AUBURN — Jarrett Stidham maintains that last year’s loss at LSU was ultimately a good thing. That Auburn wouldn’t have reeled off five straight victories to win the SEC West if it hadn’t blown a 20-point lead in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Still, that was quite the uphill climb. The second-year starting quarterback and everyone else in the home locker room at Jordan-Hare Stadium wanted to avoid having to fight same battle this season.
They could not. No. 12 LSU came to the Plains and left with a 22-21 victory over No. 7 Auburn.
"Obviously, it's a tough way to lose," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "You've got to give (LSU) credit. ... This team is going to rebound."
It’s the home team’s first loss in the series since 2012, and it snaps the blue-and-orange Tigers’ 13-game home winning streak, which dated back to a Sept. 24, 2016, win over the purple-and-gold ones.
Place-kicker Cole Tracy hit the game-winning 42-yard field goal as time expired.
If Auburn (2-1) is going to repeat as SEC West champions for the first time since 2004-05, it will have to climb back from a 0-1 start in conference play.
At the start, the game followed the opposite script as last year’s meeting in Tiger Stadium. This time, it was LSU that got off to the hot start in hostile territory. Stidham threw an interception on his first passing attempt, Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed in for a 1-yard touchdown, and Cole Tracy hit a 33-yard field goal that put the visitors up 10-0 early in the second quarter.
And this time, it was Auburn that responded, scoring 21 unanswered points over the course of its next four drives (one of which ended in a kneel down at the end of the first half).
Redshirt freshman running back JaTarvious Whitlow rushed for the first of those touchdowns from 7 yards out, and true freshman Shaun Shivers scored from the same distance less than four minutes later to put Auburn ahead 14-10 at halftime. Stidham hit wide receiver Darius Slayton from 4 yards out on the home team’s first drive of the third quarter.
LSU stopped the bleeding with a third-quarter field goal, and quarterback Joe Burrow got the visitors back in the end zone with a 71-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Dillon, but they couldn’t convert on the two-point try that would have tied the game at 21. It didn’t matter.
Auburn was always going to have an uphill climb ahead of it, regardless of Saturday’s outcome. Road trips to face No. 16 Mississippi State, No. 3 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama still loom on the schedule.
But that hill is even steeper after a loss to LSU.