Sometimes It's the Small Things, This Time It's the Big Things

Our idiot beat your genius.  Again. 

One of these days, people are going to realize that Les Miles is a pretty good football coach.  Hopefully, it's not any time soon, because teams keep underestimating Miles, only to be left shaking their heads.  you can shake your head and complain about "luck" only so many times before it's just an excuse to distract you from the fact you got taken advantage of by the Mad Hatter yet again.

We tend to think of football genius in terms of tactics.  Billy does a great job here of breaking down specific plays and how the diagram translates to the real world.  The pretty playcall still has the ability to impress, but we've learned at least one lesson from the Crowton years: decision making trumps pretty play calls. 

It wasn't those diagrams or even good play calls which won the game.  No, it wasn't luck either.  It was good decision making.  After the break, let's look at the decisions which turned the game.    

Les puts the passing game up on blocks.  


Jarrett Lee was able to move the ball fairly well on his first drive, and the second drive ended up with an interception.  Enter Jordan Jefferson. JJ couldn't do much in the air aside from one long bomb to Shepard, but he wasn't asked to.  Lee didn't get benched, the passing game did.

Despite some morons in the Game Thread calling for Lee to come back in the game (oh wait, that was me), Les made a strategic decision: a bare bones passing game beats one that turns the ball over.  He played ball control offense for three quarters, just waiting for his defense and special teams to make a play and win it.  Which, as per the norm, they did.

LSU attempted six passes in the second half.  Six.  And one of those was Lee trying to get back in the game.  Miles put JJ out there and essentially told him to run the option and only throw the ball to keep the linebackers honest.  Which is what he did.  Don't let Alabama's defense beat you.  And he didn't.

Play for field position

While Saban was giving up field position by attempting 50 yard field goals that had little to no chance of succeeding, Les put aside his reputation as the Mad Hatter and just played the field position game.  You didn't see Miles trying some crazy 55-yard field goal when a drive stalled at the 38.  He sensibly punted the ball away. Saban kept repeating the long field goal mistake, even after his kickers clearly demonstrated they couldn't hit a 50 yard field goal. 

LSU could have lost this game in the fourth quarter on terrible field position.  LSU started two drives in the fourth, both inside their own five yard line.  OK, I'll take starting on the one if it is the result of a touchdown saving interception, but it was still bad positioning.  On both drives, LSU punted back to the Alabama.  Their starting field position?  Their own 19 and their own 20.  Both times, LSU was able to flip the field on Alabama and avoid giving up points on the next drive. 

Miles knew he had the better special teams unit, and he relied heavily on this advantage.  It paid off.  His kickers made plays while Alabama's floundered.  Though, in the Alabama kickers' defense, those were some long field goal attempts well outside of their range. 

Depth, depth, and more depth

Alabama probably has a better starting lineup than LSU, particularly on the lines.  However, LSU has a huge advantage in depth, and in a hard-hitting game like this one, depth absolutely matters.  Alabama essentially relied on its five starting offensive linemen all game, while LSU rotated in about eight defensive linemen against them.

In the final minutes of the game, both coaches decided to play for overtime.  Alabama, come OT, seemed absolutely exhausted and their team moved backwards on offense.  LSU's depth came shining through and the fresh legs made tackles in the backfield on defense and made the big play on offense.  On what proved to be the game-winning run, think about LSU's depth.  The center, who did not start the game, snapped the ball to a quarterback who had come off the bench.  The quarterback ran the option, pitching the ball to the second string tailback.  Meanwhile, LSU's third fullback of the game was in the backfield as well.  Every player who touched the ball on that big play did not start the game.  Those fresh(er) legs won out.

Les Miles knew he had major advantages in special teams and depth.  He adjusted his in-game to exploit these advantages.  He also saw that his passing game was proving to be a major disadvantage, so he did what he could to hide that weakness.  Accentuate your strengths, minimize your weaknesses.

It seems so simple.  Heck, even our idiot coach can figure it out.  

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