Arguments about statistics and other details typically become secondary and academic at best upon the introduction of a certain word into the conversation. Scoreboard
In Tiger Stadium it showed a 31-10 victory by LSU against Auburn
, and the numbers from Saturday night can't be used to paint a picture of anything but domination of one SEC football team by another.
LSU sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson completed 21 of 31 passes for a career-high 242 yards and two touchdowns. He and his teammates outgained Auburn 376 yards to 193 in total offense, helped by a defense that claimed three turnovers.
Russell Shepard provided the offensive play of the game, sprinting for a 69-yard third-quarter touchdown through a hole created by a block from left guard Will Blackwell.
There was no resemblance between the game and its most glaring statistical setup, the SEC's second-best offense (Auburn) and its worst (LSU). The margin of victory would have been larger had LSU's Josh Jasper not missed field goals of 49 and 52 yards and Jefferson not fumbled the ball away just shy of the Auburn goal line.
LSU coach Les Miles described the opponent as a very good Auburn team. That's open to debate, but the fact that LSU dominated from start to finish is not.
"Obviously, LSU played a great game tonight, and pretty much from the beginning to the end, they just executed better than we did," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "They beat us in about every phase of the football game.
"I've got to give them a lot of credit."
"That's one of the best defenses in the country," Chizik said.
The LSU offense looked pretty good too. Aided by a rash of early Auburn penalties, inspired after scoring a season-low three points against Florida and challenged during the open-date week to do better, LSU equaled its season high with 31 points.
Miles played it safe early, punting instead of going for it on a fourth-and-short situation that in past seasons he might have played differently. And, he let Jefferson -- not power back Charles Scott -- run on back-to-back goal line plays on a series that ended in a turnover.
Scott rushed 10 times for 20 yards, not the lathered-up performance Miles said he wanted to see, but the offense was unquestionably better. With Jefferson and the offense unfettered by check-with-me pauses, they got into a rhythm that made Tiger Stadium look like Death Valley again instead of Meerkat Valley.
"We went into the open week with the want to improve, and we looked at specifics," Miles said. "We still want to run the football and throw the football with balance and have the ability to do both.
"We think that in the long run in football and in the stretch run of the season, that the team that has balance -- that can run it and throw it -- will be the most dangerous offensively."
Miles said the Tigers know they have to continue to improve, but he didn't sound as if he saw any problem with expecting that.
"You'd have been proud of this team when you watched them in the open week come off a tough loss to a nationally ranked team," he said, "and they just played hard."
If you're a fan of the competitive spirit, the only substantial moment of tension in the second half, long after it became obvious Auburn was no match for LSU, came when the visitors reached the LSU 1-yard line against LSU reserves and called a timeout with 8 seconds left.
LSU's first-team defense, which had been watching from the sideline, ran onto the field.
"They wanted to go back on the field. Can you stop them? I couldn't have stopped them," Miles said. "There isn't any chance. I love that effort and that want and that, 'I'll scrap you for it,' and late in the game with nothing really to prove other than a yard, 'I'll play for a yard.' That's what they said."
Auburn scored its only touchdown on the next play, but anyone who stuck around for the finish was rewarded with that mini-drama and all that it said about the pride of LSU's defense.
Flash back to the season opener, when Washington drove downfield with relative ease and scored a touchdown with no time remaining against an LSU defense that looked powerless to stop it. This seemed like a different LSU team, despite the opponent punching one in again at the end.
That was another game in which LSU scored 31 points (a 31-23 victory), and in the other one before Saturday night, the 31-3 victory against UL-Lafayette, LSU did not control the game the way it did against Auburn.
"Part of the improvement is certainly at the quarterback spot," Miles said. "I think you watched him really execute pretty well. His last passing attempt was him not executing very well, but I think we can catch it better and throw it better, and I think that he is the kind of quarterback and kind of competitor that expects himself to be better."
"He's a confident guy. He'll look to improve."
His numbers would have been better without at least three incomplete passes that hit his receivers in the hands.
Chizik didn't overlook the impact Jefferson had in softening up Auburn's defense.
"I thought we had our moments where we played some things well. What he did tonight is he hit some great deep balls on us. He was really, really accurate, and put the ball about the only place you could put it," Chizik said.
"There were times I thought we had good coverage, but the receivers went up and got the ball. He threw some jump balls in some places right now that were very hard to defend. He had a big night and executed well. The deep balls were the things that were glaring to me when it comes to our pass defense. They hit some underneath, intermediate ones as well, but it was the deep balls that got us. He threw them, really, with a nice touch tonight."
Chizik, not Miles, was the one answering postgame questions about possible changes that should be made on offense.
"We will look at everything," he said, responding to a question about Auburn's quarterback play. "That is the natural question, but it was a whole offensive effort, whether it was running the football, throwing the football. We just got beat tonight by a team that was more physical than we were, so I have to give them a lot of credit."
It was a team that came into this game refocused after suffering its first loss of the season.
"We had a sub-par game when we played Florida, and we just had to come out and practice last week, these last two weeks, and just work on our deep-ball throwing to get Jordan in rhythm," said LSU receiver Terrance Toliver, who caught nine passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
He relished the way LSU threw the ball down the field.
"It felt good. I feel like we could've been doing this all year. Like I said we threw a lot of deep balls today, and we made plays," Toliver said.
LSU defensive players were delighted by the offense's performance.
"I love when I get to see Jordan throw the ball, and Keiland (Williams) and them running around, having a good time," LSU defensive tackle Al Woods said. "It feels good. I love little Shepard being in the backfield, doing something special."
Shepard's value as a decoy has yet to be seen -- when he's in the game, he touches the ball -- but that certainly wasn't on anyone's mind when he broke free for his 69-yard touchdown.
"They're going to be all right," Woods said of the offense. "It took a little while for them to get going. Now they're going, and hopefully they fire on all cylinders week in and week out."
Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard echoed that theme, saying he was glad to see the offense get some credit for a change.
"When they're clicking, they're clicking," Sheppard said. "That's what they did tonight. I'm just so happy for them, because they're finally showing what they can do, and if they come out week in and week out with their heads on right, they can do that against anyone."
Jefferson reflected on the work LSU did during the open-date week and in preparing for Auburn.
"During the off week we focused on a lot of things that we had mistakes on," he said, "so coming out in this game and doing whatever we had to do offensively really gave us a confidence boost."
It helped that LSU's offensive line protected him better, despite three sacks, and Jefferson had a tad more designed plays to roll him out for a run-pass option, which is the type of option play more suited to his natural abilities than the pitch-or-keep version LSU struggled with this season.
There weren't the kinds of major changes that confuse a defense, Auburn players said, but LSU executed more times than not.
"No, we knew everything they were running but they just made plays and we didn't," Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes said. Their receivers made a lot of great catches on the ball, and we didn't get into the pocket enough to make them get it out quicker."
Auburn running back Ben Tate stopped short of calling LSU's defense the best in the SEC.
"This defense was pretty good. but they werenï¿½t any better than Tennesseeï¿½s defense," he said. "We just didn't execute."
It all sounded like the familiar script of an LSU postgame, but this time it was the other team talking about the need to improve on offense and do a better job of executing. .
has written or blogged about LSU since 1999. He followed the game on ESPN2 through ESPN360.com. Postgame quotes are from LSUsports.net and the assistance of a quote runner. You can contact him at carl1061 'at' gmail.com.