I disagreed sufficiently with OTS' Initial Impressions that I thought it would be kinda troll-y to post my thoughts as a comment to his post. So here are some things I am thinking
RUNNING ON FIRST DOWN
We ran on first down 15 times for 30 yards, 2.0 yards per carry. We passed on first down 9 times for 74 yards, 8.2 yards per attempt. That means we ran 62.5% of the time. On the season we run on 54% of downs, and considering that a fair number of our plays this year have been mostly runs when we sit on a big lead, I'd say that means we usually do run/pass 50-50 when the game is competitive. The conclusion is that we ran on first down more than usual, and it was not successful.
Only 3 of those 15 run first-downs results in a gain of 4 or more.
All three of our first three possessions--when we missed field goal attempts--we stopped only after a big loss on an early-down running play. Each of the first three missed field goals came at the end of a series featuring a five- or six-yard loss on a running play, twice on first down and once on second down.
LSU was running successful run blitzes on first down the whole game. We had another huge six-yard loss on a first-down running play with about 6 minutes left in the 4th, leading to a punt that gave LSU the chance to win. Overall, out of our 4 field goal attempts and 2 punts in regulation, 4 of the stops were caused directly by big losses on run plays. Compare that to the two turnovers caused by interceptions and it's not so clear which type of play-calling is "safe" or "dependable."
PASSIVITY AT THE END OF REGULATION
This sticks in my craw more than anything. After the above-mentioned punt, we stopped LSU with 1:39 left and 3 timeouts and let them run the clock all the way down to 1 minute before they punted, and then we didn't' take timeouts on offense.
- If we had promptly taken timeout, we would have started on our 19 with 2 timeouts left and about 1:33 or so, PLENTY of time to drive down to the 25-yard-line to win the game.
- It is beyond timid to think that LSU is more likely to score during regulation than Alabama if Alabama aggressively tries to score in that scenario. Beyond timid and right straight into flat-out wrong territory. I'm not sure why, but teams usually move the ball better in the 2-minute drill than the rest of the game. That's what we decided not to even try.
- Giving up assures OT, where we would be at a significant disadvantage because of the great weight field-goal kicking carries in OT.
- It also sends a message loud and clear to your offense that you think they are crap and you don't trust 'em. Is it shocking that our offense then immediately took the field in OT and stunk it up?
THE MAZE PASS
Color me apostate, because I liked that call very much. It caught them flat-footed, should have been a touchdown, and nearly was. A field goal in that tie game with 11 minutes left would have left me with little confidence. A touchdown would have left me with much condidence.
We were head-hunting. Going for the win. I like that very much. There's really no odds in playing it safe,there. Not only is 3 much less valuable than 7, but a predictable first-down run put us in a perfect position to get blasted yet again on a run blitz and taken out of field-goal range.
Another point: you know what we had done against LSU inside the 40 up to that point? Fifteen plays, -1 yards! Try something!
Finally, I would like to take issue here with one point in the Initial Impressions post. Michael Williams is a glorified tackle with decent but not great hands, and I have no reason to think he would be at any particular advantage in a jump ball over a more athletic guy coming at full speed and timing his leap well. I thought he made a good effort on that ball, and so far as I can tell, he may have caught it.
THE PUNT OVER MAZE'S HEAD
Sure would like to know what happened vis-a-vis the TV wire. You couldn't tell from the replay.
Otherwise, there's no reason in the world not to catch that ball. If we had started at the 45 instead of the 19 and gained the same 30 yards we got, we would've been in position for a 42-yard field goal. We're good from that range.
Speaking of which . . .
FIELD-GOAL KICKING . . .
is greatly overrated as a cause of our loss. The problem was that we kept making our guys try 50-yarders against the wind (the first one was with the wind, and long enough). Yeah, if we had a star field-goal kicker those could be a good option, but we would've needed a star, not an average guy.
LSU hasn't kicked a 50-yarder this year, either. Much more problematic was our inability to move the ball inside the 40.
I didn't like the first down run focus in this game, as I've said, but generally I like McElwainn as a play-caller. As an OC? Not so much. He's decent with QBs, but our wideouts don't get open and we don't run enough different pass patterns. Good OCs get guys open. That's what I want to see.
However, I fear that changing OCs would not change our habitual timidity/conservatism that shows in decisions such as not going for it at the end of regulation, or the many times we've gone into a shell on offense with a two-to-three TD lead in the 3rd quarter. I don't really know where that comes from, but I just suspect it's on Saban.
He was awful in OT, but I thought he played well in regulation. Yes, the pick hurt, but that was more an All-American cornerback making a fantastic break on a ball in the air than a terrible play by McCarron. Sure, McCarron gets the blame there, but that's the kind of stuff LSU does against everybody.
Doing that once against LSU is not egregious. Otherwise, his only mistakes in regulation were the two times he threw deep into double coverage. He was calm and composed under pressure, took only one two-yard sack, and threw a lot of accurate passes.
Even factoring the sack lost yardage in, he averaged 7.3 yards per attempt in regulation and had 1 of 26 picked. The average against LSU coming in (factoring in lost yardage from sacks) was 5.1 per attempt and 1 of 21.6 picked, so McCarron was much better than average in moving the ball through the air against them, and better than average in ball security.
Third straight year he has played well against us.
Should have enhanced his Heisman chances. He's not having one of those great Heisman seasons, but neither is anybody else. If anybody should get his due, it's Kellen Moore, but Andrew Luck has done nothing to win a Heisman other than be pre-anointed. Luck has a chance to win it down the stretch, but he hasn't yet.