LSU/Auburn 2006 was a 7-3 dog ESPN had to attempt to sell in their recap as "a classic defensive struggle." Classic can mean a lot of things, but here please interpret it as "an ancient text, filled with pointless violence written in a language no one understands anymore, where a lot of people bleed for zero reason and no one is happy at the end, not even the victors."
Tommy Tuberville is the Odysseus here. His best invention of war was the Trojan Horse Game, one where Auburn came in unranked, played their asses off, and upset an unsuspecting team. His worst was playing with a high ranking, which is another completely inexplicable thing about the 2006 LSU/Auburn game. Auburn came in with a high ranking (3rd) and still won against the sixth-ranked LSU Tigers, though we stress: the term "win" is fungible here with a lot of other less flattering words. No ever really wins a war or mid-2000s Tommy Tuberville football games.
There are words in the recap to let you know just how many tubes of lipstick must be applied to this pig. It was "rugged", a word instantly tipping off a reader that the writer, who had to watch this, believes you should not have to endure the same pain. It's a sea of nothingness. It's watching football struggle in hardening amber. Al Borges and Will Muschamp are the coordinators for Auburn; nothing was going to happen, not by accident, but by design.
At one point in the second quarter Auburn assembled a 16 play, 61 yard drive that destroyed over half the quarter: 8:31 in total, nibbled gingerly off the clock in 3.8 yard per play. The snack-sized increments all came back up when John Vaughn missed a 26 yard field goal. Until one 80 yard scoring drive in the third quarter, that was it, and even then Auburn was forced to resort to football at its most paleolithic to score: the quarterback sneak, meaning the game got so desperate that Auburn ultimately decided the best option for a rushing attack at the goal line was to hand the ball to Brandon Cox and hope he didn't fumble.
He didn't. LSU refused to help, though in a different way. The 2006 LSU Tigers offense was top five in third down conversions, but also in the mid-fifties in red zone conversions. Translation: if Auburn was very good at twiddling their thumbs for four quarters and waiting for you to make a mistake, the 2006 LSU offense was very good at sprinting all the way to the finish line and then running out of gas six inches before the tape. LSU moved the ball--through the air, at least. The ground game became Verdun: LSU running back Alley Broussard had 15 yards on 10 carries, and the Tigers' leading rusher by average was "Justin Vincent after the year 2004." That's a deep LSU football burn, but a telling one.
If you want to be completely reductive about it, two things happened in this game. Well, one thing happened, but it happened twice and in two very different ways. Here is the first.
(The pump fake's my favorite. It's Brandon Cox doing a card trick and having seven Jacks of hearts fall out of his pants leg.) It's fine if you think this is pass interference; there's a lot of contact while the ball's in the air, and the receiver doesn't really get a chance to make a play on the ball. It's fine if you think it isn't because no way he's getting to this ball before the safety does. The rule's fuzzy enough that reasonable minds can, and do, differ.
Which leads us to the second thing:
Can you explain how the first is pass interference but the second -- mind you, that flag is thrown and then picked up -- is not? The officials said the ball was tipped before interference occurred, and, like so many things in this game, they're probably wrong. What's more meaningful is they're wildly inconsistent. But, well, so were LSU and Auburn. The refs simply joined along, three fishtailing cars on an icy interstate colliding into each other so frequently that blameworthiness ceased to apply. ESPN took footage of careless, reckless drivers and called it a demolition derby for the ages.
"If the ball is tipped at the line of scrimmage, there is no pass interference," said Miles, also unhappy with a pass interference call against his team. "The ball was tipped downfield. The proper explanation will be forthcoming."
An explanation never happened for Les Miles, or for anyone else in this game, really: not about the missed pass interference calls, not about how Auburn managed to win this game despite having just 153 yards total offense. It's not just that there wasn't a single reason Auburn should have won. It's that there's no reason for this game to have existed at all. Erase this game.