LSU turns attention to rival Auburn
RB Hester: 'We do control our own destiny'
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
By Jim Kleinpeter
BATON ROUGE -- Lo and behold, the sun did come up Sunday morning for LSU's football team.
As painful as the 43-37, triple overtime loss to Kentucky was for the Tigers to take, a few hours later the salve began to hit the wounds.
The Tigers dropped four spots, from No. 1 to No. 5 in all the polls, and the news was even better in the BCS rankings -- No. 4, which keeps the Tigers (6-1) well within striking distance of the BCS title game Jan. 7 at the Superdome.
A look at the video Monday morning, while painful, proved cathartic, LSU players said. And last of all, knowing No. 18-ranked Auburn (5-2) is coming to town Saturday accelerated LSU's willingness to refocus.
"Nobody wanted to think about it Saturday night or even Sunday," senior running back Jacob Hester said Monday. "But once we got in we watched it, saw what went wrong. It sort of left a sick feeling in our stomachs knowing how close we were to winning.
"Now it's behind us. We saw our mistakes. Hopefully, we can learn from them and move on to the Auburn game because Auburn's not going to feel sorry for us."
A chance at an unbeaten season slipped away amid numerous penalties and other mistakes uncharacteristic of LSU's team. The vaunted No. 1 defense couldn't stop the Wildcats despite a 13-point lead, and the offense struggled in the fourth quarter, gaining 45 yards.
But all of that has gone into the trash bin, minus whatever the Tigers learned from the game.
"Kentucky's in the past," junior defensive end Tyson Jackson said. "We've buried it."
There might not be a better annual wakeup call on LSU's schedule than Auburn. Games between the teams usually are physically memorable and marked by odd circumstances.
Last season, defenses dominated as host Auburn prevailed 7-3. The teams went into overtime two years ago at Tiger Stadium, with LSU coming out ahead 20-17. The year before that, Auburn won 10-9 when LSU missed an extra-point attempt.
"Every game in the SEC is physical, but the Auburn game always seems to be a little more physical, more tough football than any other game," Hester said. "Guys that are banged up are going to have to get healthy quick."
LSU Coach Les Miles' attitude is that Auburn might be just what the doctor ordered.
"We understand our work is cut out for us," Miles said. "We like it that way. We look forward to playing a capable opponent. Frankly, it's just what we need."
Auburn's season had a rocky start, with losses to South Florida and Mississippi State. But Auburn has rebounded with consecutive victories against Florida, Vanderbilt and Arkansas.
Unlike LSU's past two opponents (Florida and the Wildcats), defense has carried Auburn, which has allowed four touchdowns in the past three games. It held Florida to 115 yards rushing and Arkansas' dynamic duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones to 85 yards combined in a 9-7 victory this past Saturday night -- and that was without three injured starters.
While Auburn has struggled offensively, things are looking up. Running back Brad Lester has rushed for 168 yards in the past two games -- 91 against Arkansas -- after missing the first five games because of injury.
Auburn also represents a turning point in the season for LSU. It is finished with SEC East opponents and, traditionally, the Auburn game decides who wins the SEC West. LSU's four remaining conference games are against West (Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas) foes, which means LSU's destiny is in its hands.
"I guess if you want to call it a playoff game you could," Jackson said. "It's time for our team to step up and play better as a group across the board."
Said Hester: "The good thing is we do control our own destiny.
"We do still have a shot at the ultimate goal, the national championship. We didn't drop as far as we could have. There's still hope. There's still something to play for. We'd love to have gone undefeated, but that's not a possibility for us, so we have to put it behind us."
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