Give J.K. Scott a Heisman.
In a night where both teams’ offenses were about as effective as Napoleon trying to take Russia in the winter, the Tide defense held stout enough, despite that they kept the local hospital in business with the glut of injuries in the secondary and linebacking groups. Meanwhile our lanky, ethereal gazelle of a punter just kept pinning the Tigers further and further back on their own side of the field every time that egg-shaped balloon of leather came in contact with his golden metatarsal.
After a season of mostly impressive moments from the Tide’s offensive line, the LSU front seven abused them all night, constantly putting the Alabama offense in third and long situations. Despite a 5 yard gash from Damien Harris and a 14 yard pass to Robert Foster, they still went three-and-out to open the game due to a nasty sack.
Throughout the first half, the Tigers’ offense spent most of their time stalling and sputtering with disjointed playcalling and jet sweeps, but would occasionally connect on just enough big passes to keep the drives going for a first down or two.
Alabama’s second drive was their best of the game, taking 9 plays to march 90 yards down the field for a resounding and emphatic touchdown. It started with a 5 yard loss on a run by Bo Scarbrough (Damien Harris was totally forgotten after his initial 5 yard run), but Jalen Hurts showed some Houdini ability and managed to move the chains on third and long before hitting Henry Ruggs 47 yards down the field in one on one coverage.
That may sound like a positive for you Alabama fans, but that’s only because you aren’t considering Ruggs’s personal feelings. That 47 yard grab dropped his touchdown percentage from 100% to 83%. Terrible. Hurting that poor man’s stats.
Scarbrough took the ball for 10 yards, and then Hurts perfectly executed a fake toss and tossed a lazy touchdown to tight end Irv Smith’s soft, cradling hands. in the center of the endzone.
The teams traded some more offensive ineptitude back and forth, and then Ronnie Harrison jumped an out route and went straight WWE on the receiver to wrestle the ball out of his hands before they hit the ground, preventing the refs from even having the opportunity to call it a “simultaneous possession.” Jalen Hurts then threw a precision strike to Ridley across the middle, who spun out of trouble with all the haste of me trying to escape a social situation for 24 yards, and Scarbrough waltzed into the endzone from 9 yards out on the next play.
To their credit, Danny Etling and the Tigers put together a 71 yard drive, including a 23 yard fade to DJ Chark that brought them down to the 5 yard line. The Tide defense, bolstered by first-time big-time contributor Josh McMillan (Mack Wilson got injured), held from there and forced them to a field goal.
The two punters spent a little more time jousting field position to end the half, and Alabama went in to nurse an 11 point lead despite losing all-everything defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and linebacker Mack Wilson to injuries.
Throughout the rest of the game, linebacker Rashaan Evans, linebacker Jamey Mosley, and linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton all also suffered injuries. Evans made it back in the game, albeit a little gimpy, but it seems that both Wilson and Hamilton may end up done for the year.
By my count, that makes 4 of the top 5 linebackers from the Tide’s opening depth chart out for the season, while the 5th is playing gimpy. And this is still a top defense in the country. It may end up being a massive problem in the postseason, but for now, we’re seeing young guys like Dylan Moses, Josh McMillan, and Vandarius Cowan all get meaningful snaps on a huge stage, which can only bode well for their development over the next 4 years.
5 punts opened up the second half before Jalen Hurts got tired of not scoring and decided to score. That’s apparently how that works. In one drive, he got 15 yards on a scramble, completed a 31 yarder to Ridley (called back for a holding), a 9 yarder to Foster, a 15 yarder to Cam Sims, and a 22 yarder to Ridley before finally taking it himself for the final 3 and a touchdown, putting Bama up 21-3.
Two plays later, LSU running back Darrel Williams (read: not Derrius Guice. Ha) took off up the middle untouched for 54 yards to the two yard line. The Cajuns tried to pass the ball the next play, and it was very, very nearly a pick 6. Da Coach O then remembered that passing the ball is generally just not been a good idea for LSU in the last decade, and gave it back to Williams, who muscled his way in for their last score of the day.
Alabama answered with an 11 play drive, consisting of a couple of big runs from Scarbrough and Hurts and 21 yards from the ever more present tight end Irv Smith before faltering out on two incomplete passes in a row to DeVonta Smith. Andy Pappanastos, our upstart lord and savior, clinched things with a 40 yard field goal, and LSU gained all of 24 yards on their next 3 drives to end the game.
By the end of it, both teams were under 50% completion percentage in the passing game, but Hurts really led the was with 183 yards (7.6 YPA) and a touchdown, while Etling had 137 (5.3 YPA) and a pick.
LSU did manage 151 yards rushing on the night, with 83 of that coming from Williams and 71 from Guice. The difference being that Williams did that in 8 carries, while it took Guice 19. Alabama must have really stacked the box out of fear while Guice was in the game.
Meanwhile, the Tide rushing attack had it’s worst outing of the season. Damien Harris had 9 carries for 33 yards and Scarbrough had 11 for 39. Hurts ended up leading the way with 14 carries for 44 yards, for an all around rushing night of 116 yards from the Tide.
The Tide defense had some trouble with the pass rush early in the game as the Tigers kept moving the ball on chunk passes, but really turned things up a notch in the second half and ended up with 6 sacks and 4 QB hurries, spread out between 10 different defenders. Despite losing so many players this season, defensive coordinator has still been able to manufacture pressure in every game this season. Give that man a raise.
Anyway, it was a solid win against a solid LSU team that has really rebounded from their lapses earlier this season. Their lack of a competent passing game kept the Tide from ever really being in danger of losing, but their overall talent and defense kept the game close all night.
On a night when the running game was totally stymied, Jalen Hurts completed just enough clutch passes amidst his misfires and receiver drops to engineer 3 different scoring drives on his shoulders. It may not be as many points as we’ve been accustomed to this season, but 24 against one of the best teams in the SEC is pretty good. And I’m happy with it.
Here’s to hoping that Minkah and Rashaan are up and able to go next week, while maybe the injuries to Hamilton, Wilson, and Mosley aren’t as bad as initially thought. I would prefer not to have to go into the postseason with all freshmen at linebackers...
We got a good, emphatic win against a top 25 team to add to the resume while also seeing what Hurts could do on a night when the run game was totally inept. So all in all, I’d call it a positive night in Tuscaloosa. Roll Tide!