The Cigar Game
War Eagle, everybody! This column will be the first in a regular series of features, looking back on great Auburn football games coached by Tommy Tuberville. Today, we’ll look at Tommy’s first signature win, in Baton Rouge.
On a warm dry afternoon on September 18, 1999, Auburn traveled to Tiger Stadium to face the LSU Tigers, on a late afternoon ESPN matchup. Although both teams came into the game 2-0, neither school was expected to be a major factor in the SEC West race. Auburn came in with a NARROW escape, 22-15, against Appalachian State, and had survived blowing a 23-0 lead against Idaho, winning 30-23. There was not a lot of confidence among the Auburn faithful. Having suffered through a 3-8 campaign, Bowden-gate, and having just squeaked by the likes of Appy State and Idaho, few Tiger fans expected a victory on the bayou.
LSU was having their own troubles, though, mostly a situation with assistant coaches. LSU, despite having a potent offense in 1998, had not been able to stop anybody, and had limped to a 4-7 record. In years prior to 1998, the LSU defense had been fearsome under Carl Reese. Lou Tepper had taken over in 1998, and installed a soft-cushion 3-4 zone defense. Many LSU fans were calling for Tepper’s ouster, but Gerry DiNardo was loyal to Tepper, and kept him on for 1999, while promising that the Tigers would blitz more. The head coach stuck by his man, but was forced to demand that the assistant coach an unfamiliar style. The result, of course, was disaster. LSU came in having struggled against San Jose State, 29-21 in the opener, then they blasted North Texas 52-0.
Game Recap, after the jump!
LSU got the ball first, and immediately tried to start pounding the Auburn defense with star backs Rondell Mealy and Dominick Davis. Unfortunately for LSU, they were facing a very tough Auburn defense line, anchored by stars Jimmy Brumbaugh, Marcus Washington, and Leonardo Carson. Auburn was having NONE of LSU’s running game, and the Bayou Bengals quickly faced 3rd and 7. The pocket broke down quickly, Rohan Davy panicked, and sailed the ball right to Auburn linebacker Kenny Kelly, who secured it down to the LSU 20.
Auburn was unable to capitalize, despite picking up a first down on a pass interference penalty, and a first and goal on an offsides call.. Damon Duval came on, and kicked Auburn to a 3-0 early lead. LSU’s second possession went little better than the first. A Jimmy Brumbaugh sack of Rohan Davy set up a short, 34-yard punt by Corey Gibbs, and Auburn was back in business at the LSU 48.
Two clutch Leard passes picked up first downs, the first for 21 yards to Ryan Hooker, the second was to Tavarious Robinson for 10. Clifton Robinson had replaced the ineffective Rusty Williams at tailback, but could not crack the end zone on two runs near the goal line. On 4th down, Tuberville sent in the field goal unit. Holder Jacob Allen took the snap, and flipped a no-look pass over his shoulder, to Damon Duval, who streaked in for a touchdown against a shocked LSU kick-block team. Duval’s PAT made it 10-0, and the Auburn Tigers were fired up!
LSU continued to self-destruct, derailing the next drive on a personal foul penalty. Auburn tried to shoot themselves in the foot, too, with an illegal block call on the return. The Tigers set up at their own 31. A draw play to Rusty Williams broke out for 28 yards and a first down, but then two Clifton Robinson runs put Auburn in a third and 5 at the LSU 36. Lou Tepper got out of his comfort zone, going man to man, and blitzing. Auburn picked up the blitz, and Ben Leard went up over top of the LSU defense, to Ronney Daniels, 36 yards for the touchdown! Damon Duval’s PAT made it 17-0 in the first quarter, and I think it’s safe to say that everyone watching was in shock!
Rohan Davy’s woes would continue, with two more incomplete throws. Then, Davy tried to take off on 3rd and long, was hit by Marcus Washington, coughed up the ball, and linebacker Haven Fields recovered at LSU 16, as the first quarter ended. Auburn went to work with a screen pass to Clifton Robinson, who fumbled it right back to LSU.
LSU would push the ball out to near midfield, but then Rohan Davy threw another interception, to walk-on free safety Adlai Trone. A sack of Ben Leard would end that drive, and after the punt, LSU would lift Davy, and put Josh Booty in at QB. Booty moved LSU into Auburn territory, but the drive stalled. The teams traded punts, then Booty drove LSU down again, deep into Auburn territory and set up a 37-yard field goal attempt. John Corbello’s kick would clank off the left upright, and LSU remained scoreless.
Auburn took over at their own 20, and immediately drew a motion penalty. On second down from the 16, Ben Leard would crank up a deep post, to Daniels, in front of Lou Tepper’s safeties. They gave chase, running Daniels across to the near boundary, where he was absolutely blindsided, CRACKED by an LSU defender from the back side. Daniels crashed to the turf, and the ball squirted out, hopping down the field toward the LSU goal line. 3 LSU defenders chase, grabbed, swatted, fell on, and muffed the ball down to the one. Ronney Daniels, who by all rights should have been knocked out, got up off the turf, and chased the play. As the LSU defenders lay thrashing around on the ground trying to grab the ball, Daniels closed in, scooped it up at the one, and went in for the score! 84 yards, touchdown Auburn! Damon Duval’s PAT made it Auburn 24, LSU 0, with about two minutes left in the half.
Josh Booty again moved LSU up near midfield, but was intercepted again by Adlai Trone. Auburn ran most of the clock out, before punting back to LSU. LSU’s last pass was a hail Mary, intercepted by Rodney Crayton. Auburn led 24-0 at the half.
Ben Leard would coming out firing in the second half, and had a CLUTCH 3rddown throw to Markeith Cooper for a 46 yard gain, that set up a LONG 44 yard Damon Duval field goal. The Auburn lead grew, to 27-0.
LSU would go three and out with Booty, but Auburn couldn’t answer. The teams would trade a couple of punts, then Ben Leard hooked up with Reggie Worthy for 40 yards, and Auburn was in business deep in Tigerland, again. Clifton Robinson skated through defenders for an 8 yard touchdown run. Damon Duval’s point was good, and Auburn now led 34-0, late in the 3rd quarter!
Josh Booty would direct a stellar drive against Auburn, who was beginning to substitute freely on defense. Booty hit Ed Dangerfield for a 12 yard score, and the Auburn lead was cut to 34-7. LSU would secure the onsides kick, and had moved into Auburn territory as the 3rd quarter expired. Booty was able to drive LSU down to the Auburn 12 yard line, but turned the ball over on downs, and incomplete passes. Auburn retained the 34-7 lead, early in the 4th quarter.
Auburn would be forced to punt, but on LSU’s next possession, Josh Booty was stripped of the ball in the pocket, by Tavarious Pounds, James Callier recovered, and Auburn had it at the LSU 19. On second down, Ben Leard would hit tight end Jack Schwieger for a 16 yard touchdown, and Damon Duval’s point would make it 41-7 Auburn, with 10 minutes left in the game.
Booty would end another drive on downs deep in Auburn territory, then backup quarterback Jeff Klein would answer with a long Auburn drive, which ended on a sack in LSU territory. Ben Leard had left the game, with his first 300-yard passing game. LSU ended the game with the ball, again throwing incomplete passes as time ran out.
Auburn came out of the game with a stunning 41-7 win, and the Tigers were 3-0. Tommy Tuberville brought the team back out of the locker room, handed out cigars, and the players celebrated with the raucous Auburn faithful still in the stands at LSU. LSU fans were INCENSED! The “Cigar Game” STILL comes up on LSU boards, every year, when we play them, even nearly ten years later.
LSU’s season went down the toilet after that game. Hoping to go 3-0, instead they took a blowout loss, and proceeded to lose eight games in a row, and Gerry DiNardo, Lou Tepper and company lost their jobs. Auburn was unable to build on the victory, though. Ben Leard would suffer a separated shoulder the next week against Ole Miss, and the Tigers would lose five straight games.
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