The good news is that LSU played Alabama pretty much even in the actual run of play. The bad news was virtually everything else.
Bama essentially only had three good drives in the first three quarters of the game, but they took advantage of each one, turning each one into a touchdown. It’s like they milled about and did nothing for most of their possessions, then decided once a quarter to take the game seriously, and put together a football drive.
The problem is that LSU spent most of the game missing opportunities. LSU’s first two drives went for 68 yards on 14 plays. And zero points. LSU kept knocking on the door, but never walked through the threshold. And while LSU was trading blows with Bama, the Tide turned their few chances into points, and LSU didn’t.
It’s like Ed Orgeron and the LSU coaching staff never realized the game was slipping away, more concerned with keeping the game close than actually trying to win the thing. LSU was in largely the same position it was against Auburn, down two scores right before the half. While LSU went for the score against Auburn, they ran out the clock against Bama, content to have the game look close.
Looking close is nice, but I wanted to win. And in the second half, LSU fell behind 21-3, and then Bama simply started to run out the clock on LSU. LSU was content to lose this game by a dignified margin, and Saban was more than happy to oblige.
After running a balanced offense in the first half, LSU went to the all-run, all-the-time offense to start the second, which is surprisingly ineffective at closing a big lead. LSU stopped trying to win the game some time in the second quarter.
This was still a quality effort by the team. DJ Chark caught 3 balls for 53 yards, but they were all big catches and he looked every bit of the team’s best offensive player. Derrius Guice did yeoman’s work, but it was Darrel Williams who busted the 54 yard run that would set up a touchdown.
However, Guice could never break through the defense and was bottled up most of the night. DJ Chark had some big drops, including one in the fourth quarter that could have made the game a one score game. They had good games, but they didn’t have great games. And you have to be great to beat Bama. Hell, you have to be perfect.
Danny Etling continued to be two beats off. Those Chark drops should have been catches, but they weren’t good throws either. Etling spent the night underthrowing open receivers, and just missing that potential breakout play. He finished the game 12/26 and 137 yards. And one terrible pick. Myles Brennan came in for the final drive to close the ledger on the game.
Bama isn’t just better, they are also lucky. They seem to get all of the bounces that they need, which seems unfair given that the only way to beat a team so much more talented than you is to also get a few breaks. But Bama would drop a short punt, and it would roll 15 yards in the favor. Jalen Hurts would make a terrible decision to throw the ball in the middle of four defenders, and it turns into a first down. When you’re Bama, you don’t get punished for your mistakes. When your LSU, you get punished for the smallest miscue.
LSU had chances to get back in this game, but could never connect on that one play. More importantly, LSU seemed completely unwilling to take big chances to make something happen and get a big play. You cannot use a conservative game plan when you are the less talented team on the road. This team was doomed by design.
LSU played to keep this game close and put forth a credible effort. Mission accomplished, I guess. But I think I would have liked LSU to let it all hang out and risk disaster in order to have a shot at the win. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. LSU didn’t venture in this one, and got the exact result they played for.