AUBURN, Ala.— Auburn sprinted out to a 17-0 lead over LSU and had Jordan-Hare Stadium rocking on Saturday night.
But then it happened again.
For the fifth straight time, an Auburn football loss in SEC play came after the Tigers led by double digits, this time falling 21-17 to the Bayou Bengals.
“I think the tale of the game comes down to the turnovers,” Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said, noting his team had four turnovers to LSU’s one.
“They won the turnover battle. and that’s a huge factor in the game.”
Auburn out-gained LSU 438-270; it really was that simple.
But those first 23 minutes before things went sideways were filled with “War Eagle” chants and celebrations that provided hope for the future.
Like, maybe a coaching change wasn’t so imminent?
Auburn was out-gaining LSU 239 to 87, clearly the better prepared and more motivated team.
The Bayou Bengals’ defense -- just as they had done two weeks before against a veteran Mississippi State team, holding offensive guru Mike Leach to just three second-half points in a 31-16 win -- made key adjustments and dug in.
There would be no more points for the Auburn Tigers.
LSU pieced together an 11-play, 77-yard TD drive right before the half to close to 17-14.
John Emery’s tackle-breaking 20-yard touchdown run with 3:32 left in the third quarter proved the game-winning score for LSU and the only points of the second half.
Auburn turned the ball over on downs at the LSU 37 on its second drive in the third quarter and was intercepted at the Tigers’ 10-yard line on the next series.
Auburn’s final drive ended at the LSU 36-yard line after yet another interception with 2:18 remaining
Harsin’s team will take a 3-2 record — 1-1 in the SEC — to Georgia for a 3:30 p.m. game next Saturday
It’s a Bulldogs team that, like Harsin’s Tigers, scored a narrow win over Missouri.
Auburn won by a 17-14 count over Missouri in overtime, while Georgia rallied from 22-12 down in the fourth quarter for a 26-22 win in Columbia.
Two teams headed into different directions in a league where things can change quickly.