11-24. It is an ugly thing to look. It’s just the second time Hurts has completed less than 50% of his passes. His 45.8% completion percentage against LSU was easily his worst since the championship loss to Clemson last season.
Unlike the Clemson game, though, he averaged 7.6 yards/attempt (4.2 yards/attempt against Clemson). Plus there were a few drops from the freshmen wide receivers, which dropped his completion percentage. And many of his best passes - and runs - came on third downs when the offense needed him the most.
Casual observers will just shrug at the stat line, but this was one of Hurts’ best performances of the season.
3rd and 15: Hurts is in shotgun with Damien Harris (#34) on his right hip. LSU is showing blitz with six defenders crowded near the line and the nickel corner creeping in. The tight end, Hale Hentges (#84) stays in to block and picks up the corner. LSU’s talented edge rusher, Arden Key, is coming from the right side; and Matt Womack takes him upfield past Hurts. For his part, Hurts, who has struggled against the corner blitz in the past, completes his five step drop and doesn’t panic. He steps up into the big pocket he has and moves to his left, all the while keeping his eyes down field. Hurts hits Robert Foster (#1), but the cornerback is in tight coverage and tackles him just short of the first down.
3rd and 11: Bama is deep in its own territory facing another third and long. Hurts is in the gun with Bo Scarbrough (#9) to his left. LSU gets some pressure, and Hurts scampers up into the pocket; but, again, he keeps his eyes downfield instead of tucking the ball and trying to make something happen with his feet. This allows him to fire a dart to Ridley for a 15 yard gain and a first down.
2nd and 6: Alabama’s lined up in the pistol with 12 personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends). Irv Smith (#82) is in-line on the right while Hentges motions from right to left. Devonta Smith (#6) is wide left, and Calvin Ridley (#3) is in the slot. Hurts fakes the handoff to Scarbrough and drops back looking deep. Two Tiger defenders see the fake and beeline for Hurts, who keeps backpedaling. At the last second, Hurts steps aside and spins out of the safety’s grasp. He takes off, gets the corner easily, and picks up the first down.
1st and 10: It’s the very next play, and Alabama has 10 personnel now. Ridley and Smith are to the left, and Henry Ruggs (#11) and Jerry Jeudy (#4) are to the right. LSU only rushes three while one linebacker spies Hurts, and the offensive line has no trouble here. Hurts has time to wait before stepping into his throw and uncorking a deep ball to Ruggs on the post route. Ruggs goes up and brings it down for a 47 yard gain. Unfortunately, this kills his perfect touchdown to touch ratio.
2nd and goal: Hurts is under center. Ridley is far left, and Devonta Smith is on the right. Irv Smith is on the left of the line standing up, and Jeudy is a yard behind him. Ridley motions to his right and bunches up with Riggs and Smith. Hurts fakes the toss to Scarbrough to the left and rolls back to his right. Arden Key and the safety John Battle drift over covering Jeudy, but nobody covers Irv Smith. He sits in a hole in the coverage, and Hurts finds him for the first touchdown of the night.
3rd and 6: Bama’s facing a big third down after Ronnie Harrison’s interception gave the offense great field position. Hurts is in shotgun with Scarbrough on his left. Ridley is tight on the right, and Devonta Smith and Jerry Jeudy are to the left. Hurts sees Ridley will get a step on the corner and throws it right on the money for a big first down.
2nd and 18: A holding penalty on a pass to Ridley that would’ve put the offense inside the LSU 10 yard line has the Tide backed up to midfield. Hurts is in shotgun with Harris in the backfield and trips left. Foster is the lone receiver on the right. The Tigers send a corner blitz from Hurts’s left, and this forces linebacker to drift over in the that direction. This leaves a window open in the middle, and Hurts drills it to Foster on a slant route. It’s not a good throw, and Foster is forced to make a shoestring catch. Still, it was a quick decision; and it picked up 9 yards to make third down more manageable.
3rd and 9: Alabama hurries to get set up on the ensuing play. Hurts remains in the gun. Cam Sims (#17) and Ridley are on the left. Foster is in tight on the right. Arden Key is going up against right tackle Matt Womack, and he beats Womack pretty quickly. With the pressure incoming, Hurts takes off to his. He keeps rolling to his right, but he keeps his eyes downfield. Hurts has the defensive end, Christian LaCouture, bearing down on him; and, while on the run, he somehow rifles the ball into a tight window surrounded by four LSU defenders. The pass threads the needle and hits Cam Sims right on the money for a 15 yard gain and the first down.
3rd and 10: LSU answered Alabama’s touchdown drive with one of their own, and they responded in just a 1:07 of game time. Hurts is in shotgun with trips left; Hentges is the tight end. LSU only rushes four, and Scarbrough stays in to block. Nevertheless, the Tigers’ edge rushers apply pressure; and Hurts narrowly scrambles forward. He sees a lot of green to his left and takes off. Hurts has the angle; and he gets a little help from Jerry Jeudy, who comes back and absolutely destroys LB Donnie Alexander.