It felt like I said the words “I can’t believe they’ll win until I see it” so many times in the last few days. Truthfully, it was more about refusing to let my hopes get up. Everything about this game has just had so much weight to it through the previous losing streak. Pessimism is never fun, and neither is the feeling of inevitability.
And there’s still time for a lot of the stuff we talked about last week; mark my words, a lot of the “Bama needs this win/Bama doesn’t have a playoff resume” talk from last week will be reversed in the coming weeks. But for now, LSU has lifted a giant weight off this program’s neck. There are three games left and an increasingly certain SEC Championship Game. But the Tigers have slayed a dragon — and maybe most importantly, proved to themselves that they can.
The Tigers took advantage of Alabama’s early miscues, weathered the inevitable rally that you have to expect from a team that talented and a program that knows how to win, then spent the fourth quarter trading punches and making the plays that they needed to win.
There felt like so many moments when the game was going to turn. So many blinks in a game where the Tigers couldn’t afford to. But LSU very much won this game; they ripped off two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, recovered Alabama’s onside kick and then ran out the clock. The Tiger offense, which had fallen off the torrid pace of the first few weeks, had 559 yards and 29 first downs, converting 8 of 15 third downs and a perfect five-for-five in the red zone.
Joe Burrow completely cemented his status as the best quarterback LSU’s ever had, and likely clinched the Heisman Trophy with 339 yards passing and three touchdowns, plus another 96 yards rushing (adjusting for sacks).
This win was everything we could’ve hoped for. Enjoy it, and enjoy what’s to come. This team’s story isn’t finished yet, but it’s been one hell of a tale so far.
And now, let’s enjoy looking back on the win:
- You can tell Alabama didn’t trust Tua’s ankle all the way. They came out throwing, but with play-action to help stem the rush and create timing.
- Glen Logan gets driven off the ball and Patrick Queen cleared out for Najee Harris’ 31-yard gain. Bama’s offense looks every bit as dangerous as we expected early.
- But then it happens — the kind of mistake Alabama just hasn’t made against LSU in a long time. Tua scrambles and just loses his grip on the ball. Nothing to do with his bad ankle, just lost it. Tigers pounce.
- LSU’s first play shows some misdirection with Justin Jefferson on a dive to Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He spins out of a Xavier McKinney tackle for a nice gain. Quite the harbinger of things to come.
- Dart throw from Burrow to JaMarr Chase for 23; Chase and Edwards-Helaire cross up to get some separation, and Burrow puts it right to him on the sideline before the deep safety can get over.
- Just like we talked about on Friday, Alabama gives LSU one-on-one, but comes after Burrow with a five-man rush. He steps up and throws that back-shoulder ball he’s been able to hit to Chase all year, he adjusts on Trevon Diggs and gets in the endzone. This felt like such a relief, not only to see the offense come out and execute, but to know that they were able to take advantage of that first Alabama mistake. That’s something you see so many other teams fail to do against them.
- On the next possession, Dave Aranda guesses right on third down. Trips to the field, and LSU brings a corner but still a four-man rush with coverage, right into a roll play by Tua. Flushed, he has no choice but to throw it away. Queen does a great job of getting into the flat to help bracket the underneath receiver.
- Mistake No. 2: Bama’s punt snap is a little high, although still catchable, and Ty Perine can’t handle it and the Tiger rush pounces. And it seems like Burrow gives it right back, but LSU’s tempo caught the defense with 12 men on the field.
- It seems like Bama started timing LSU’s snap count on that second drive. First, they get caught offsides, but shortly thereafter Anfernee Jennings completely blows Austin Deculus off the ball for a sack.
- Terrell Lewis gets by Deculus again on third and long, but Burrow is able to scramble enough to get into field goal range. Credit Cade York for dusting his recent troubles off his shoulder on two big kicks from 40 yards and longer in this one.
- Apu Ika with a dominant rep at nose guard on the next drive, stuffing a second down run. On third down, LSU’s able to get Marcel Brooks free coming up the A-gap and force the throwaway.
- Anxiety point one: LSU follows up Bama’s three-and-out with one of its own. It just felt like the offense had to keep scoring while Bama was slowed. And it doesn’t help when Jaylen Waddle returns the punt for a 77-yard touchdown. Racey McMath gets a little too amped up and can’t slow himself down to break down on Waddle, and winds up face-masking the hell out of the returner. With him spun out of the structure of the return, he was also away from all of LSU’s rush and he could just take off.
- But the offense responds. Quick throws early on to help with the pass-rush, and Edwards-Helaire and Jefferson both make some fantastic plays after the catch. Jefferson in particular just dead-legs McKinney on a check-down after a jet fake.
- The 29-yard touchdown to Terrace Marshall has some nifty play design that appears to have crossed up the Bama coverage. Edwards-Helaire is split out with Jefferson in the backfield at running back. Edwards-Helaire motions out to the field and draws a safety from the middle of the field. The linebackers jump Jefferson on a swing pass, anticipating that he’s the main target, and Marshall just runs across the field wide open.
- On the next drive Bama winds up in fourth-and-one and gets a little cute with Slade Bolden as a wildcat QB. Rashard Lawrence does a great job of torpedoing the playside guard and tripping up the runner, and Jacob Phillips closes in. It looks like Bolden might’ve picked up the run on second effort, but it’s hard to really tell where he hit and whether he rolled over a defender or not. The original spot might be iffy, but there’s no way you properly review it either. This is where technology could probably do a better job than just human eyes from a significant distance trying to see through a mass of humanity.
- But LSU goes three-and-out again, with a delay of game pushing back a fourth down the offense was ready to go for. Again, it just feels like the offense was wasting so many opportunities that they couldn’t afford to.
- Especially when Alabama is able to get off their goal line on third-and-10 with a fantastic route by Jeudy in man coverage.
- Bama catches the Tigers’ napping with a tempo play of their own for a 64-yard score. Tua looks to the sideline, faking a check, and while the Tiger defense is checking on their own, the ball is snapped. Derek Stingley Jr. only looks to the sideline for a second, but that’s all it takes for Devonta Smith to get by him. Smart tactic from the Bama sideline.
- Luckily, the offense responds. Chase beats Diggs off the line for a big gain. Comes right back and beats him on an out and slips the tackle for a nice gain as well. No wonder on the next snap Diggs blatantly grabs a hold of his jersey. Not that the referees noticed, of course.
- K’Lavon Chaisson was all over the field in this game — 10 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. He didn’t get a sack, but he made so many plays in the flat and did a great job of pinching down on a lot of runs in short yardage. On Bama’s next possession, he’s on the spot to upend Smith on a nifty play-action pass where he motioned into the backfield then ran a swing pass counter to his motion.
- Pay attention: on the first play of LSU’s next touchdown drive, the Tigers show a quarterback draw.
- Motion the back out of the backfield to try and clear a linebacker, then take off. Nice blocks from Damien Lewis and Lloyd Cushenberry to help spring the run.
- A few plays later, one of the odder plays I’ve seen on the completion to Moss down the sideline:
- I’m still not sure how this should’ve been ruled. It doesn’t looked to me like Moss is quite forced out — yes, Diggs pushes him but I don’t think he fully pushed him out. But, I do think it’s arguable that Moss gets his feet back in and re-establishes before the catch. It’s an unusual play, and that’s before the unreal job Moss does getting his hands out to get that ball. My other question is whether it was even ruled correctly on replay; essentially, the force-out was already taken into account and the only thing they were really looking at was whether his feet were down. The question is whether that was factored into the original call on the field, which was never really discussed. I’m honestly stunned at how the whole thing played out.
- Big-time blocks by Lewis and Deculus on Edwards-Helaire’s Super Mario jump for the touchdown.
- Big mistake No. 3 for Bama in the first half. Tua stares down Smith on a dig route, just trying to get in position to maybe get a Hail Mary before the half. Queen had great depth at the snap and just followed the quarterback’s eyes for the pick.
- Bama’s Landon Dickerson followed the play up with an unconscionable cheap shot on Kary Vincent as well. He should’ve been ejected. Complete failure of officiating there.
- Love the concept on LSU’s final touchdown of the half:
- Edwards-Helaire starts out wide, covered by Patrick Surtain Jr. He motions into the backfield and Bama shows its zone coverage. Three-level concept here with a short, deep and intermediate target, only the back runs a corner route out of the backfield while Chase takes the cornerback and safety. Moss takes a linebacker into the flat with him. Great back-shoulder throw by Burrow as well, right on the money.
- This game’s 20 points at the half, with LSU getting the ball and everything is in their favor. Was I confident at all at this point? NOPE.
- However, worth noting that Steve Ensminger and Joe Brady came right back to the same QB Draw look we saw earlier.
- Bama finally gets their turnover back to start the third quarter. This did not help my anxiety level. Scored as a fumble officially, could’ve gone either way as an interception, but either way it was exactly the break the Tide needed. It came through one of Bama’s big pressure wrinkles — moving Lewis and Jennings around to get different rush lanes. Jennings is in the B-gap, and it allows McKinney to get a free rush from the nickel spot. Burrow tries to step up but McKinney gets a hand on the ball and Lewis was on the spot in a contain position.
- But Chaisson comes through with a huge third-and-one stop to force a punt. He was unblocked on a trap play, and probably would have been a read player, but with Tua’s injury I’m sure the Tide coaches were reluctant to call many designed runs.
- This quarter is when we really saw both 22s begin to take over. Harris for Bama had a big run on Bama’s first drive, and Edwards-Helaire had three huge catches on LSU’s ensuing drive, including a big trucking of Bama’s Diggs. Pretty rough game for the Tide’s No. 7.
- The overall drive ended in a punt, but this play was probably emblematic of LSU’s whole day on offense:
- Bama’s able to get a free rusher, and should have Burrow dead to rights. But he spins a way, avoids the rest of the rush and is able to dump it off to Edwards-Helaire, who comes damn close to the first down. He might’ve been shorted a little, but tough to be sure to overturn on review. His knee might’ve touched before he rolled over the second body.
- Of course, the delay of game on fourth down robbed LSU of a shot to go for it. Again, these mistakes just felt so huge even with a lead.
- Bama’s follow-up drive was where they really started to exert Harris. Honestly I spent most of the fourth quarter afraid they’d just keep feeding him. Luckily he only got five touches in that final period. The 15-yard touchdown catch showed some outstanding body control too.
- It was mildly frustrating to watch Dickerson make a huge block on Queen to spring that first run off the goal line.
- LSU punts again after just a few plays, Bama goes down and cuts the game to six as the fourth quarter opens. Hyperventilating.
- But the offense responds. Twelve plays, 75 yards, including a third-and-10 conversion on a checkdown to Edwards-Helaire that featured ANOTHER trucking of Alabama’s Diggs.
- Shoestring catch, recovers and just puts his shoulder down. Between Edwards-Helaire and Chase, Diggs is going to want to burn the tape of this game.
- This drive featured a fourth QB draw, albeit not from the tailback motion look.
- Touchdown No. 3 for Edwards-Helaire, with yet another spin out of a McKinney tackle on a corner blitz that should have been the perfect call. Saahdiq Charles did a great job of pinning Jennings to help him get to the edge once that first man missed.
- Give the Tide credit — their receivers met every bit of the hype and were able to consistently get open and convert third-and-long situations. LSU’s injuries in the secondary didn’t really help either. You can’t expect Cameron Lewis to be able to hold up man-to-man with someone like Jeudy. And even with the long TD that was the result of the faked check, Smith still ate Stingley’s lunch.
- Alabama converted two fourth downs to score their second-to-last touchdown. I know how much we’d all talked about just wanting the game to be closer, but with them seemingly determined to keep coming back, it just felt like LSU had missed too many opportunities and that there was still some wild swing that would get them back in front.
- But once again, LSU responds, with one of the best pure play-calls I’ve ever seen:
- LSU’s hit this slant RPO a couple times this year, but usually off a run-fake to the tailback. The read is the same — Burrow stares at the weak-side safety, if he comes up on the run, throw the slant behind him. Here, they use that same bubble-motion with the tailback, but run the QB draw with that same slant. I bet he can throw the bubble to the back as well. Burrow throws a strike and it’s a 29-yard play that completely silences that crowd.
- The Tide responds with a sack — McKinney was active all day, although he missed a lot of tackles — but this time he got Burrow down. But he came back the next play with a strike to Jefferson on the dig.
- Another huge call: Burrow pulls the ball on a keeper to convert a third-and-two for 15 yards like a dagger into the heart of Alabama. It looks like a QB keeper all the way, with Jefferson motioning into the wing for a block, and getting just enough of a chip on McKinney to help Burrow get the corner. Great tendency breaker. And possibly Burrow’s Heisman Moment.
- And Edwards-Helaire breaks a run through Diggs one more time for the final touchdown. As much as this game will wind up being the clincher for Burrow’s Heisman Trophy, Edwards-Helaire put this team on his back in the second half. He broke tackles, made blocks, made tough catches and did everything asked, including that big final run to pick up the first and salt the game away. Fans almost universally expected Edwards-Helaire to get pipped by the two talented freshman, but the junior from Baton Rouge has not only held the two of them off but thrived. He’s leading the SEC in touchdowns and should be a first-team all-conference selection when the season ends.
- Yes, there was one last hyperventilation moment on the 85-yard touchdown. This is why there’s a time and a place for prevent defense. The one thing LSU couldn’t have there was a fast touchdown. If they even take three of our plays, goal one is to take advantage of the clock.
- And then the onside kick takes what should be a good bounce again, but Jefferson was johnny-on-the-spot for the recovery.
- Other individual standouts in this one include Lawrence, with half a sack (although it felt like he had a whole one) and a pair of pass break-ups, including a potential touchdown to Harris in the fourth quarter. Lewis had maybe his best game as a Tiger, absolutely giving Bama’s Raekwon Davis hell from the right guard spot. And of course, Chaisson was all over the field. I know many have said he’s a disappointment as a pass-rusher, but he’s become such a well-rounded outside linebacker. The big plays aren’t quite there yet, but he sets the edge and covers like a pro. And Kristian Fulton all but erased his side of the field as well. And just like I predicted, LSU was forced to rely on reserves to play in big moments like Ika, Neil Farrell, Cordale Flott and Jay Ward
In addition to just being one hell of a competitive football game, this one had almost everything you could hope for as an LSU fan. The Tigers made the big plays at big moments. They survived the Bama rally, answered and finished this game off. Burrow and Edwards-Helaire proved more than worthy of the SEC offensive player of the week honors. They’ve carved themselves into LSU lore forever.
LSU has its fourth top-10 win of 2019, and Ed Orgeron has his NINTH as a head coach here. With another big recruiting win on Sunday, things couldn’t look better moving forward for this program. Let’s all enjoy the ride folks.