Auburn's DaVonte Lambert, left, and Dontavius Russell slam the door on Miles Jones
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Carl Lawson was on the sidelines on crutches, so he wasn't going to play. Tray Matthews didn't dress out because of an injury. Josh Holsey left early when he was injured. Blake Countess exited after being called for targeting. Cassanova McKinzy left the field not in the best of shape, but went back in.
Auburn's defense was thin by the time it had to step up with the game on the line Saturday, but step up it did in helping the Tigers beat Jacksonville State 27-20 in overtime in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"We have a few guys banged up," coach Gus Malzahn conceded. "We just have to have the next guy step up.
"You saw a bunch of young guys out there. We need those guys to grow up in a hurry."
Oh, they got their chance.
"In the fourth quarter and overtime, I think we had three true freshmen out there," Malzahn said.
That was then. Now, said linebacker Kris Frost, "it's all about LSU."
Auburn is at LSU next Saturday after digesting an uneven game against Jacksonville State, one that saw the Gamecocks gain 438 yards, but also one the Tigers hope will build confidence for they found a way to win.
Defensive back Rudy Ford said he didn't consider losing.
"I never thought that at any point of the game. I never thought we'd lose, even when they're up. My thought is to get this stop. Make a stop. Make a play."
Jacksonville State converted six of its first nine third-down tries, but only two of its last eight. The Gamecocks had their chances, at least in the third and fourth quarters, when they had the ball for 19 minutes to Auburn's 11.
Jacksonville State lead 20-13 with 40 seconds left. A second later, the game was tied and headed to overtime.
"All the credit in the world to them. They came out prepared," said Auburn linebacker Kris Frost. "They threw a lot of stuff our way. It was a hard-fought game. We didn't play our best. It showed. But we came out with a victory at the end.
"We didn't really show up early when we needed to, but there were some big spots that we did as a defense."
McKinzy led Auburn with 13 tackles, including three for a loss. Ford had 12 tackles.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine