Auburn, Ala.—We’re not sure why, but strange things happen when Auburn and LSU meet on the football field. Just a few examples:
**--In 1988, nearing the end of a Titanic defensive struggle in Baton Rouge, Auburn was clinging to a 6-0 lead. But LSU quarterback Tommy Hodson finally put together a drive and threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Fuller with less than two minutes remaining. The explosion of sound in Tiger Stadium was so great that it actually registered on the seismograph at the LSU Geoscience Complex. Hence, it has become known as “The Earthquake Game,” and will celebrate its 30th anniversary (How is that possible?) on Saturday.
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**--The 1996 game in Auburn provided one of the scarier moments in the series when suddenly fans looked up to see a huge ball of flame outside of Jordan-Hare Stadium. If you were watching on TV it looked like the stadium was on fire. The public address announcer had to explain to the fans, who were obviously concerned, that it was a separate structure, the old Auburn Sports Arena, that was burning and not the stadium. Play on the field never stopped while firefighters took care of the problem. LSU won 19-15 and the game became "The Night The Barn Burned."
**--In 2007 in Baton Rouge, LSU trailed 24-23 and was driving for an apparent game-winning field goal. LSU Coach Les Miles, not known for his clock management skills, decided to throw a long pass into the end zone and then kick the field goal should the pass fall incomplete. The ball, however, was snapped with only eight seconds left. Matt Flynn threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Byrd and when the play ended there was only one second left on the clock. Had Byrd bobbled the ball and failed to make the catch, time could have run out. LSU won 30-24.
The next day I talked to Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville about the final play.
“Can you believe he (Miles) took that chance?” Tuberville.
With Miles, the answer was always yes.
Last season added another inexplicable chapter to the Auburn-LSU series.
On Oct. 17, 2017 in Baton Rouge, No. 10 Auburn was firmly in control, scoring on its first four possessions to take a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter. It looked like Auburn would run away and win its first game at Tiger Stadium since 1999.
But things changed. Sparked by a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown by D.J. Chark, LSU staged a furious rally, outscoring Auburn 27-3 in the final 42 minutes to win 27-23.
Auburn would recover from that gut punch and go on to beat No. 1 Alabama and No. 1 Georgia in November to win the SEC West and advance to the SEC championship game. Auburn finished the regular season 10-2, the other loss coming at No. 3 Clemson (14-6) on Sept. 9. If Auburn had beaten Georgia in the SEC championship game, the Tigers would have become the first two-loss team to make the College Football Playoffs.
But last season’s loss to LSU is still a head scratcher around here.
“Last year was an extremely tough loss. One of the toughest we’ve had since we’ve been here,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. “After that it was uphill for us the rest of the year. But it was a turning point in our season, no doubt.”
“We learned a lot from that loss,” said quarterback Jarrett Stidham. “From that moment on we grew up as a football team. If we don’t lose to LSU, I’m not sure we make to the SEC championship game.”
“You learn a lot of lessons when you let one like that slip away,” Malzahn said.
On Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) Auburn (2-0) and LSU (2-0), both ranked in the top 12, will meet once again in a monster SEC West showdown. And we have to ask: What strange thing is going to happen this time?