When a Nick Saban coached team plays to its potential, it’s a beautiful thing. Unless you are cheering for Bama’s opponent, and then you just have to walk around like Rain Man muttering, “Dear God, what is that thing? What hath hell wrought?”
It isn’t hell that wrought the Tide, but it’s certainly a front seven of hells to try and run against it. And when there is no “Plan B”, what Nick Saban wrought is the absolute destruction, emasculation and disembowelment of a Tiger. If you thought an obscure dentist did a horrible thing to a lion, then you surely have turned Saban in for cruelty to these Tigers.
LSU has made a living this season by bullying their opponents with their running game. However, when this bully had to step into a phone booth to fight Alabama, there was quite literally no where to run. The Crimson Tide defense closed gaps more effectively than Leonard Fournette’s braces and Les Miles simply had no answer as to how to free his Heisman hopeful. While Tiger QB Brandon Harris was admittedly second in the SEC in passing efficiency, he was last in the league in passing yardage – meaning the offensive staff hasn’t ever entrusted Harris to win a game. When a complimentary piece has no compliment, things can get pretty ugly. So, when the Tide defense ripped the Tigers running game apart limb by limb, all LSU could do was to simply stand there and bleed to death – and it took just a little more than nine minutes for LSU to officially bleed out.
So, much to the dismay of the nation, the national pundits and the rest of the SEC, the demise of the dynasty that is Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide has been greatly exaggerated. Bama is back. Bama is coming. And hell is coming with them. Rest in pieces, Tigers…
Alabama on Defense
This week, how can we start anywhere else but with the Alabama defense. It turns out the much-ballyhooed Bama front four isn’t ballyhooed at all. This group is real, and they are spectacular! What other defense in the country has a 300 lb pogo stick like A’Shawn Robinson – a beast of a human being who can stop a #7 train and leap an offensive line in a single bound. Is he a refrigerator? Is he a V-22 Osprey? Well, all we can tell you is Robinson is one super man who can toss away a Heisman trophy candidate like he’s throwing away yesterday’s newspaper.
In watching the game live and again on tape, the front seven was obviously the story of the game. However, the secondary also played an unsung but vital role in shutting down the LSU running game. Early in the game the much maligned tackling duo of Marlon Humphrey and Geno Matias-Smith each made critical, impactful one-on-one stops of Fournette at the line of scrimmage. In fact, Matias-Smith ended up second on the team to Jarren Reed by making four stops of Fournette on the evening. Eddie Jackson even had a solo tackle on Fournette, wrapping him up from behind and bringing down the beast without any assistance.
Stopping a man like Fournette required a total team effort and every single man in a Crimson jersey brought his “A” game and all his might to Bear on the LSU back. Paul William Bryant would be so proud. There were no plays off. There was no mercy. And, from LSU there was no answer. It was a complete and total victory for the Crimson Tide defense and one we will all remember for a very long time. Here’s what we saw when we watched the tape…
A-Beast: A’Shawn Robinson is an absolute freak of nature. Robinson made three “wow” plays during this game that could vault (pun intended) himself into a top 5 pick. On a stunt, he came free, grabbed #7 and tossed him and his Heisman hopes for a loss. Later, he was completely engaged and locked out against an offensive lineman but was somehow able to disengage and layout to trip up Fournette for another loss. And, then there was the blocked extra point. He leaped over the center and then pogoed upwards again to swat the kick. He even swatted down a pass for good measure. Mercy. And that’s just what he did on defense…
Tim the Toolman: Tim Williams is the best pass rusher on the team and perhaps in the entire conference. He quietly got himself another sack and forced three bad throws with his pressure. Williams was the one who was climbing Harris’ back, forcing him to complete a pass to his offensive line. Williams is awesome.
Ge-NO: Jarren Reed led the Tide with five total tackles on Fournette as he had one solo tackle and 4 assists. The fear going into the game was if the Bama DBs were asked to make solo tackles on the LSU back then things could get very, very ugly. But apparently Geno Matias-Smith wasn’t scared. On three different occasions, Matias-Smith screamed into the line to take down the Heisman hopeful. Very, very, very impressive – we hadn’t really seen that physicality from Geno but…wow – we have now.
Insane in the Membrane: You’ve all heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Well, Saturday night you saw insanity at its finest. LSU had no plan B so they simply kept running Fournette – sometimes to the weak side, other times to the strong side and every time with the same result. Zip. Zero. Nada. Nothing.
A Matter of Trust: Going into the game, we stated that LSU was afraid to entrust the offense to Harris and they showed this time and time again, especially with their routes. The few times the Tigers chose to pass, they max protected and asked Harris to read two man routes. This dumbed down approach yielded the expected “Dumb and Dumberer” results as Alabama’s secondary was easily able to match up with the 2 man routes.
Buddy Lee: Dillon Lee had the game of his career Saturday night. This site has lauded his abilities against the pass and he showed off his coverage skills by making perhaps the play of the game with his interception. Lee also recorded a sack and consistently pushed the edge 2 and 3 yards into the Tigers’ backfield. Helluva game.
- The Tigers’ starting field position was as follows: 31, 10, 32, 25, 25, 25, 27, 8, 10, (22). With the exception of the Henry fumble, they faced a very long field all night long.
- Alabama’s defensive line consistently pushed the Tigers’ OL 2-3 yards into backfield. This showed up on nearly every play.
- On the first long pass to Dural, the entire defense was looking at the bench just before snap. At the snap, all four defensive backs were looking at bench.
- Alabama often crept their safeties into the box late to show an 8 man front.
- Two of the biggest hits of the game against Fournette were delivered by Matias-Smith and Marlon Humphrey. Eddie Jackson even recorded a huge tackle for loss. It was a strong run support day from the secondary.
- As Danielson noted, the touchdown pass to Dural was against a corner blitz leaving Matias-Smith alone against LSU’s best receiver. Fournette wasn’t in the game so the corner blitz was a curious call. Incidentally, all three LSU scores were set up by 15 yard penalties.
- Rashaan Evans effectively spied Harris once and forced an incompletion that was nearly a pick. You will see a lot of this against MSU.
- When Fournette finally got outside it was because Denzell Devall got caved in and Fitzpatrick and Humphrey got blocked and were unable to come up to make a play.
Alabama on Offense
Going into the game, the Lighthouse staff felt the Tide offense would need to open up the running lanes by first featuring the pass. LSU’s secondary plays a lot of soft zone defense so it appeared the short passing game would be able to click. Well, the Tide offense used 11 passes to 16 runs on the first three drives and it soon became evident that Bama could impose their will with their running game alone.
However, during our review we also noted that LSU’s defense struggled mightily to keep up with the no huddle offenses of Florida and Mississippi State and we felt the Tide could exploit this. Basically, the Tigers got gassed against Florida and MSU so we felt certain that Kiffin and the Bama braintrust would take advantage – and that they did.
As the game progressed later and later into the evening, the running lanes got wider and wider for Derrick Henry. The tackling got weaker and weaker. The alignments got more and more undisciplined. And, finally, the Tide broke thru the LSU dam and drowned the Tigers with an epic 9:18 drive that ended the game. The drive featured 13 plays, only two of which were passes. The rest was all Derrick Henry and the offensive line as they pounded out 71 painful, life-sucking yards. It was beautiful. And it was all set up by the hurry up offense that Alabama used throughout the game to tire out the LSU defenders. Here are a few items of note from the offense…
King Henry: 38 carries for 210 yards and 3 touchdowns. While those stats are staggering, keep in mind that this beast only gets stronger the more you feed him the football. On the last drive, Henry gobbled up 71 yards on 11 runs and was still going strong with the game ended. This week, what really stood out was Henry’s ability to finish his runs by leaping, churning, pushing and falling for a couple of extra yards nearly every single carry.
Pistol Whipped: Alabama unveiled a nifty little wrinkle in the running game this week as they ran a counter off the pistol formation three different times. The play starts as a regular pistol run to the right but then Coker swivels and hands the ball off to the left. Henry busted off a 39 yard run and Drake had a 20 yarder of his own off of this play.
Shake N Drake: This was the best game of Drake’s season. The burst, strength and vision that we’d seen in the past finally translated for him as he ran for 68 yards on only 10 carries and contributed another 40 yards in the passing game. This was great to see!
W2W4: Film study told us that the out routes and corner routes would be open this week and they certainly were the focus of the passing game. Bama took only one deep shot down the sidelines and threw ZERO passes between the hashmarks. Instead, Bama threw seven out routes, a swing pass, a couple of flip passes and four screen passes (which we also said would be effective).
The Fat Boys Are Back: Kudos to the much maligned Alabama line this week as they dominated the LSU front. Ask Leonard Fournette how important the OL is in establishing a running game. Cam Robinson caved in the defensive ends from one hash to another while Dominick Jackson and Alphonse Taylor consistently got to the second level and made significant blocks. Of note, there were only a few times that the guards pulled but even that was off of a lead draw look. I’ll explain…
Walk Like a Heisman: On Henry’s seven-yard touchdown run, the play started off as a lead draw. OJ Howard and Dominick Jackson caved in the right side of the line while Ardarius Stewart came in from the right side to eliminate the linebacker. Meanwhile, Bama pulled Ross Pierschbacher and snuck Michael Nysewander out to the edge and with LSU defending the middle draw, there was only one man to block. Bama later successfully ran this play three consecutive plays to close out the game.
Midnight Coker: Jake Coker is undefeated as Alabama’s starter. Let that sink in.
It’s a Mistake: As Danielson pointed out, when Alabama went for it on 4th down early in the game the play was doomed at the snap. The snap came AFTER Ridley had already flown past Coker so there was no threat of the fly sweep. That left Coker all alone against the defensive end who had nothing else to read except Coker. Oops. If you still have the game on tape, watch Kenyan Drake at the bottom of the screen – pretty clear the plan was for Coker to keep the ball.
A Very Full-Back: For the first time this season, A’Shawn Robinson was used as a fullback in short yardage and he now has a pretty good touchdown percentage as a lead blocker. Bama scored two touchdowns on the two plays Robinson was in the game at fullback. Both times, Robinson lined up on the left side of the line behind Cam Robinson. It’s almost cruel and unusual punishment to do that. He got two excellent blocks, too, by the way.
9:18: Bama salted the game away with an offensive drive that ran off the final 9:18 of the game. There were two critical third down plays on that drive that we really want to highlight. First, on a 3&2 around Bama’s own 10 yard line, Coker ran a bootleg to his left and hit OJ Howard as they slipped him out against the grain. The completion converted the first 1st down of the drive. Later, after a holding call set Bama back to a 1&20, Derrick Henry converted a 3&9 on a lead draw. Everyone in the stadium knew Bama wouldn’t pass but LSU overloaded Bama’s right side in an effort to get a sack. Unfortunately, that left only two defenders to Alabama’s left side of the line and that’s where the lead draw went. 29 yards later, Bama had another first down and the game was all but over…
- When Coker completely ran over an LSU linebacker, Calvin Ridley can be seen jumping up and down & celebrating the hit before the play is even over. This made me giggle…
- The screen call to Kenyan Drake after Lee’s interception was awesome. With LSU pinning their ears back in an attempt to push the Tide back, Kiffin slipped a middle screen to Drake and he nearly leapt into the end zone from the four!
- Coker basically rolled out into two sacks on the evening. Can’t blame the offensive line on either one.
- Coker’s best play was when he beautifully bought time in the face of a blitz to allow Ridley’s crossing route to develop. Coker double clutched the pass but was able to buy just enough time to convert a critical first down. Sweet.
- Um, I guess you can say Coker ran an option with Henry but we really didn’t consider it a true option. Coker took two steps and had a field of green grass in front of him but, instead, he flipped the ball to Henry and let him do the work. Smart.
- Henry did have a bad fumble on a clean strip. He will not be happy when he watches the film.
- If there was a negative to be found on the offensive line it was the fact that Pierschbacher committed two holding penalties. Just about everything else was complete and total domination
The game essentially turned on three nearly consecutive plays. The first turning point play was of course the 55 yard BOMB by Adam Griffith. Going into the game, Griffith was riding a hot streak, hitting 10 of his last 12 kicks so his confidence was sky high. So, after Saban changed his mind and allowed Griffith to make the kick, the confidence on the Bama sidelines was palpable
With the sidelines and the crowd in a frenzy, the next play of the series of turning point plays was delivered by a de-craptitating hit by Tony Brown as he laid the smack down on the LSU returner. If you still have the game on tape, turn the sound up and listen to the OOOOOOOOH from the 102,000 Bama fans – gives me chills! The Tide went into the locker room on a high that they would carry with them into the second half
On the first snap of the second half, Bama turned in what was the third and final turning point play when Dillon Lee picked off Harris for the first time this season. LSU came out throwing in the second half and the result kind of showed why they haven’t been able to trust Harris this season. With the running game stuffed and the passing game defeated, there wasn’t much left for the Tigers to do. Game. Over
Everyone who tuned into the game Saturday night was ready to see the force of Fournette take on the Titans of the Tide in a battle that was supposed to be a showdown for the ages. Instead, they saw a once mighty player get completely and totally taken out of the ball game. They saw a one-dimensional team get reduced to a zero-dimensional attack. There was no plan B. There was no Fournette. There was no passing game. There was no hope. The eye of the Tiger was crying
On the other side of the field, Crimson jerseys swarmed and attacked on every play. Players who were not formerly noted for bringing the thunder were lowering the boom at every turn. Booming kicks, thunderous hits, vaulting beasts and a constricting defense was the order of the evening. The atmosphere was electric
And then there was Derrick Henry in the middle of it all. Gliding, sprinting, darting, dancing, weaving and stiff arming his way into the Heisman mix. The country could do nothing but watch in awe as they watched one marvelous athlete after another make play after play after play
What hath God wrought? The Tide. And for whom the Tide rolls? It rolls for thee. And this Tide team is serving notice to the rest country that this dynasty is alive and it’s very, very well.