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LSU Fans Revel In Exciting Road Win

September 23, 1996

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) _ It was the kind of night the LSU faithful were used to in the 1970s and ’80s.

The defense came up with big plays, the Tigers won a key road game and the traveling fans _ always a rowdy contingent _ stayed late in another team’s stadium celebrating an LSU win.

That was the scene Saturday night when No. 17 LSU beat No. 22 Auburn 19-15 on the strength of Raion Hill’s fourth-quarter interception returns for a touchdown and a defensive conversion.

It was the first win for LSU (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at Jordan-Hare Stadium since 1973, its second in a row against Auburn (3-1, 1-1), and it put Gerry DiNardo’s team firmly in the hunt for the SEC West title.

LSU is looking for consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1987-88, when the Tigers concluded a stretch of 11 winning seasons over 13 years.

That was followed by six straight losing seasons, which ended last year when DiNardo arrived and went 7-4-1.

On Saturday, Hill was part of a young secondary that pressured Auburn quarterbacks Dameyune Craig and Jon Cooley into a series of mistakes.

The most crucial were the interceptions Hill made in his first game since breaking a leg in spring practice.

``Raion made some big plays, but you can tell he hasn’t played a lot,″ DiNardo said of the sophomore. ``He’s not a finished product, but he made two pretty big plays for a guy in his first game.″

The Auburn defense made big plays too, forcing three turnovers and holding LSU to 241 yards and just 12 first downs.

But it didn’t make up for a series of special teams slipups, including four missed kicks (three field goals and an extra point) by Jaret Holmes.

``If we just take advantage of just some of the things they gave us, we could have had between 23 and 26 points,″ Auburn coach Terry Bowden said. ``That is enough to win and it might be all you’re going to get against a good LSU defense.″

Bowden said he was disturbed over back-to-back offsides penalties in the second quarter that led to LSU’s only offensive touchdown of the game. The first gave LSU’s Wade Richie a second chance after he missed a 30-yard field goal. Richie converted the second try, but DiNardo elected to accept the second offsides penalty for a first-and-goal at the Auburn 4.

Three plays later, quarterback Herb Tyler ran two yards to give LSU a 7-3 lead.

Cooley, a career backup, came in after Craig was injured in the third quarter.

Cooley moved Auburn on a 63-yard touchdown drive that made it 17-15 with 36 seconds to go. But on the next play, Hill slipped in front of the senior quarterback’s pass into the flat and went 98 yards untouched for the 2-point defensive conversion.

``Cooley had a pretty good day, but pretty good ain’t good enough,″ Bowden said. ``He showed his talent, but I would have much rather had him in there when we were five points ahead and just trying to run the ball.″

It never came to that. In the end, the inexperienced quarterback was outdone by LSU’s inexperienced defensive backs. LSU appeared back on the winning track for good and Bowden was left questioning his team’s poise in big games.

``I don’t want to say we pressed too much, but obviously we didn’t do as well as we should have,″ Bowden said. ``We don’t have a lot of older guys, and we didn’t show as much ability to get in a big situation and act like it’s Thursday afternoon and just play the game calmly.″

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