This is way late for my replay guide/recap. Truthfully, Sunday was spent recovering from a stunningly bad hangover (and I rarely get hangovers). Anybody that follows me on twitter is probably not surprised by that development.
The bottom line on this game is that LSU had their chances to make this a very interesting game early, and missed out. Two first-quarter turnovers were essentially a 10-point swing. The goal-line fumble robbed the Tigers of 7, and the botched snap fumble handed Alabama three. Meanwhile, the defense not only forced two punts, it held Bama to three when they were handed the ball inside of the 30.
We know that with this defense, that's not sustainable. When they're playing well, the offense has to pounce. And LSU never really struggled to move the ball in the first half.
The second half came, and Alabama did their usual tap-out job. They held the ball, cashed in on long drives while LSU began to sputter.
On to the bullets...
- If you would have asked me for a perfect start to this game, "force a punt and march right down the field for six" would have been pretty damn high on my list.
- Ego Ferguson shoots in to stuff T.J. Yeldon on a second-down zone run and sets up third and long. Makes you think he was going to have more than 1 solo tackle on the night, right?
- The fumble unfolded like a horror movie. LSU catches Alabama napping with a well-timed tendency-breaker. They motioned Terrence Magee out wide to pull a safety out of the box, run an off-tackle power play and Copeland has what looks like an easy six. I even remember screaming out "TOUCHDOWN!" prematurely in the moment. And then...plop. Ball comes out. Nothing more than just poor ball security. No great hit. No helmet on the ball. Tana Patrick just took a swing on a tackle that wouldn't have even prevented the score. Mistakes like that cost you in these games.
- There's been some second-guessing of giving Copeland the ball in that instance, what with him being a fullback that doesn't carry the ball often, and it being his first game back from the concussion. I can't really fault the play. For one, it completely caught the defense napping, but for another, that's a carry that Copeland puts in the endzone nine times out of 10. Plus he'd done an excellent job on some punishing blocks to get the drive down to the doorstep. Even Mettenberger threw his hands up in celebration.
- The defense was able to do a great job of putting Alabama in third-and-long situations and getting them off the field. If you want to look at why the Tide string together so many long drives, that's where the rubber meets the road. They saw all of ONE third down of longer than four yards after the first quarter.
- The fumbled snap was a clear miscommunication of some kind. Mettenberger tries to make a late change, Elliot Porter snaps the ball. Alabama has the ball in field goal range already. A couple of missed shots to the endzone by A.J. McCarron created another third and long and the Tigers held.
- Frustrating stat: McCarron attempted four passes that traveled longer than 20 yards and missed all four of them. But once Alabama got its lead Doug Nussmeier, wisely, shifted back to the short game and took the deep ball out of the equation. And again, Alabama was never put in a situation of needing that throw.
- The only third down over four yards that Alabama converted? A third and eight that was converted on a pass interference penalty called on Rashard Robinson. All I'll say on the penalty is this: any relatively well-known cornerback with a reputation doesn't get that call. I don't care if he's Patrick Peterson or Dee Milliner. Cornerbacks, especially ones with a big name, get away with a significantly greater degree of physicality on a regular basis. Deion Belue did later on in the second quarter, on Odell Beckham in the endzone.
- The big play to O.J. Howard was a case of a heck of an athlete getting too far inside of the nickel corner (Jalen Mills) and then an absolute GODAWFUL pursuit attempt from Ronald Martin. He chased Howard as though he was unaware that the sideline was there to push him out of.
- The bottom line on the first half is, simply, that this game should have, at a minimum, been 21-17 LSU at halftime. Truthfully, given how well the Tigers moved the ball it's not unreasonable to suggest that it would have been even greater without the second fumble. If LSU has a one or two score lead in the second half, maybe it would have been Alabama doing the panicking instead of the Tigers.
- In the third quarter, the snowball got rolling. Alabama uses a well-timed fake punt to extend a drive and go up seven. Tigers stall at midfield, and then its 14, with another long, slow drive. And then the panic set in. Players, and to a degree, playcalling, began looking for the big play on every snap.
- Mettenberger finished with numbers that most would consider respectable, but he his greatest sin was, as it often has been, locking on to Beckham or Landry and missing some open underneath targets. And it's one thing to do that on third and long, but it's another on first or second down when you can get a few yards and set up a third-and-manageable situation. Most notably, he missed Travis Dickson right down the seam for what would have been a touchdown to open the fourth quarter.
- Never let it be said that No. 8 isn't one tough son of a bitch though. Took a number of big shots.
- Which brings us to the offensive line. It began with a poor night in the middle, particularly from Elliot Porter and Vadal Alexander. By the end of the night, there was some disturbing apathy that set in. La'El Collins, in particular, will have to answer for those last two drives when the NFL scouts come calling.
- In closing on the defense. I'm going to steal this stat from Matt Moscona, but it's relevant: the difference between a C.J. Mosley and a Lamin Barrow -- when Mosley has 12 tackles, seven of them are solo, and when Barrow has 11, three of them are solo. When Mosley is in a one on one situation, he does not miss.
- Elsewhere up front, here's the defensive line in a nutshell: the only tackle for loss any LSU defensive lineman made in this game came from Jermauria Rasco on a naked bootleg play in which he was unblocked.
- And that's the game. Your textbook Alabama strangulation. Play low-margin football, wait for the opponent to make a mistake, set the choke in and wait for them to pass out. And LSU now sits at 7-3 with a pair of home games to go versus Texas A&M and Arkansas.
It's no secret that the drain of this rivalry has led to more than one mail-in job after the Bama game, particularly after a loss. It's a challenge, not only for Les Miles and this coaching staff, but for the players themselves, to find some pride and close out this season strong. 9-3 might not be what anybody wants, but it's still better than 8-4 or 7-5, and a chance for a 10-win season with the bowl game is still out there. I don't want to hear anybody say that "there's nothing but pride to play for," because goddammit if you can't play for pride, what can you play for? If playing to win, because winning games is the whole point, isn't something that you think is it as a player, coach OR a fan, well then maybe LSU isn't the program for you.