Spent Sunday evening driving back from my first Saints game in two seasons. It did little to cheer anything up, and the ride back featured this song and a lot of Adele on the radio. Fitting, I guess.
There's not a whole lot to say, really. LSU got its ass absolutely and thoroughly kicked by a better football team. We knew coming in that this game would be won or loss at the line of scrimmage, and in the end the Tide's talent advantage on the defensive line was something that LSU just couldn't overcome.
I forced myself to imagine nightmare scenarios, and they all involved LSU's running game being eliminated via defensive lapses or special teams screw-ups creating a hole. Never did I think LSU's offensive line would be so thoroughly dominated up front. I believed that LSU would have to go right at Alabama, and I stand by that. I never really expected to push them around, but I figured LSU would at least be able to get 3-4 yards a clip. If not, well then there'd be trouble.
And that's exactly what happened.
I'm sure there will be lots of calls for more spreads, misdirection, etc... none of which really works without blocking either. Alabama racked up 9 tackles for loss and three sacks. With the running game out, the game was on Brandon Harris's shoulders and he completed 6-of-19 passes and threw a back-breaking interception on the first play of the third quarter.
Humiliating. Embarrassing. Gut-wrenching. Soul-breaking. Pick your description.
And the Tigers have absolutely no time to dwell on it with Arkansas coming in this week. There are three games left to play and plenty to play for. LSU allowed Alabama to beat them twice last year. That can't happen again.
As for the game itself...
- Look there isn't a whole lot to break down, and I'm not going to (taking this comment thread off as well). From the A-gap -- out, Alabama's defensive line put on a clinic on how two-gap principles work. A'Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Jonathan Allen, etc... stood LSU's offensive line up, put them on skates and allowed the rest of the front seven to flow to the ball. Honestly, the tape will likely get shown at defensive linemen clinics. Simply put, Alabama didn't win the line of scrimmage so much as create their own line, one yard into LSU's backfield.
- There's not a single member of this offensive line that might have graded over 50 percent in this one. MAYBE Will Clapp. Ethan Pocic may not have won a single battle with Robinson.
- Speaking of Robinson, for those that think the talent on these two teams are remotely equal, ask yourself this: does LSU have a single lineman that can make a play like Robinson did in blocking that extra point?
- Talent and depth point No. 2: in each of the last five games, a lesser-known player or backup for Alabama has come through in big moments. Kevin Norwood, Nick Gentry, Nick Perry, O.J. Howard as a freshman, Ruben Foster or Tony Brown and Michael Nysewander on special teams Saturday night. When's the last time that's happened for LSU? The answer is Eric Reid and Tharold Simon coming off the bench as freshmen in 2010.
- Playcalling: again, I don't have a problem with it, because there isn't a playcall that works without blocking. Ask an offensive lineman if you don't believe me. As for adjustments, LSU DID adjust. Alabama stoned the run with a stacked box for like, the first play or two. LSU made plays down the field to tie this one in the second quarter and Alabama backed those safeties out deep and started flooding the short zones and getting pressure with their defensive line. Ross Dellenger charted Fournette's carries and I checked his numbers myself: Alabama had seven or fewer up front on 11 of his 17 carries. By the second half, they had six. And LSU STILL couldn't run even with a tight end.
- I'll let Delly deliver this sobering tidbit as well:
- Honestly, the whole offense just looked intimidated. I can't say that Brandon Harris looked as frenetic as he did in his first start against Auburn, but he just never really looked confident, even after making the plays to tie this up. And his interception on the first play of the third was just awful. Standard play-action boot to the tight end. I didn't really fool Alabama, but Foster Moreau was still wide open and would have easily gotten 3-4 yards, which is a nice gain on first down when you're only down three. And Harris just threw it clear over his head to Dillon Lee. Moreau almost looked like he thought Harris was trying to throw the comeback on the sideline behind him. He appeared to have a gimpy ankle as well, which might have affected some of his throws on the run.
- As for Fournette's Heisman chances: hell if I know. If he comes back and ends the season strong, I'm sure he'll still be in the running. But you can bet Derrick Henry will be a heavy favorite now.
- Defensively, I think LSU held up relatively well considering everything that went wrong on offense. There's just not a lot to say there. Jalen Mills seemed to have the coverage busts locked up a bit, although Alabama did a good job with their clear-outs when LSU was in man-to-man. The Tide just wore them down in the second half and put this away.
- I don't even really know what to say about special teams. Punting was better at least. Kickoffs, the kickers change, the personnel changes, the results don't. Bradley Dale Peveto won't be going anywhere til after Signing Day, that's simply a fact. After that, who knows.
- And now it's time to move on. Arkansas will come in here sky-high and with a chance to secure bowl eligibility after Saturday's miracle at Ole Miss. LSU still has a lot to play for, and we're going to find out just what kind of leadership there is in that locker room with three big games left to go (and they would be big even with a win on Saturday), starting with a night game in Tiger Stadium. LSU can let this loss define this season, or it can choose to rise above that. We'll have an answer on Saturday night. Great teams do what Alabama did on Saturday night. Good teams find a way to get over losses.
If the Alabama game was the most important game of this season, the Arkansas game has just replaced it.