I’m really going to pretend that I didn’t have to sit through Alabama’s demolition of the LSU’s offensive line (again) on Saturday night because re-watching them might put me in a deep depression. I felt the coaching staff did a really good job with the game plan, it’s just that nobody could execute up front. Ensminger busted out some stuff that LSU hadn’t show this season (split-leak, wham, etc.) but it was all for not. There’s barely a point to make about the offense that won’t result in me curling up into a ball and I have no desire to cry right now. Instead of saying any more words about the offense, let’s talk about how flipping good our defense is. Watching them play is special. They combine power, speed and intelligence that makes watching the defense play feel very offensive.
I could have cut up almost every play and shown some Tiger making an absurd play to stop Bama’s offense because that’s how amazing they were. They made, maybe, 5 mistakes the whole game but unfortunately when you’re offense does nothing, some of those mistakes turned into just enough points for Alabama to win.
I don’t follow the headlines very much and I didn’t know that Thomas had boasted that the defense was going to dominate Bama but after watching the game plan put in place by Dave Aranda you begin to understand why a player who probably doesn’t talk much to the media would say something like this. Thomas knew how big a part of the game plan he was.
Dwayne was usually aligned inside the #2 (sometimes #3 receiver) all game playing a technique that Alabama will know very well:
The idea is that he can both add himself into stopping the run but also fly around to stop the screen game. The layer that Aranda added this week was that he was going to send Thomas off the edge very often. Blitzing him puts Alabama in a situation where they’d like to throw the receiver screen because now they have a numbers advantage. If they do throw, they are asking the safety, either John Battle or Jamal Adams, to come downhill from a land far, far away to make a 1v1 tackle. Alabama takes that all day. The problem that Alabama faced is with the pure athleticism of the LSU defensive back. Thomas could add himself into the box but still take away the throwing lane to the screen.
This happened a lot. Alabama could have taken this all night if they wanted but Thomas spooked them.
It was a masterful gameplan from the LSU defensive coordinator and Jalen Hurts is lucky that this didn’t happen:
And the times when Thomas came off the edge during a running play, he freed up someone else to take a tackle:
Dwayne Thomas knew when he saw the game plan that he would be a key cog in stopping Alabama and he showed up on Saturday.
Open Field Tackling
This was a talking point throughout the game and probably can’t be overstated. The reason Alabama (or any team for that matter) feels that they can throw screens to their receivers is because they are OK with not blocking one secondary defender and letting him make a 1v1 tackle on an athlete in space. The LSU secondary did not let this happen whether it was on screen passes or when running plays bounced to the outside.
Here’s Dante Jackson making a few really nice open field tackles:
And this is Tre White dogging Jalen Hurts:
When I broke down Alabama’s offense last week I talked about how Lane Kiffin loves to call the same play over again when the offense is clicking. Because LSU dominated, there wasn’t a lot of opportunities for this. This is the one time I noticed Kiffin doing it:
The last 2 plays in the trio show what I’m talking about in the first two points I’ve made. On the second play, Jamal Adams misses an open field tackle allowing Calvin Ridley to spring free on a screen and the third clip shows Dwayne Thomas batting a pass down in the backfield.
Lost in all the talk of how good Alabama’s defensive line was (and they were dominant, no doubt) is how good LSU’s defensive front line was against the Tide. Again, in my last article I had talked about how the best way to defeat a zone running team is, basically, not to get put on skates and pushed around by the offensive line. The LSU d-line stood up the Alabama blockers allowing Duke Riley, Kendall Beckwith and Devin White the freedom to go head hunting. There were even some plays where the d-line themselves made huge plays fighting off blocks. The d-line made a lot of sacrifices so that the linebackers could make plays.
Lewis Neal fights against the Alabama double team and doesn’t allow the guard to come off and cover up Beckwith resulting in a TFL for Becks.
Devon Godchaux stoned the guard and doesn’t allow him to come off while Duke Riley knifes through the line untouched.
Big ole Ed Alexander inhales a double team and then feasts by himself.
Against an Inverted Veer/Power Read look, Lewis Neal rips through with his left arm against the tackle who is trying to down block him and is there to make a play at the mesh point.
This is a party in the backfield.
A couple plays that could have swung the game for LSU (assuming the offense could have done something with the ball) were the 4th and 1 sweep to Bo Scarborough and then later a first down scramble by Jalen Hurts. Both times Beckwith and Riley are in the right position only for a great athlete to make a play...
Beckwith does everything on this play so well until he tries to make the tackle:
Here Duke just doesn’t break down in front of Hurts:
The Bad Stuff
I almost don’t want to mention these next plays because I don’t want them to tarnish what an outstanding job the defense did.
LSU showed this mug front a couple times and it went over fine for the most part. The exception was really this play where Riley gets caught having to play as a nose tackle. He gets mauled and ends up in Beckwith’s gap which creates a huge lane for Hurts.
I felt Arden Key had some tough assignments throughout the night and a couple times he wasn’t up to the task. He gets kicked out pretty bad on this zone split play.
The problem is that he, first, has to go through the motions of being the defender that is being read on the play. He squeezes nicely but then when he looks inside and see’s OJ Howard coming at him, he turns his shoulder and exposes himself too much to the tight end. He’s got to rip underneath Howard with his right arm and spill the play so that Devin White can out-athlete the Alabama tackle around the edge and tackle the running back in space. Alabama should be punting from their own endzone, instead it’s a first down.
The next clip is of Key actually doing this wrong-arm technique correctly. The play doesn’t end up coming to him but you can see that if it did, the running back would have had to bounce around him to the sideline.
On this next one, Key gets trapped like he’s playing Pop Warner. Alabama went to some more power/gap schemes later in the game and it caught LSU a couple times. Key is way too horny on this play and offers little resistance to this Ross Pierschbacher trap. Duke comes up and tries to spill the play to Tre White but it’s too late.
A couple times LSU was maligned. The first one came on a costly third down where it looked like one of the defensive backs was lined up on the wrong side of the ball. There ends up being no force player outside of Tashawn Bower to the field side and, of course, Alabama basically runs student body left right to that side.
This one looks more like everyone was in the right position, the problem is that those positions are not good against power. No one can spill the trap. With a TE to the field and Davon Godchaux in the a-gap, there is no first level player in the b, c or d gaps. That seems kinda crazy. Dwayne Thomas doesn’t know what to do when he reads the trap and gets kicked out. Beckwith comes downhill but doesn’t spill the block and then OJ Howard has a clean release all the way across the formation to Duke Riley. Yikes.
The touchdown kinda sucked because against a non-mobile quarterback, the kid takes a sack because there is no one open down the field. Hurts just makes a big play. Aranda even has Neal line up way outside and actually contains the bootleg. Everything is covered. I don’t know the exact coaching points on Beckwith’s drop here but when the #1 and #2 receivers run away from him, I’m not sure what business he has getting all the way out to the hash. If he’s looking backside for crossers he’ll end up just finding himself at a better angle to play the quarterback scramble. Again, I don’t know exactly what coverage this is and what his assignment is, but it feels like he makes a mistake.
This game was heartbreaking. I feel so bad for the defense that played their hearts out. I hope they come out like warriors for the last 3 games because they are so fun to watch and I love breaking them down.