NCF Nation: Tigers-Tigers-102310

Fairley, Auburn 'D' leaving their own mark

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- Nobody’s going to mistake Auburn’s defense for being the kind of dominant force that defines SEC championship teams.

Not by itself, anyway.

[+] EnlargeNick Fairley
AP Photo/Dave MartinNick Fairley's dominant performance helped keep LSU to just 243 yards of total offense.
But it is a defense that has a dominant player right now -- and combined with the Tigers’ impeccable sense of timing -- it’s hard to complain with the results.

How do you complain with 8-0?

“It’s still not perfect, and that’s what we’re chasing,” Auburn senior linebacker Josh Bynes said after the Tigers got it done in the fourth quarter yet again, this one a 24-17 victory over previously unbeaten LSU that turned Jordan-Hare Stadium into the kind of ear-splitting party that’s becoming a regular gig on the Plains.

“Everybody thought this was going to be a high-scoring game, but we put together four quarters today on defense. We can build on this, and we will build on it. We’re going to have to if we want to get where we want to go.”

Say this about Auburn: Not only do they have the player to get them there on offense, but the guy who’s wreaking havoc on defense is a beast in his own right.

Even when LSU tried to block Nick Fairley with two men Saturday, he was pretty well unblockable.

The 6-5, 298-pound junior finished with 3.5 tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks, and knocked LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee out of the game temporarily in the first half with a sprained right wrist.

Lee was able to come back into the game in the second half, but wasn’t the same throwing the football.

Fairley is now 2-for-2 on taking out quarterbacks. It was his hit on Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett that knocked Mallett out of the game two weeks ago with a concussion.

“Big Nick. He’s a big human being, and I wouldn’t want to face that guy no matter what,” said Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who once again did his part with a career-high 217 rushing yards.

“The thing about Nick is that even though he’s big, he can move. That’s something that puts fear in a person’s heart, because with a person like that, his motor is consistently running. No matter where the ball is, he’s going to get there, and he’s going to get through whoever is in his way.”

Coming into Saturday’s game, Fairley was running a neck-and-neck race with LSU’s Drake Nevis as the best interior defensive lineman in the league.

Nothing against Nevis, who’s a terrific football player, but Fairley set himself apart -- and he did it in the second half when LSU was hanging around and looking like it might make a move.

“Late in the game, No. 90 (Fairley) broke loose,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “He made about three plays in the back end of the game that were pretty significant.”

But, then, that’s been the trademark of this Auburn defense all season.

“I told the guys today, ‘You know what, we’re going to turn the scoreboard lights off. We’re going to blindfold you and then when we run out there for the kickoff, we’re going to say, ‘This is the fourth quarter,’ ” joked Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof, whose unit held LSU to just 243 yards of total offense.

Auburn did give up a fourth-quarter touchdown in this one, but has still only given up 18 fourth-quarter points in five SEC games. What’s more, opponents are now just 5-of-25 against the Tigers on third down in the fourth quarter and overtime this season.

“I don’t know. If we knew, we’d get it worked out,” said Roof, asked why Auburn had been so much better defensively in the fourth quarter of games this season. “I think we’ve got guys who care a lot about each other, and I think we’ve got some very, very hard core competitors.”

The Tigers also have Fairley, who’s emerged as the pre-eminent difference-maker on defense in this league.

“And the thing about Nick is he’s getting better every week,” Roof said.

That seems to be catching this season on the Plains.

“There’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifices by a lot of people to get to this point,” Bynes said. “But we’re not there yet, not even close.

“It’s only going to get harder from here, and I promise you we’ll be ready.”

Video: Auburn tackle Lee Ziemba

October, 23, 2010

Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba talks about his team’s offensive performance in the win over LSU.

Instant analysis: Auburn 24, LSU 17

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn got it done in the fourth quarter yet again and defeated LSU 24-17 on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium to remain unbeaten.

Here’s an instant analysis from the game:

Turning point: After being backed up on its own 10-yard line thanks to a 56-yard punt by LSU’s Derek Helton, Auburn streaked 90 yards in three plays, capped by Onterio McCalebb’s 70-yard touchdown run, to go ahead 24-17.

Offensive Player of the game: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton gets a little more spectacular every week. He rushed for 217 yards, and in the process, became only the second quarterback in SEC history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

Defensive Player of the game: You’ve got to have a defensive category for this game, because Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley was dominant. He took the game over in stretches in the second half.

Unsung hero: LSU punter Derek Helton was sensational. He kept Auburn backed up the whole game and was the main reason LSU was able to stay in the game.

Second guessing: What was that LSU was trying to run on fourth-and-6 from its own 30 in the final minutes? In vintage LSU fashion, guys were scrambling around at the last second to get lined up properly. Russell Shepard came off the sideline late. It was a total disaster, and then on top of it all, all LSU could get was a run by Jarrett Lee that never had a chance.

What it means: Auburn (8-0, 5-0) took a huge step toward winning the Western Division title, although it won’t get a bye until the week before the Alabama game on Nov. 26. LSU (7-1, 4-1) isn’t out of the West race, but will need some help. LSU is off next week before facing Alabama on Nov. 6 in Baton Rouge. LSU will need to win out and hope Auburn loses twice.

Derek Helton is LSU's MVP

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- If LSU manages to win this game, senior punter Derek Helton has to be the Tigers' MVP.

He's almost single-handedly kept LSU in this game with his punting and keeping the field position in LSU's favor.

Not sure about that call

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- If you're going to go for it on fourth down, let Cam Newton do what he does best -- run around and make a play.

A quick, precision throw there is not what he does best. Plus, you gave LSU a shorter field.

LSU wasting opportunities

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- LSU has started near midfield on each of its past two possessions, but has nothing to show for it.

This is Auburn's defense doing what it has done all season, making key stops.

But here LSU is again, starting a drive at the 50.

Sprained right wrist for Lee

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee has a sprained right wrist and will be available in the second half.

He underwent X-rays at the half and they were negative. Jordan Jefferson finished the first half at quarterback for LSU.

Jarrett Lee having X-rays on wrist

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee injured his right wrist in the first half and was undergoing X-rays at halftime to see if there were any fractures.

Jordan Jefferson, who started the game, came back in and finished the first half, leading the Tigers on a touchdown drive to tie the game at 10-10.

Halftime analysis: Auburn 10, LSU 10

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- LSU scored on a late drive to pull even with Auburn, 10-10, at the half Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Here's a quick halftime analysis:

Turning point: Jordan Jefferson, who re-entered the game at quarterback after Jarrett Lee was injured, scrambled for a first down on third-and-16 from the Auburn 40 to keep alive LSU's late touchdown drive. On that same drive, LSU got a pass interference penalty in the end zone, and Jefferson scored on a 2-yard run when it looked like the play clock had run out before the ball was snapped.

Player of the half: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley has been dominant. He had multiple tackles for loss and knocked Lee out of the game after hitting him and landing on him just after Lee had released the football.

Stat of the half: Auburn's Cam Newton scored his 13th rushing touchdown of the season and has now accounted for 26 touchdowns, tying the school record set by Pat Sullivan in 1971 when Sullivan won the Heisman Trophy.

Jarrett Lee hurt, leaves game

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee was knocked from the game in the final minues of the second quarter after being hit by Auburn's Nick Fairley.

It looked like Lee was holding his arm down around the wrist area. He was taken to the locker room by LSU trainers.

Nick Fairley steps up for Auburn

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn's Nick Fairley and LSU's Drake Nevis have been the two best interior defensive linemen in the SEC this season, maybe the entire country.

Fairley was the one to strike first in this game with his sack of Jarrett Lee in the second quarter.

Auburn was able to get LSU in third-and-11. So twice in third-and-long situations Saturday, Auburn's defense has come up with big plays. The first one ended with Zac Etheridge intercepting Jordan Jefferson's pass in the first quarter.

Auburn methodically moving the ball

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has done an excellent job with his play calling.

Auburn has changed it up on LSU, dinking and dunking its way down the field, and has been in very few third-and-long situations.

That's been the key, as LSU hasn't been able to load up and come after Cam Newton.

LSU also missed several key tackles in the first quarter.

Fourth quarter another charm for Auburn?

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- We'll find out if Auburn can work its fourth-quarter magic ... again.

Is there anybody who doesn't believe Saturday's game between Auburn and LSU won't come down to the final quarter?

Auburn has outscored opponents 72-21 in the fourth quarter/overtime of games this season. In the Tigers' past two games against nationally ranked teams, they've forced seven turnovers in the fourth quarter.

Watching his defense give up the yardage it's given up in games this season has been difficult for Auburn coach Gene Chizik, but it's hard for him to argue with the way his defense has played when it's counted.

"Would we like to have less yards against us? Yes. Would we like to have less first downs against us? Yes. Who wouldn’t?" Chizik said. "But I give our guys a lot of credit, and I told them this: We can be happy about the result of our season right now, but we don’t have to be one bit satisfied with the way we’ve played.

"I think that’s kind of the mantra of our defense. However, when plays have to be made, we tell our guys all the time, 'When the game is on the line, we need your best. When your best is needed, you've got to give it to us. You've got to respond and you've got to produce.'

"I have to say there have been many times this season when we've needed their best shot and have gotten it."

Scheming up Auburn, Cam Newton

October, 23, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. -- Nobody's really been able to slow down Auburn's Cam Newton this season.

The true test will come later Saturday against an LSU defense that is by far the best he's seen this season.

In talking to LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis on the eve of the game, his two main concerns are dealing with Auburn's up-tempo pace and tackling the 6-6, 250-pound Newton.

Scheme-wise, Chavis feels good about the Tigers' plan and having the right guys in the right spots.

But tackling Newton is a different story. He's been a terror when he takes off and runs this season. LSU, though, has been an excellent tackling team this season.

The other thing that works in LSU"s favor is that the Tigers are good enough up front defensively to get pressure with their front four.

At the end of the day, LSU wants to make Newton beat it by throwing the football, which goes back to keeping him bottled up and not allowing him to run the football.

"We'll find out how good a tackling team we are," Chavis said.