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Shall we call him Beaux Nix now?
The Auburn quarterback came to Tiger Stadium, where so many failed before him, he saw, he was benched, and he came back to conquer, displaying more elusiveness and guile than even LSU legend Billy Cannon on that 89-yard punt return to beat Ole Miss on Halloween Night, 1959.
Nix became the first Auburn quarterback since Ben Leard in 1999 to win at LSU, but that was an easy one. Auburn and first-year coach Tommy Tuberville took that one, 41-7, on Sept. 18, 1999, against an LSU team that would finish 3-8 with coach Gerry DiNardo getting fired after a 2-8 start. Hmm.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Nix said. “We talked about 1999 all week. It was the year before I was born. That curse is finally broken.”
After returning to the game midway in the second quarter with his team down 13-0, Nix completed 19 of 36 passes for 210 yards with a 24-yard touchdown on fourth down after a Fran Tarkenton-like scramble in which he avoided four LSU tacklers and threw on the run just before getting hit. That cut LSU’s lead to 13-7, and Auburn was breathing again.
Nix rushed eight time for 53 yards with a 5-yard touchdown after returning to the game. Nix started and completed 4 of 8 passes for 45 yards. He was pulled for T.J. Finley early in the second quarter only because of the script of coach Bryan Harsin. Finley, who had replaced Nix last week and threw the go-ahead touchdown in a win over Georgia State, could not move the team either, though.
And the rest may be history.
“Their quarterback, we couldn’t get him down,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said.
Nix has done twice what his dad Pat Nix – Auburn’s starting quarterback in 1994 and ’95 – couldn’t do, which was beat LSU twice as the starting quarterback.
The elder Nix was the winning quarterback when Auburn won the “Interception Game,” 30-26 at Auburn in 1994 with three pick sixes off LSU quarterback Jamie Howard, whose son Walker Howard has commited to the Tigers’ 2022 class – for now. But Nix was the quarterback in 1995 at LSU when Auburn couldn’t score at the goal line, and he threw a game-ending interception in a 12-6 loss.
Auburn quarterback Dameyune Craig won a thriller at LSU, 31-28, in 1997, but he lost the year before at Auburn, 19-15.
Nix completed 18 of 24 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 11 times for 81 yards and a touchdown in a 48-11 win over LSU last year at Auburn. With the win Saturday, he is the first Auburn quarterback to beat LSU in back-to-back games since Stan White in 1992 (30-28 at Auburn) and in 1993 (34-10 at LSU).
White probably did not realize that as he announced the game as a color analyst for Auburn’s radio network Saturday night.
LSU’s only win over Nix was at Tiger Stadium in the 2019 season – 23-20 as Nix could not keep up with LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. But on this night, Nix was Burrow, running and hitting his targets.
“You know honestly, those plays, it really came down to Bo,” Harsin said. “Bo scrambled, and guys got open and were able to finish. That’s not so much the play call itself. Bo is a weapon with his legs. He’s able to make guys miss. He can run and I think that’s good for him. That’s part of his game that makes him the type of player that he is.”
Auburn’s defense, meanwhile, held LSU to a mere two field goals in the second half after LSU led 13-10 at halftime. LSU again ran the ball miserably, managing just 33 yards on 25 rushes for a 1.3-yard average.
“Every time we ran the football, we got stuffed,” Orgeron said. “We couldn’t run the football. We couldn’t block well up front, and we couldn’t tackle the quarterback.”
Quarterback Max Johnson played well considering a strong pass rush from Auburn and the lack of a running game. He hit 26 of 46 passes for 325 yards and a touchdown around three sacks before a desperation heave at the end was intercepted to wrap up the game. But he was often confused at the line as LSU had to call timeouts.
“We just weren’t well organized,” said Orgeron, who after last season hired Jake Peetz as offensive coordinator with no experience as an offensive coordinator.
Some of LSU’s problems continue to appear unfixable. It can’t run the ball because it’s offensive line can’t block. Johnson has continued to play well, but the lack of run game and pressure on him will continue to haunt the Tigers.
“I thought that (the offensive line) would’ve been one of the strengths of our team, and it’s not,” Orgeron said. “We need to find some players who are going to block.”
Until they do – and there is no waiver wire and trades are not allowed – Johnson will continue to be frequently hesitant and hurried.
“It looked like he was throwing off his back foot,” Orgeron said. “And he was fading away.”
Orgeron could have been talking about himself with that last sentence. Since going 15-0 for the 2019 national title, he is 8-7 overall and 6-6 in the SEC.
And LSU (3-2, 1-1 SEC) plays at Kentucky (5-0, 3-0), which is tied for first in the SEC East with Georgia (5-0, 3-0) after a stunning, 20-13 upset of No. 10 Florida on Saturday. Then LSU hosts Florida, which is the only team to play No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0) well this season.
After that, there are trips to Ole Miss (3-1, 0-1) and Alabama before home games against Arkansas (4-1, 1-1) and Texas A&M (3-2, 0-2). The Aggies are 0-2 in the SEC for the first time since entering the league in 2012 after a 26-22 home loss to Mississippi State on Saturday.
A&M coach Jimbo Fisher continues to have quarterback and offense problems, which is what he is usually great at. And Arkansas was repeatedly punched in the mouth in a 37-0 loss at Georgia, much like Ole Miss in its 42-21 fall at Alabama. But LSU’s only sure win right now remains on Nov. 20 against Louisiana-Monroe (2-2), which lost 59-6 to Coastal Carolina on Saturday.
Asked about the “trajectory” of his 8-7 program, Orgeron said, “I take it one day at time. I don’t look at it like that.”
LOOKING AHEAD – LIGHT FARE AND A CONSOLATION GAME
After two thriling games Saturday at LSU and at Kentucky, this Saturday will likely not come close.
With Texas A&M not living up to preseason expectations, its home game against Alabama at 7 p.m. on CBS is not worthy of its prime time slot. The top game of the day could be Auburn at Georgia or LSU at Kentucky at 6:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Meanwhile, Arkansas plays at Ole Miss after each team proved to be contender pretenders in blowout losses in top 12 pairings at Georgia and at Alabama, respectively.
Call that one a consolation game.