Tigers never doubted themselves

AUBURN, Ala. — Oh, sure.

Suddenly, in post-game delirium, LSU’s players took a deep breath and were babbling on about how the rest of college football may be shocked at their shenanigans, but they’re not even mildly surprised by the stunning developments.

They knew it all along, was the gist of it. And, what’s more, they never doubted it. They fully expected to be 3-0 at this juncture, even if it might involve something like upsetting No. 7 Auburn as a 10-point underdog on the road by overcoming an 11-point deficit in the second half.

That was their story and they were sticking to it all the way back to Baton Rouge.

And maybe a few of them did mention something like this might happen, even back in August.

But it was safe to assume that it was just the usual preseason blather, easily dismissed in the jaded football world.

Perhaps it would be prudent to wait on more test results. Football can be fickle.

But LSU 22, Auburn 21 changes everything.

It turns out that the LSU team that allegedly was going to take this year off from any of the important national discussions had a change of heart somewhere along the line.

If indeed they didn’t know it all along.

Silly of us for furrowing a brow and questioning them after they couldn’t really block Southeastern Louisiana just a week ago.

LSU may or may not be the No. 6 team in the country, as the new polls Sunday suggested, but for now the Tigers belong right there.

It will sort it itself out.

But LSU, written off the learned preseason prognosticators, has already beaten two top ten teams in the first three weeks of the season.

Perhaps it was a fluke.

But it turns out no team had done that in the last 42 years.

Cole Tracy made the game-winning 42-yard field goal look pretty routine, but if you watched the Saints’ game Sunday, you know that’s hardly the case.

And you wonder if head coach Ed Orgeron would have been quite as content to run down the clock and settle for that distance.

But here’s why Saturday’s victory showed us something:

We already knew that LSU could win a game when everything is going just right against a Miami. Catch a few breaks, things get to snowballing, and it gets out of hand to skewer the scoreboard.

We also already knew that the Tigers could beat a Southeastern Louisiana despite a seemingly stubbornly resistance to do so.

Nobody really knew what to expect at Auburn, but it didn’t figure to be pretty.

Instead, all the nagging question marks seemed to be answered in one afternoon.

Mainly, it turns out that LSU is a pretty tough team, mentally as well physically.

LSU’s defense kept the Tigers within striking distance, but that was expected.

The biggest shocker was that the Tigers’ offensive line blocked Auburn’s future NFL front seven better than it did SLU’s.

LSU’s wide receivers lived up to their potential, catching the balls they should for a change.

And, once and for all, you can put to rest the notion that the Tigers will never have a quarterback.

Joe Burrow is apparently never going to put up flashy numbers with a high completion rate.

Maybe it’s just not his style.

Some quarterbacks are like that.

In the first two games, with big leads, he seemed reluctant to throw to anything that wasn’t wide open and lot of incompletions were safe throw-aways, the “smart” play with a lead.

Saturday he didn’t have that luxury while trying to play catch-up in the second half. If LSU was going to win, the quarterback was going to have to do it.

<p class="indent">The completion numbers were hurt by the offensive game plan — which, apparently had been thoughtfully submitted by LSU fans — a plan where the Tigers just throw Hail-Mary deep on about every other play.

<p class="indent">It’s entertaining, if not exactly high percentage, but you could surely argue that it worked. The Tigers got some well-timed pass interference calls in their comeback.

<p class="indent">Mainly, what Burrow showed you was that he was clutch.

<p class="indent">Keep in mind that it was just his third college start. But he left Auburn with an “it” factor — and you’ll take that over gaudy numbers any day.

<p class="indent">He completed 4 of his first 5 passes early in the game when everything was going right in a Miami sort of way.

<p class="indent">LSU, in fact, probably left some points off the board in the excitement, which looked like a crucial oversight when the offense stalled and Auburn got rolling to a 21-10 lead.

<p class="indent">Not much was going right for the Tigers by the time they got the ball at their own 29 midway through the fourth quarter trailing 21-13. Burrow had completed just 6 of his last 20 passes at the time.

<p class="indent">How’d he respond?

<p class="indent">He threw maybe the best downfield pass LSU has seen since Zach Mettenberger, a strike in tight window just just over a linebacker’s hands that Derrick Dillon turned into a 71-yard touchdown.

<p class="indent">The fourth-down pass that kept the game-winning field goal drive alive might have been better.

<p class="indent">You’ll take that over padded stats any day. It doesn’t mean he’ll do it every time, but at least he has a reference point.

<p class="indent">“Joe proved everything people said they didn’t see in him,” LSU cornerback Greedy Williams said. “He played in a big-time game, made big-time throws. What else do you want out of a quarterback?”

<hr /><p class="indent"><em><strong>Scooter Hobbs</strong> covers LSU athletics. Email him at <span class="text_link link_wrap type_eml" data-link-target="shobbs@americanpress.com" data-link-type="EML">shobbs@americanpress.com</span></em>

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