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AUBURN 7, LSU 3

Doing a bang-up job

Brock, Auburn deliver big hit to LSU's Southeastern Conference title hopes

AUBURN, Ala. -- Make no mistake, the ``playoffs" began at Jordan-Hare Stadium yesterday when No. 3 Auburn met sixth-ranked LSU in what officially was a Southeastern Conference battle but unofficially was a matchup with postseason ramifications.

Not surprisingly, it took until the final seconds to decide the winner. And that would be Auburn, which hung on for a 7-3 victory that literally ended with a bang. LSU wide receiver Craig Davis was flattened by defensive back Eric Brock at the Auburn 6-yard line on the final play.

``It was a very violent game," said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville. ``But our guys played like champions."

LSU coach Les Miles could only shake his head over an outcome that easily could have gone the other way. His Tigers outgained Auburn, 309 yards to 182. ``If someone had told me we won the turnover battle, had over 300 yards, and outgained our opponent, I would have thought it would have been a different outcome," said Miles.

``There is no better feeling than this, than beating LSU," said running back Kenny Irons who earned every inch of his 70 yards on 25 carries.

But it was Auburn's defense that made the biggest difference. ``Our goal is to shut people out," said linebacker Karibi Dede. ``When they scored 3 points, we knew we needed only 4. When we got 7, we knew we had them."

In each of the last three seasons and in five of the last six years, the winner of this meeting has won the SEC West. That honor is the precursor to winning the SEC championship, which begets a Bowl Championship Series berth and potential national championship game appearance.

The rivalry between Auburn and LSU has always been intense, but yesterday the stakes were elevated because it was the first time both teams were ranked in the Top 10 for the game since 1972.

LSU (2-1, 0-1), which has a chance to regroup the next two weeks when it faces Tulane and Mississippi State, came into the game with wins over Louisiana-Lafayette and Arizona by a combined score of 90-6. The margin of victory over Louisiana-Lafayette was expected; the ease with which it knocked off Arizona was not.

Auburn (3-0, 2-0) also came into the game with confidence. The Tigers had rolled over Washington State, 40-14, and Mississippi State, 34-0.

From the start, it was obvious that scoring wouldn't come easy. The first points didn't come until the final play of the first half, when LSU's Colt David kicked a 42-yard field goal.

One thing was certain when Auburn came out for the second half. It wanted a touchdown. Given the defensive nature of the game, it looked as if that would be enough.

Putting together its first and only sustained drive of the afternoon, Auburn went 75 yards in 12 plays. The drive used up nearly seven minutes and ended with quarterback Brandon Cox bulling his way to a 1-yard touchdown run with 4:53 remaining in the third quarter.

JaMarcus Russell led LSU on its first legitimate scoring drive that reached the Auburn 31 with 2:43 remaining.

On fourth and 8, Russell looked to Early Doucet at the goal line. Brock dived to deflect the pass, but a pass interference call on Zach Gilbert seemingly gave LSU another shot. However, the call was overturned .

LSU held on defense and got the ball back on its 20 with no timeouts left and 1:11 remaining. Seven plays later the Tigers were on the Auburn 24 with 2.5 seconds to play. Time for one more play, as Russell found Davis. Time for one more hit, as Brock flattened Davis and LSU.

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