LSU did what no other team had managed to do: they made Tua Tagovailoa pass in the 4th quarter. Granted, they had already given up 22 points. And Tagovailoa only passed once in the 4th quarter. And he had racked up 320 yards in the first 50 minutes.
Still, baby steps for the Tigers, right?
Joking aside, Tagovailoa did struggle at times against LSU; and the Bayou Bengals did limit his explosiveness, for the most part. His 59.7% completion percentage was the second lowest of this season, and it was the first time he averaged under 10 yards per attempt (7 yards/attempt).
Yet he still dazzled and gained 49 yards more yards than the entire LSU team, counting total offense and returns.
2nd and 6: After stalling out deep in LSU territory on their opening drive, the Tide are right back. Tagovailoa is in shotgun with trips right with Henry Ruggs (#11) the lone wide out on the left. CB Greedy Williams is in press coverage on Ruggs, who gets an inside release. Tagovailoa reads linebacker Patrick Queen, who’s in for Devin White, and sees him playing the possible handoff to Najee Harris (#22). Tagovailoa pulls the ball, turns, and fires a dart to Ruggs. Williams falls; so Ruggs is wide open, though I think the ball was placed well enough that Ruggs would’ve caught it anyway.
1st and 10: Tagovailoa’s in the pistol with Damien Harris (#34) behind him. Ruggs is on the left, and Jerry Jeudy (#4) is wide right. Jeudy motions in closer, moving to the right hashmark. Tagovailoa fakes the handoff to Harris, and the linebackers all get sucked in. This likely should be a homerun ball, as Jeudy beats the cornerback;, but Tagovailoa doesn’t have the time to hit it. LB Jacob Phillips comes on a blitz, but both Irv Smith and Hale Hentges focus on Michael Divinity, leaving Phillips a free path. Tagovailoa does a nice job of avoiding the pressure and steps up before unleashing the deep ball. Unfortunately, this extra time allows the deep safety, Todd Harris, to easily position himself to be the first player to pick off Tagovailoa.
1st and 10: The Tide gets the ball back after the interception and have a great shot at scoring before half. Tagovailoa’s in shotgun with Damien Harris on his left hip. LSU only rushes four, and the offensive line gives Tagovailoa time and a clean pocket. This allows Jeudy’s deep in route to develop, and Tagovailoa has an easy completion. Jeudy then makes some Tigers look silly.
1st and 10: It’s the next play. Tagovailoa’s in the gun with trips left. From the sideline in, it’s Jaylen Waddle (#17), Jeudy, and Irv Smith (#82). Waddle and Jeudy both run short routes while Smith runs a corner route. Grant Delpit is in press man on Smith and tries to jam him, but he just gets beat. Smith blows by him. Jeudy’s in-breaking route brings another defensive back down, and it looks like that keeps Delpit from following the shortest path. LSU only rushed four again; and, again, the offensive line gives Tagovailoa time. He uses that time to drop an absolute beauty of a ball to Smith, a New Orleans native.
3rd and 8: Bama’s in shotgun. Derek Kief (#81) and Irv Smith are on the left. LSU brings an extra rusher on this play. The offensive line does a fine job, though; and Tagovailoa isn’t immediately pressured. He starts to climb the pocket before seeing his chance, and he takes off. Damien Harris flaring out to the sideline and Derek Kief running an in route parted the Purple and Gold sea for Tagovailoa. Additionally, Smith’s crossing route sent the other defensive back in the neighborhood heading the wrong way (plus he slipped and fell, which added a little more time until he realized what was happening). Tagovailoa, with his gimpy knee and awkward knee brace, gallops 44 yards for the touchdown.
2nd and 3: And here we have it. A (the) Tua Tagovailoa 4th quarter pass. He’s in shotgun with Najee Harris to his left, and Hale Hentges is the H-back to the right. They fake the shotgun counter they’ve had such success with all year with right guard Alex Leatherwood (#70) and Hentges pulling to the left; and the LSU linebackers are drawn in by it. Jaylen Waddle also fakes a bubble screen, drawing in his defensive back. This leaves a whole lot of green space for Jeudy, whom Tagovailoa hits on a slant.