Alabama versus LSU Game Review

Going into the game against LSU, we felt one thing was for certain – Alabama’s offense wouldn’t be able to throw the ball effectively against LSU. Jalen Hurts’ continued regression as a passer combined with LSU’s outstanding coverage foretold of problems in the passing game. We weren’t wrong about this.

We also said that Jalen Hurts would rush for over 100 yards and would be the best weapon the Tide would have Saturday night. We weren’t wrong about this, either.

Let’s face it – the W2W4 was pretty spot on in breaking down Alabama’s offense against LSU’s defense and we know there were more than a few of you cussing us when it was tied 0-0 with 13:30 left to go in the fourth quarter.  Prior to the game, the Lighthouse switchboard operators heard from many of you who told us that Alabama would “crush” LSU and that the Lighthouse was out of their mind for even thinking this would be a close game.

We feel vindicated since we were all on the edge of our seats until late in the fourth quarter. We knew this would be a very challenging game for the Tide.

What we didn’t know is how truly dominant the Alabama defensive front seven would be. Gone were defensive stalwarts like A’shawn Robinson, Jarren Reed, Reggie Ragland and DJ Pettway. Gone, too, was starting safety Eddie Jackson. In their place were lighter, faster players who were better suited to defend the spread offenses than the power I formation of the LSU Tigers.

We didn’t know that it didn’t matter. However, now we know. We got the message. No further questions, your honor.

Credit Jeremy Pruitt for masterminding a completely and totally dominant defensive effort that shut out the Tigers and shut up the naysayers. Roll Freaking Tide, people!

Here’s what we saw when we finally got a chance to watch the game on film…

Alabama on Offense

As predicted, the Alabama offense struggled mightily to put any points on the board against LSU for the majority of the game. Coming into the game, we felt that the Bama passing game (and Jalen Hurts in particular) had been regressing over the past few ballgames and we felt LSU’s secondary would not be the “pick me up bouquet” that Kiffin’s aerial attack needed.

However, we felt strongly that there were yards to be gained on the ground if Hurts decided to keep the ball on the zone read and, thankfully, that’s exactly how things played out.

Anatomy of a Game Winning Drive (12 plays, 90 yards): The turning point of the game occurred when the Bama defense turned back the Tigers after they recovered Hurts’ egregious fumble. Only two of the 12 plays of the drive were passes but one of them may have been the biggest offensive play of the game. Here’s how the drive went down:

  • Miller Forristall was on the receiving end of a 22 yard completion that converted a 2&15 and moved the Tide out of the shadow of their own goal post. It was the one and only time during the game Alabama forced LSU to blow a coverage. Bama faked a screen to both sides of the field while Forristall slipped out into the flat for a huge momentum shifting play.
  • Bo Scarborough and Hurts combined to pick up 10 yards and LSU’s late hit out of bounds pushed the Tide near midfield.
  • With the Tigers reeling, Hurts then kept the ball on a zone read and suddenly Bama was at LSU’s 41 yard line, marking only the third time the Tide had entered Tiger territory.
  • Facing a critical 4&1 at the LSU 32, the end of the quarter allowed Kiffin & Co time to conjure up the call of the game. Bama hurried to the line of scrimmage with an overloaded bunch formation to the wide side (left) of the field. Before LSU could adjust, Hurts had pitched the ball to big Bo and Bama had numbers on the edge. Mack Wilson and Cam Robinson had huge blocks and then Bo’s burst bolted him past the Tiger pursuit. It was a HUGE call in the game and perfectly executed.
  • With all of that momentum, Bama still faced a long 3&9 at the LSU 21. Hurts sprinted right but immediately saw open field and cut the ball back inside in a mad dash to the goal line. One defender was completely shaken out of his boots leaving All SEC linebacker Kendall Beckwith as the last man who had a chance to stop Hurts from the game winning touchdown. But, Hurts is just too good in the open field and he ran thru the arm tackle and into the end zone.

Uneasy Feeling: You get the idea that all of the confidence that Hurts has had in the pocket has completely disappeared. On the fumble, Hurts had plenty of room and the pocket held up beautifully. But, he panicked and fumbled the ball away. His downfield throws have been worse and worse each week, resulting in an abundance of short throws. LSU’s corners and safeties were squatting on these throws and blew up five screen passes and their linemen batted down two others. This is why we felt uneasy coming into the game – Alabama must find a way to drive the ball down the field with the passing game.

Bo Knows: Well, if you had to pick a coming out party for Mr Scarborough, the LSU game may as well have been it. Bo carried the ball 11 times (just one fewer than Harris) and led all running backs with a 4.7 yard per carry average. But, when it was nut cutting time, Bo was THE man. On the touchdown drive, Bo carried the ball five times for 22 yards, including the critical 4th down carry. On the field goal drive, he carried the ball four more times for 13 yards, easily becoming the “go to” back in the final stanza.

Tidebits

  • Cam Robinson was seen pulling from his left tackle position and leading Damien Harris up the middle on a nice gainer. Later, Robinson teamed with OJ Howard to open up a nice hole for Harris which allowed the Tide to get off the goal line.
  • Speaking of the goal line, the first half saw Alabama backed up against their own end zone quite a bit. Bama drives started on their own 14, 32, 12, 2, 9, and 5 yard line.
  • In the second half, the field position completely flipped in favor of Alabama. Bama drives started at their own 40, 46, 42, 10, and 43 (and the LSU 35 yard line after they turned the ball over on downs at the end of the game).
  • Trevon Diggs is going to be a helluva player for Alabama. That catch he made on the sidelines was sweet.
  • Lester Cotton had a bad day in the film room on Sunday. We counted three missed blocks – I’m sure there were more.
  • In the first half, Alabama drove the ball to the LSU 24 where Kiffin dialed up three straight incomplete passes that led to a missed FG.
  • Alabama rarely stretched the field so it was nice to see the first play of the second half was a perfectly thrown bomb to Ardarius Stewart.
  • When you are on the road in a 0-0 game, always kick the field goal. Always. Three points was enough to win that ball game. Kick it.
  • Jalen Hurts is so good with the ball in his hands. He obviously had a great run for the touchdown but his conversion on a quarterback draw on 3&15 was a thing of beauty. Saban would have been happy with a four yard gain and a middle of the field attempt at a FG but, instead, Hurts scampered for a huge gain and burned another three minutes off the clock in doing so.
  • In getting turned away at the goal line, Alabama continues to struggle inside the five yard line. We have no idea what the play call was supposed to be but it was very clear that they did not run the play they wanted to on fourth and one.

Alabama on Defense

What can you say about a defensive unit that held LSU to 125 yards and six total first downs. After Leonard Fournette rushed 16 times for 284 (!) yards against Ole Miss he ran into a crimson wall once again on Saturday night. 17 carries netted just 35 yards and Fournette, like the rest of the LSU offense, had no answers for the onslaught of the Tide defenders.

The LSU Tigers dominated the first half field position, starting drives twice in Alabama territory and once more near midfield. Each time the Tigers entered the Alabama side of the field, Jeremy Pruitt answered with blitzes, sacks and a gap sound defense that gave LSU very little to work with.

Coming into the game, the fear was that the Alabama offense would struggle (it did), would turn the ball over (it did – twice) and would put the Bama defense in precarious situations. Additionally, we were concerned that the Tide’s depth would be tested if they were left out there for long periods of time.

Instead, Alabama gave up just six first downs and limited the Tigers to 1:25 of possession in the fourth quarter. That’s astounding. Here’s what we saw when we flipped on the tape – it was a dominant effort.

Thwarted: Here’s what happened once LSU entered Alabama territory in the first half:

  • Ball on the Alabama 33: Anderson & Williams sack Etling and Harrison blocks a FG
  • Ball on the Alabama 48: Fournette loses 5, Etling sacked by Allen and then again by Evans.
  • Ball on the Alabama 42: Harrison makes a great tackle to hold Chark to a 2 yard gain on 3&7.
  • Ball on the Alabama 47: Turnover on downs – four plays netted five yards.

Thwarted Again: The turning point of the game occurred in the second half when LSU recovered a Hurts fumble at the Alabama 42. The crowd was in a frenzy and the Tigers had momentum – that is until their offense tried to convert Hurts’ turnover into points. A delay of game turned a 3&3 into a 3&8 and then Dalvin Tomlinson sacked Etling for an 11 yard loss. On the ensuing possession, the Tide marched 90 yards for the game winning score and thus the game was essentially won. This was the last time the Tigers entered Bama territory.

Skittish: Alabama’s defense authoritatively came out of the gate and pressured Etling from the very first drive of the game. From that point forward Etling was skittish and was seen looking downfield and then bailing from the pocket a number of times. In addition, he missed wide open receivers and even bounced a short pass that would have converted a first down. Pressure can mean a number of things. A pass rush. The magnitude of the game. Or the realization that the entire game rests on your shoulders.   Danny Etling was not prepared for this in the least.

Stud Corners: When you turn on the tape, you can see Marlon Humphrey throwing himself into pulling guards and, by doing so, forcing the play back inside. We even saw Tony Brown do this with reckless abandon. The corners would see the run coming and would pass off their WR to the safety so that they could play edge containment.

Downhill: As we paused the tape slightly before Fournette took the handoff, you could see that Alabama’s linebackers were already coming downhill in anticipation of the running play. They delayed ever so slightly so it wasn’t a run blitz. Something appeared to be tipping them off that the play was a run and they knew exactly where to go every time.

How Do They Do It?: On a Fournette I formation running play, it’s typically defended like this…

  • Bama lines up with seven or eight in the box.
  • At the snap, the defensive line jams their hands into the pads of the offensive line. This prohibits the OL from getting out to block the linebackers. This also allows the Bama linemen to play two different gaps which makes it very difficult for Fournette to find a crease.
  • The linebackers are anticipating run and they typically run right to where the play is designed to go. Because the DL is doing their job, the backers are usually running free to the football.
  • An underrated part of Alabama’s plan to defend the run is the corners. In this game, Marlon Humphrey, Anthony Averett and Tony Brown were called upon to pinch in and play containment – this meant taking on pulling guards.
  • The edge containment is crucial. On one play, Ryan Anderson had edge containment responsibility. He stood up the tight end, quickly shook free and then eliminated the fullback, all before #7 got to the line of scrimmage.
  • Pruitt blitzed the A gaps with his linebackers with great effect, as well. This created a six on six at the line of scrimmage which, again, allowed the other linebacker and safeties to freely roam and make tackles. On one of these, Reuben Foster lined up over the center, made a swim move to quickly get by him and made the tackle on Fournette at the line of scrimmage. Wow.

Tidebits

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick was rarely asked to come down in run support. The one tackle we saw him try to make, he missed. Ronnie Harrison was the in-the-box safety and he was outstanding in run support.
  • Alabama dominated field position in the second half. In the second half, LSU started drives on their own 25, 6, 3, 2 and 33 yard lines. They did start one drive at Bama’s 42 after the Hurts fumble.
  • We’ve been bragging on Anthony Averett’s cover skills since the spring. He has not disappointed and his ability to start at corner is what allows Pruit the flexibility to move Fitzpatrick back to safety.
  • Three of Alabama’s five sacks came on third down.
  • LSU’s “revamped offense” ran the ball 8 times on first down and passed the ball 8 times on first down, as well. LSU was 4 of 8 when passing on first down (out of 24 throws) with one interception and a sack.
  • Fournette had one and only one chance to break into the open field but Shon Dion-Hamilton somehow brought #7 down with an arm tackle before he broke loose.
  • LSU’s offense wasn’t helped by getting out of the huddle with just five seconds on the play clock.
  • Not sure why LSU was flagged for delay of game instead of an egregious false start. I mean, five yards is five yards but what the heck were the refs watching there?

Alabama on Special Teams

The Lighthouse honestly should devote much more time to special teams this week but the staff has been running on fumes for a while. With that being said, here are the items that stood out to us in special teams this week…

  • JK Scott BOMBED a 66 yard punt to flip field position in favor of Alabama. Overall, he had a 51.6 average (HOLY!) on five punts. Dayum!
  • Anyone notice where Keaton Anderson lined up in the punt formation before he made the tackle at the LSU 2? He was actually lined up in the backfield as the signal caller and personal protector of JK Scott. Anderson left at the snap and was the first man down field to make the tackle – I’ve never seen a personal protector beat the gunners to the ball!
  • We told you in the W2W4 that we would be holding our breath if the game came down to field goals. Thankfully, it did not.
  • Trevon Diggs is a stud and he’ll break a return before the year is over but….let’s start with catching that silly ball, Trevon…

Parting Thoughts

Alabama has now won on the road 15 times when playing a top 25 team – that’s the most in the country since 2007. This season, the Tide has successfully run a gauntlet that prior to the season seemed unthinkable. Road wins at Ole Miss, at Arkansas, at Tennessee and at LSU are what puts Alabama atop the rankings in all of college football and have been the hallmark of Nick Saban teams since he’s arrived.

Saturday night, Alabama showed once again why they are head and shoulders above the rest of the college football world. Even when they struggle to find a way to score, their defense comes up time and time again with big plays. Alabama is always bigger, always stronger and always better coached than their opponents and Saturday reminded us why we should never, ever pick against the Tide.

If you had told us that Alabama would only score 10 points, would turn the ball over twice in their own territory, would turn the ball over on downs at the one yard line and would miss a field goal, I would have told you that LSU would win that ballgame.

But they didn’t. And the Tide merrily keeps Rollin’ right along….

 

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