Almost 24 hours removed, a few initial impressions from the LSU game:
Bamagrad had it right in the fanpost... we're throwing the football to set up the run. That was clearly the plan offensively, and it worked very well.
- First and foremost, it was obviously a huge win for the Tide yesterday. We came in absolutely needing to get the job done, and with LSU giving us their best shot we answered the bell. We played the best we've played since late September, and truth be told there was absolutely what was required. Credit goes to LSU for playing well in their own right, and they made us take our game to the next level to get the win.
Mark Ingram logged another unreal performance yesterday. LSU was highly physical on the defensive side of the ball, and Ingram racked up 177 total yards. He averaged 6.5 yards per run and the way he powered the opening drive of the second half really changed the game. As I mentioned in a fanshot earlier, the Heisman is an "award" for tools... it's based more on glamor than anything else, and it's given by a collection of idiots. Ingram will probably never win it, but I wouldn't trade him for any other player in the country, and we just need to enjoy him while we have him. He's a three-year player, and someone will be paying him big bucks to do this come 2011.
Julio Jones had his best performance of the year, and it was very interesting how things were discussed in the post-game. Based on what everyone is saying, it's clear that only in the past week or so has Julio gotten back to near 100%, and he looked very different yesterday than he had the rest of the year. His explosiveness was back, and he was a difference-maker in this game. Even aside from the long touchdown run off the screen, he had a huge first down on the final drive, had a couple of other nice grabs, and the pass interference on Peterson was yet another big play. And, of course, that's not counting the throw in the first half that should have been a touchdown. Nice to have you back, Julio.
Greg McElroy played the best game in at least a month, and was clearly improved over the course of the past few weeks. We needed every bit of what he did, and we could not have won had he played anything like he had the past three weeks. Unfortunately, McElroy still has a long ways to go, and he left a lot of points on the board today. He did some good things, but he did a lot of bad things too. He missed Julio on an easy touchdown throw, costing us four points, and the dumb interception before halftime cost us at least a field goal. He held onto the football too long on the safety, and he missed an open Smelley on the trick pass out of the Wildcat that could have been a touchdown, and of course that is to say nothing of the terrible decision to try to force the ball to Julio late on the controversial incompletion. Bottom line, McElroy played pretty well and he clearly showed some progress, but he still did some things to cost us a lot of points and he clearly still needs to play better.
- Speaking of passes out of the Wildcat, remember the first Wildcat snap we had that resulted in a fumble? Did you happen to notice who was coming in motion at the time of the snap? It was none other than Earl Alexander, and that was one of the few snaps he saw in the game. And if you will recall correctly, Alexander was a quarterback in high school, and Ingram was very upset after the fumble. I'd about bet the farm that we had a trick play called in that situation with Alexander getting the ball looking to throw a pass.
- The offensive line played an incredible game today. Both James Carpenter and Drew Davis were nothing short of outstanding protecting the edge in pass protection, and we beat up LSU in the trenches in the running game. It was a complete effort by the big uglies, and I don't have any doubt that we played better along the offensive line yesterday than we have at any point in the year. Joe Pendry deserves a lot of credit for what he has done with this group. We don't have any real dominant players out there, but we consistently play good, solid technique and just get the job done.
All in all, it was certainly nice to see us moving the football again. McElroy's mistakes and the illegal substitution penalty kept some points off the board, so it wasn't exactly a perfect day, but again it was clearly an improvement over the past month. LSU has a good defense, and any time you average almost 6.5 yards per play against a defense of that caliber, you're certainly doing something right. Hopefully we can just continue to build off of this effort.
Marcel Dareus, for all intents and purposes, is unstoppable when we move him inside in pass rushing situations. He consistently takes the manhood of every guard they line up over him, and he did the same thing on Saturday with senior right guard Lyle Hitt. I can guarantee you this much... come April of 2011, that young man will be getting a lot of money from an NFL team. Enjoy him while we have him.
Defensively, we really had some struggles at time stopping the option. We had things set up defensively pretty well most of the time, but the execution looked ugly a good bit of the time. In particular, Jefferson made Justin Woodall look pretty bad on one option play. That's something we're going to have to fix before we leave for Atlanta.
Jordan Jefferson played a fine game yesterday, and that young man has a great upside. He has all the physical tools you would ever want, and he is a legitimate dual threat to boot. He clearly still needs to progress, but if he ever puts it all together then he is going to be a legitimate superstar.
And speaking of Jefferson, what in the world was the deal with him not going back in the game? The CBS broadcast reported that word had came from the LSU sideline that he could have gone back in, and he looked okay on the sideline. I have no clue what the deal was there, but Lee was clearly a drop-off. And here's the thing on Lee... he has great physical tools, and he can throw the football down the field with the best of them. But in terms of having to hit receivers over the middle on crossing routes, he cannot hit the broad side of a barn. If he could ever gain some accuracy on crossing patterns, he'd be one hell of a quarterback.
LSU really does have some unreal talent at the skill positions. For whatever criticism you can make of Miles, this is certainly not one of them. Even with Florida, there is probably not another team in the country that has the kind of athleticism at the skill positions like LSU does.
Colin Peek misses the game for 'Bama, and Richard Dickson didn't play either. Pretty much a balancing effect, really.
The more I watch of the LSU offense, the more I think that it is really just too complicated for its own good. It can certainly create some issues for defenses, mind you, but it certainly does create a lot issues for the offense, too, and that was the big catalyst behind all of the false starts, the illegal formations, and the wasted timeouts. With all of the talent that those guys have, I really just cannot help but think that they would be better served just by simplifying the offense and letting all of the raw talent just go to work for them.
Chad Jones didn't have much of an impact yesterday, and his mobility wasn't particularly impressive. On both the long pass to Maze out of the end zone, and the drop by Julio out of the end zone in the third quarter, Jones was tracking the ball the entire way and at first sight I was almost convinced that he was going to snag an easy pick. In both cases, though, he never really got close enough to make the play. I don't know if he was hurt or perhaps just a tad bit overrated, but either way he didn't exactly blow me away yesterday.
The LSU linebacker corps is a very underrated group. Those guys played a fine game, and Kelvin Sheppard in particular really looked good. I tell you, he's probably not quite in the same league yet as Rolando McClain and Brandon Spikes, but he's not far behind. Outside of those two and Hightower, he might be the best linebacker I've seen in the SEC this year.
Patrick Peterson is an incredible player, and he played a great game yesterday. Unfortunately, he really shot himself in the foot by never being properly hydrated in the first place, always a tell-tale sign when you're cramping up by halftime in a game where the temperature never rises above 70 degrees. I know he had some flu-like symptoms earlier in the week, but that had cleared up by mid-week and at that point you just have to make sure you get plenty of fluids. Once the game started, of course, it was entirely too late and you simply lose entirely too much fluids to get them back to where they need to be. Peterson played great when he was in the game, but really he was his own worst enemy.
Charles Scott deserves a lot of credit for playing a fine game. His drop on the busted pass play was a big one, but he ran the ball really well and played a physical game. It was a shame to see his collegiate career likely ended on such a fine run, but such is life sometimes. Best wishes on the recovery, Mr. Scott, and we'll see you on Sunday next year.
DeAngelo Peterson was huge on LSU's first touchdown drive, and their coaching staff really got us there defensively. He's a wide receiver, regardless of what you call him, but when they lined him up at tight end we covered him with a safety (Barron) and then a linebacker (Reamer), and he ate our lunch both times.
Are any of you guys familar with ROBO-PUNTER, the theoretical punter whose punts are downed at the opposing team's one-yard line every time? Well, that was pretty much LSU yesterday. I swear, those guys did an unbelievable job punting the football. If they weren't pinning it against our goal line, they were kicking it a mile and eliminating any chance of return for Arenas. Ill be perfectly honest, it was the most impressive display of punting that I've seen in many years.
Look at it this way... LSU punted the football eight times yesterday, and Javier Arenas ended up with 11 return yards. And that is not counting the penalty on Smelley, and when you take that into consideration we ended up getting a grand total of one return yard on eight punts. And if that's not getting the job done, I don't know what is.
And speaking of punt returns, why in the hell is Brad Smelley in the game? He has to lead the conference in penalties committed in the return game, and his penalty yesterday was one of the dumbest I've seen in a while.
The punt that LSU rolled inside the one-yard line was touched at around the four. Refs missed that one, I believe. And it had a big impact on playcalling, too, no doubt about that.
All of this hoopla over the interception is ridiculous, and it's mainly just a bunch of homer fans looking for an excuse for a guy that they otherwise got their asses beat. It was a close play that could have legitimately gone either way, to be sure, but the ruling on the field was an incomplete pass and there was no indisputable evidence on the replay that would command the play be overturned. And I'll be frank, even if you give him the interception, it doesn't matter. LSU would have been 61 yards away from the end zone, and those guys ended up with 17 total yards on three possessions in the fourth quarter. The end result would have been the same regardless. The only difference would have been that 'Bama might not have covered the spread had it been called an interception.
Two huge plays in the fourth quarter have been overlooked in the wake of all of the talk of the incomplete pass, and they were the stop by our defense on 3rd and short early in the fourth quarter, and the running into the punter penalty. We scored on the screen to Julio immediately after the defensive stop, and the running into the penalty not only gave us three points but also took another three minutes or so off the clock. The incompletion is getting all of the attention, but those two plays are really the ones that broke LSU's back.
And speaking of the running into the punter penalty, that was one gutsy call on the fourth down after that. We're literally three inches from a first down and we decide to motion McElroy out wide and snap it five yards behind the line of scrimmage to Ingram in the shotgun, when we fumbled a snap in the Wildcat earlier in the game? Hell, that might be more than gutsy, it might even be stupid, but fortunately it worked out for us in the end.
Leigh Tiffin is a fine young man, a wonderful kicker, and we should all feel fortunate to have such a valuable asset on our team. And, again, I'm just going to shut up about him.
The way we dominated this game physically was nothing short of amazing. We were much more physical than LSU, and their players were dropping like flies. Moreover, we absolutely dominated this game in the fourth quarter, and that was ultimately the difference. In many ways, we didn't so much win this game yesterday afternoon as much as we won it last summer in the S&C program. We were clearly the more physical team and better conditioned to boot. If there is an unsung hero of this team, it's strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran. That man clearly deserves a raise.