LSU Pivotal Football Moments
pivotal college football moment: A decision by a coach or athletic director that changes the momentum of a program or an action by a player that changes the momentum of a game.
1996 Auburn: Literally a "Barn Burner"
Gerry DiNardo's second LSU team barely fended off an upset by Houston in their opening game, 35-34.
After a bye week, the Tigers began SEC play in the second week of the season for the fifth straight season. The opponent was Auburn in that slot for the second year in a row. The previous year's game had earned a spot on LSU's Memorable Games list because it was DiNardo's first home game as coach and Gerry vowed to "Bring Back the Magic" to Tiger Stadium. The Tigers wore their traditional white jersies for the first time in 13 years after DiNardo lobbied the NCAA to change its rule that home teams must wear dark jerseys. The LSU Tigers defeated #5 Auburn 12-6 thanks to a pivotal moment on the final play. Little did anyone know that the game at Auburn the next year would be even more memorable.
The Auburn players and staff were still smarting from the 1995 defeat. Coach Terry Bow­den felt the only way to get over that loss was to defeat LSU in '96. The odds seemed to be in his favor since the Bengal Tigers had not won at Auburn since 1973. But that streak would end thanks in large measure to not one but two crucial plays by LSU sopho­more S Raion Hill.

L-R: "The Barn" burns at Auburn.
During the first half of the ESPN telecast, a fire raged behind the southeast corner of Jor­dan-Hare Stadium. The burning building was the old Auburn Sports Arena, nicknamed "The Barn," former home of the basketball team which housed the gymnastics team in 1996. The arena, already scheduled for demolition, was completely destroyed. The Auburn fire depart­ment fought the blaze for an hour before bringing it under control.
The LSU players and coaches were unaware of the fire because it was behind them and shielded by the upper deck.
LSU S Raion Hill had broken his leg in spring practice, and a permanent rod was installed that sidelined him for the season opener against Houston. "Coming into the game, I was real nervous. I just prayed and asked God to give me strength. I was nervous, but He was with me all the way."
We pick up the action in the fourth quarter with LSU lead­ing 10-9 after Auburn scored a TD with 8:46 left only to have the Bengals block the extra point. LSU went three-and-out on its next possession. So Chad Kessler punted 52y to the AU 16. Backup senior QB Jon Cooley, who replaced Dameyune Craig earlier in the period after Craig was knocked dizzy by LB Pat Rogers, passed on first down but overthrew the re­ceiver into the hands of S Raion Hill who raced un­touched 39y to make it 17-9 LSU.
Following an exchange of turnovers, Auburn started a drive at its 37 with 5:20 to go. They advanced for four first downs to move within the LSU 10.

Raion Hill
Auburn called its first timeout with 44 seconds left and the ball on the 7. When play resumed, Rusty Williams ran over right tackle into the end zone to make it 17-15 with 0:38 on the clock.
Bowden then called another timeout to set up the two-point conversion from the left hash mark. LSU lined up at first "to defend the run," as DiNardo explained afterward. "They had just ran it in, and we were struggling against the run. We had our '40' people in, four down linemen." Not liking that alignment, Bowden called his third and final timeout. As DiNardo explained after­ward, "I think they called the play but were only going to use it if we were in a certain package. That's why they called time. Once they used it, they were stuck with no timeouts like we were. We changed to defend the pass after they called their time." Finally, Cooley took the snap and fired a slant-in to the right side. But Hill, antici­pating the pass, snagged it and sped 98y down the LSU sideline for two points to make it 19-15.
Auburn recovered the onside kick, but Cedric Donaldson intercepted Cooley's first down pass to seal the victory.
Coach Bowden lamented, "It's one game that when I go back to look at the film, it will make me sick. We had opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. We didn't have to make all those plays, just some of them."