BATON ROUGE — Even clad in a soaked yellow slicker suit postgame, LSU’s Les Miles wasn’t ready to admit that it actually defied the myth and rained in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night.
Maybe instead he should be praying for more of the wet stuff.
The sixth-ranked Tigers dominated Auburn when the nasty elements were more fit for a shelter in place in the first half, but had to hang on for something close to dear life after the rains let up before LSU stayed unbeaten with a 35-21 victory.
At any rate, all involved agreed a two-touchdown victory shouldn’t have had this much anxiety to open Southeastern Conference play.
“We took such a strong lead initially, but I just didn’t like how we finished,” Miles said. “We have to finish this.”
“I’m disappointed because I know how good we can be,” LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger said.
It was there.
The Tigers (4-0, 1-0 SEC) led 21-0 at the half, 28-7 in the third quarter and 35-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
At times it looked easy.
Jeremy Hill rushed for 184 yards, scored three touchdowns and set up another with his longest run of the night, and Jarvis Landry had 118 yards on seven receptions, including a 32-yard scoring catch to open the final quarter.
The 457 yards of offense was the balance Miles has been looking for — 228 on the ground, 229 from Mettenberger in the air.
But Miles couldn’t really breathe a sigh of relief until his defense finally turned Auburn (3-1, 1-1) away in the final minute with a goal-line stand keyed by D.J. Welter’s 8-yard sack of quarterback Nick Marshall.
“We need to run the ball (in the second half) and have a nice orderly finish,” Miles said. “That was not what I would consider an orderly finish. We have to finish this.
“We certainly can play better.”
Without the final goal-line stand, Auburn, which got all of its points and 333 of its 437 yards in the second half, had already shown it knew how to recover an onside kick. Only an official review showing AU touched one too early kept AU from getting the ball back immediately after pulling to within 35-21 with 6:33 remaining.
That might have really made it interesting.
Perhaps more curious than Miles’ weather report.
“It was very close to raining,” Miles said of the miserable night. “It was a very stiff dew that was out there.”
At times it was also a sideways “stiff dew,” occasionally a roaring stiff dew and, at the least, it was a fairly steady stiff dew for most of the first half.
But it didn’t bother LSU. The Tigers thrived on it.
“We have the flexibility in our style of play,” Miles said of whatever it was that made things so slippery. “It allowed us to do some things.”
Hill, whose 184 yards were the most by an LSU back in nine years, scored the first two times he touched the ball for a quick 14-0 lead and the Tigers expanded it to 21-0 by halftime
Hill scored on a 49-yard run on his first carry, got in from 10 yards out moments later after Auburn couldn’t handle the snap on a punt and did the bulk of the work on another score when he broke free for a 54-yard gain down to the 1-yard line.
Those were pretty much the highlights, although LSU certainly didn’t shut the offense down while Auburn got going to score three touchdowns in the second half.
“I wish we would have finished a lot stronger than we did,” said Hill. “We put our defense in tough positions. We started off well. We just need to finish.”
It was the usual problem for teams playing the up-tempos styles that Auburn has adopted.
“Good balance,” Miles said of his own offense. “We made some big plays in both (passing and running game). But we put our defense out there for 85 snaps and you can’t do that.”