Auburn's junior receiver laid prone on the wet grass for an extended period before he was finally taken off the field on a cart.
It was an ominous sign for Auburn's chances at victory.
In large part due to the efforts of running back Jeremy Hill, No. 6 LSU sent Auburn to its first loss of the season, taking a 35-21 win over the visitors.
Hill already had a personal-best rushing tally fewer than six minutes into the game, running for 140 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. He ended with 184 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Despite Hill's success, Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy wasn't easily impressed.
"In my opinion, he got all his yards in the first half," McKinzy said. "We had a lot of new stuff, and what we did hurt us in the end."
When the sophomore running back wasn't having his way with Auburn's defense, it was quarterback Zach Mettenberger and his pair of talented receivers, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. The senior signal-caller completed 64 percent (14 of 22) of his passes for 229 yards and a touchdown.
Landry (seven receptions, 118 yards, one touchdown) and Beckham (five receptions, 59 yards) accounted for 12 of Mettenberger's 14 completions.
It was a dominant first half performance that effectively won the game for the hosts.
Following Denson's injury, Auburn decided to go for it on fourth down. Quarterback Nick Marshall mishandled the exchange with running back Cameron Artis-Payne and LSU took over on downs. And it didn't take long for Hill to exact his first pound of flesh from Auburn's defense, as he scored on a 49-yard run just three plays later.
On the ensuing possession, Auburn was forced to punt on fourth-and-one at its own 34-yard line — only the punt never happened. Senior punter Steven Clark bobbled the snap and was tackled at the 10.
LSU (4-0, 1-0) wasted no time turning the turnover into points, as Hill ran it up the middle from 10 yards out to extend the lead to 14-0 with 9:59 remaining in the opening period.
No more scoring was had in the first quarter, but LSU got on the board once more in the second stanza. Hill, not surprisingly, once again played a major part on the scoring drive. He broke loose on a 49-yard run, but came up one yard short of his third touchdown of the game. Instead, the scoring honors went to fullback J.C. Copeland, who punched through the center of Auburn’s defense with 12:34 to go before halftime.
It was the final score for either side in the opening 30 minutes of play, as LSU took a 21-0 lead into the locker room.
Auburn was able to avoid a shutout, though, erasing its zero on the scoreboard early in the third quarter.
On the opening possession of the second half, safety Jermaine Whitehead intercepted Mettenberger, giving Auburn the ball at midfield. Seven plays later, junior running back Tre Mason punched it in from the 2-yard line.
But to make sure Auburn didn’t grab any momentum, LSU scored a touchdown of its own on the ensuing drive.
Hill scored his third touchdown of the night, breaking a pair of tackles on a 6-yard score to push LSU’s lead back to 28-7.
Auburn never got closer than two touchdowns after that.
Reprising a role he was familiar with last season, Mason broke the 100-yard barrier in a loss, totaling 132 yards on 26 carries.
That made for little comfort, though.
“I’m not happy with the loss, and I’m pretty sure the team isn’t, either,” Mason said. “We’re just going to try to continue to get better from here on out. We can’t look at the past. What’s done is done. We just have to continue to get better.”
Even in defeat, Gus Malzahn was proud of his team’s attitude.
“They came back and battled. They were fighting,” he said. “We made some mistakes. We’ve been talking about this team improving each practice and each game and even though it hurts right now, there were some good things out there that I think we can build upon moving forward for the rest of the year.”