(Go to the second bold subtitle on my Wordpress blog if you want to skip all the LSU/Alabama stuff. Every time I try to post this, I lose my internet connection, so as Iíve reviewed, Iíve kept thinking of new things to mention.)
LSU/Alabama For the Record
As you might have expected, Iím not quite done talking about LSU/Alabama (since this is the first blog Iíve written since the actual game).
A few notes on the history before I get on my soap box. The last time LSU was in a game where the only scoring was field goal(s), they lost to Alabama, 3-0, in 1979. Alabama won the national championship that year as the only major undefeated and untied team. Going back to 2011, Les Miles moved past Nick Saban in wins against Alabama, 5 to 4 (Miles admittedly leads Saban in losses against Alabama, 2-1). No other coach in LSU history had more than two wins against Alabama, although Bill Arnsparger (1984-86) was an impressive 2-0-1, the tie of course coming in Baton Rouge. If LSU can get past Arkansas, Miles will have a winning record with LSU against every SEC team except for Georgia (1-2). (That would have been true even had LSU lost this game though.) LSU has now won 11 of the last 15 against the Tide in the state of Alabama and 7 of 9 (also 9 of 12) against the Tide overall. Alabama still has leads in the series: 45-25-5 overall, 20-16-2 in Alabama in general, 10-9 in Tuscaloosa, and 25-9-2 in Baton Rouge. The one game missing is a tie in New Orleans. Itís just bizarre that LSU has as many wins in Tuscaloosa in this series as in Baton Rouge despite playing about half as many games in Tuscaloosa. The two teams are tied in their last 31 games (15-15-1), their last 29 games (14-14-1), their last 27 games (13-13-1), and their last 22 games (11-11) against one another. One more thing: LSU now leads in overtimes in the series, 2-1. The Tigers had won in 2005 (in Tuscaloosa, of course) and lost in 2008 (in Baton Rouge, of course).
Iíve seen some criticisms of this yearís LSU/Alabama game that claimed that the defenses werenít really so great, the offenses were just bad. I guess in that case, in every no-hitter in baseball history, the batting was just bad.
The fact that there were four interceptions thrown is somehow proof that the defense wasnít that good? Well, the two interceptions thrown by Alabama would have been completions against your average BCS-conference defenders (especially against Oklahoma St. or Kansas St.), and one of them probably would have been a touchdown. Jarrett Lee threw one interception all year, a pass that basically amounted to a punt against Mississippi St. He doesnít throw two in this game if Alabama doesnít make him extremely uncomfortable. He was used to being able to resort to his ďcheckdownĒ receiver when someone wasnít open downfield, but the Alabama linebackers were too good to allow that. And the reason Jefferson did better than Lee did is because they couldnít allow the linebackers to fall back into coverage as easily given Jeffersonís ability to spread out the field and run.
A low-scoring game does not mean there werenít sustained drives and good scoring opportunities. There were those things. For example, LSU had a 40-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, but that possession had started on the 5. Why did it start on the 5? Alabama punted after a 30-yard drive of their own. So why didnít that drive put Alabama in better field position? Brad Wingís 72-yard punt. Why was LSU so backed up before that punt? Eric Reid intercepted a ball at the 1. The offense of one team repeatedly did enough to bury the other team deep in its own territory (although Alabama didnít do this as often as it perhaps should have due to long field-goal attempts). And how can you call that a boring game when it was tied in the fourth quarter through all these great plays and potential game-winning drives? The defenses basically put up a wall when it came time for the offenses to potentially make a game-changing play. Thatís not simply offensive ineptitude.
Of course, there were some stupid penalties, but that takes place in big games all the time, especially in college. The back-of-the-helmet-grabbing penalty (I donít know if you call that a facecollar or a horsemask or what) actually wasnít that bad of a penalty, because I donít know if LSU would have gotten the tackle (at least it may have been many yards downfield) without grabbing at the head and shoulder area. Of course the substitution penalty by Alabama and the pre-punt-return mugging by LSU were inexcusable, but these are young men with the average age of about 20, and it was a very tense, frustrating sort of game, so I donít think thatís evidence of offensive ineptitude (of course the latter was a special-teams penalty anyway) or an indictment of either team overall. And I think it was tense and frustrating enough that even the coaches lost focus with some of the play-calling and decision-making.
Also, someone on the Alabama sidelines should have been making sure something like the substitution infraction didnít take place. Alabama also had a similar penalty in the first quarter (which also helped put the Tide out of field-goal range, but donít forget that in both cases, the LSU defense also helped out with tackles for a loss). LSU had a few pre-snap penalties as well, but a good defense will cause those at times. One of them was an illegal shift, which resulted from an effort to gain an advantage on the defense when those were obviously hard to come by. I think the only thing I didnít cover was a couple of holding penalties, but every game has thoseómaybe theyíre called, maybe not, but theyíre there.
There were 32 first downs in the game. By comparison, there were 37 in the Arkansas-South Carolina game, which the Hogs won, 44-28. Also, there was a good mix of run and pass in this game. In yards gained, there was a total of 290 passing yards and 244 rushing yards. Attempts favored rushing of course, but for Alabama even that was close, 29 passing attempts against 31 rushing attempts. The difference in the game, as expected by commentators and coaches alike, was a few big plays and special teams, but thatís not to say nothing else was going on. As stated earlier, those plays are less meaningful without enough offense to set them up.
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