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Graphing the Tide vs. LSU: Run game? Check. Defense? Check.

And Damien Harris sends his warm regards.

Alabama v LSU Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Metric definitions

A ”successful” play, as defined by Football Outsiders, is when a play gains enough yardage to keep the offense on track, i.e., 50% of needed yardage on 1st down, 70% on 2nd, or 100% on 3rd/4th. A ”big play” (aka “explosive play”) is any play that gains ≥15 yards (run OR pass).

Success by Quarters

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Huzzah! After the Tennessee game I alluded to this LSU game, thinking that a competitive opponent would bring a more interesting set of charts for you fine folk. You know, a new perspective, advanced analysis, the real story, all that.

Fortunately for us (and unfortunately for these charts), the Tide whipped LSU outright, so we got much of the same as what we’ve seen this season. That dern team is just too good and it’s ruining this here stats column!

Anyway, Alabama posted 4 quarters of above-average SR’s and excellent big play rates... for the latter: basically anything above 15% is especially explosive (at least for Bama and its opponents these past few seasons). Plus, the defense held LSU to four quarters of below-average success and explosiveness. Despite the troubles we witnessed on a few drives... that was domination, folks.

Funny enough, LSU’s numbers look more like what we’ve seen from both teams in the last few Bama-LSU games: lots of defense and low SR/XRs. Except this year, the Alabama offense took off and posted big numbers, while the defense kept doing what it always does against LSU. Roll Tide.

About that 4th quarter: that’s a small-ish sample size, but we really did have a solid sequence that—unusually, for late-game Bama blowouts—was some of Alabama’s best performance in the game. For your viewing pleasure, here are Bama’s 4th quarter plays (the very few unsuccessful plays being shown in italics):

  • 22-N.Harris to BAMA 49 for 29 yards (22-K.Fulton).
  • 22-N.Harris to LSU 44 for 7 yards (99-E.Alexander,40-D.White).
  • 13-T.Tagovailoa complete to 4-J.Jeudy. 4-J.Jeudy pushed ob at LSU 20 for 24 yards (9-G.Delpit).
  • 22-N.Harris to LSU 12 for 8 yards (40-D.White).
  • 34-D.Harris to LSU 12 for no gain (99-E.Alexander,90-R.Lawrence).
  • 34-D.Harris to LSU 8 for 4 yards (99-E.Alexander).
  • 34-D.Harris to LSU 1 for 7 yards (40-D.White,33-T.Harris).
  • 34-D.Harris runs 1 yard for a touchdown.
  • 24-B.Robinson to BAMA 19 for -1 yard (43-R.Thornton,6-J.Phillips).
  • 24-B.Robinson to BAMA 35 for 16 yards (40-D.White).
  • 24-B.Robinson to BAMA 44 for 9 yards (33-T.Harris).
  • 24-B.Robinson to BAMA 47 for 3 yards (99-E.Alexander,92-N.Farrell).

Yep, when 10 of your 12 final plays are successful, you finished the game well.

Play Map

Alabama had a solid distribution of success all game long. The first drive didn’t give us the explosive plays we wanted, but Damien Harris, Tua Tagovailoa, and co. found those soon after: that second drive is showing 1 explosive run and 3 successful passes, so we found that sweet spot after that initial (bizarre) drive.

LSU didn’t find much success at all: what they did was concentrated around the end of the 1st quarter and the end of the game.

Success by downs

I promise, someday this chart will show something interesting again! In the meantime, there were no remarkable trends on downs in this game. Alabama converted its lone attempted 4th down (an exhilarating up-the-middle run in a Josh Jacobs-led wildcat formation). Otherwise, the success that each offense had was steady across downs.

Running and Passing

This is an odd look for the 2018 Alabama offense! The run rate was fairly low all game long: prior to the late game clock-burn, we were passing a solid majority of the time. I mean, the first quarter only shows 5 runs (at a 40% SR, with one explosive one).

This particular fan was screaming for more runs early on, but maybe the coaches knew that running would be the most successful if used sparingly: I guess they’ll just call me if they have any questions...

As for running and passing success: yep, the run game—led by Mr. Damien Harris—worked well for the entire game. Passing found success here and there, but—in a surprising result for a Tua-led offense—ended up at below-average success rates, from the 2nd quarter and cumulatively for the game. There’s something to be said for the LSU defensive personnel and game strategy, I suppose.

Running and Passing, LSU

Hahaha... per usual versus Bama, LSU could not run the ball: that’s a putrid 20% SR on relatively few attempts. I guess if they couldn’t do it with a star running back in years past, they certainly weren’t going to do it without one.

So they rode the shoulder of Joe Burrow all the way to... zero points. A 12.1% big play rate on passing isn’t bad, but a 34% SR isn’t great (especially paired with that poor rushing performance). Things were going OK through the 2nd quarter, but the passing SR slipped and stayed down through the rest of the game... despite some near-misses by the Alabama DL on Burrow that could have pushed it further.

In short: LSU got worked. Alabama made it work. Roll Tide, and I’ll see you for the Players review tomorrow.