with ah-oooooga horns.

By Sunday the Tigers weren’t being mentioned in quite the same breath as No. 1 Alabama anymore, which is quaintly refreshing in some circles since the Tide should really be of no concern to LSU until Nov. 3.

Of course, it could be just one of those 12-10 oddity victories that the LSU-Auburn series has become so famous for.

Maybe nothing more, nothing less.

Sure, LSU, with its suspect schedule accompanying it to its first road game, could have made a huge statement by taking a sledgehammer to the 20-something point spread.

Auburn wasn’t supposed to be any good.

But, it didn’t work out like that.

Football does that to you sometimes, not following the accepted script.

It doesn’t matter that you out-gain an opponent 352-183.

First one silly thing (a fumble, maybe), then another (a stupid personal foul perhaps), then the next thing you know nothing is going right, a hostile crowd smells an upset and the leisurely stroll you’d planned (or had been planned for you) turns into a full-blown, white-knuckle war.

That was LSU Saturday night.

And the Tigers got through it.

Nothing got exposed.

Which is not to say there’s nothing to work on with Towson coming to Tiger Stadium this week.

LSU, which never did seem to be able to come up with the one big play or sustained drive it needed to settle it for good, instead played the entire second half on ESPN’s five-alarm Upset Alert. And lived to tell about it.

They’ve been tested. If they didn’t exactly ace the exam, they surely passed it. It wasn’t the end of the world.

The experience might even come in handy down the road.

But back to that blueprint for beating LSU, the one Auburn, which fell to 1-3, may even be posting on the Internet now for anybody to peruse.

Best I could tell, with the AU version, emotionally you basically put your season all-in on one game.

You go with a lot of defensive looks, coverages and attacks that an inexperienced LSU quarterback had not seen in any of your previous game tapes. You even take the redshirt off a freshman and throw a little wildcat offense into the mix.

Mainly, though, you must enlist a lot of cooperation from LSU and hope for a few breaks of the game.

LSU surely helped out. The Tigers were their own worst enemy, starting with Zach Mettenberger’s second fumble that changed the entire momentum of the game. It got a crowd that had been warned to expect the worst quickly thinking about a big celebration.

LSU obliged with nine penalties — all in the first three quarters before getting their act together — including four inexcusable personal fouls.

Thus, LSU never really seemed to get in an offensive rhythm after two impressive drives to open the game.

That might have mattered, but there was nothing wrong with the Tigers’ defense.

The mere two-point lead LSU left out there for the home crowd to salivate over looked a little bigger when you consider the Tigers held Auburn to under 100 yards both rushing (86) and passing (97).

With the outcome ripe for another crazy chapter in this series, Auburn crossed midfield only one time in the second half and ran only three plays there before punting from the LSU 40.

That part never really let up after five of Auburn’s first eight plays lost yardage and two others were incompletions.

Maybe the funniest thing was driving out of the Auburn campus Saturday night and hearing breathless national radio reports stating that Auburn, darn the luck, “was driving late before an interception sealed the LSU victory.”

Who? Was what?

Auburn’s “drive” was a harmless 14-yard pass against a prevent LSU secondary that was backed up to the Opelika suburbs.

The War Eagles weren’t even in Hail Mary territory and the ensuing interception could just as well have hit the ground since the clock said zero and the end zone was 63 yards away.

There wasn’t going to be any Toomer’s Corner Miracle.

LSU’s defense made sure of that.

•••

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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