LSU gained 352 yards, which looks decent on the face of it; but 98 of those yards came on two plays where the Alabama defense had a breakdown. The Tigers’s yards per play drops from 4.9 to 3.6 when you factor those out.
Still, they happened; so let’s look at what went wrong. Nick Saban said in his postgame comments that one was a miscommunication and one was a misalignment.
Don’t worry, there will be a more fun film room.
1st and 10: What we have here is a failure to communicate. LSU is in shotgun with two receivers to the right and one to the left, the boundary side. Josh Jobe (#28), the boundary cornerback, is coming on a corner blitz. However, LSU changed their play; and Alabama then changed their defensive call. Saban said it was on the safety (and we can see it’s Daniel Wright, #3) to communicate the change to Jobe. We can see Wright calling something out before the snap, but it doesn’t appear that he’s directing it at Jobe (can’t know for certain, of course)
So Jobe still blitzes while the rest of the coverage has changed. This results in Kayshon Boutte running completely uncovered; and it’s an easy throw for the touchdown as Jordan Battle (#9), the other safety, has no chance at getting over in time.
2nd and 10: It’s the next drive for LSU. LSU again has two receivers to the right and one wide on the left with the tight end, Arik Gilbert, flexed out on that side as well. Saban said Malachi Moore (#13), the Star or nickelback, was misaligned. You can see Moore initially in the right area, on Gilbert, before hustling over to the opposite side to take the slot receiver. I’m not certain this is on Moore himself, though, because it definitely looks like both DeMarcco Hellams (#29) and Christian Harris (#8) are calling for Moore to flip sides. Again, we don’t know what they’re actually saying; and the end result is that Moore is not in position.
Either way, this leaves LSU with an advantage on this side; and that’s exactly where they’re running it. The left guard gets to the second level and neutralizes Harris while Gilbert gets up and takes out Battle out. Jobe, the corner over here, takes a terrible angle and ends up letting the left guard block him too. The running back shoots through and is off to the races, getting a good block from the wide receiver to ensure the touchdown.
I’m going to add a bit more than I usually do now. I normally try to just break down the play, point everything out I think is relevant, and let you come to your own conclusions. I want to bring up one other point that came to mind after reading Saban’s comments about the first touchdown.
Ben Jones, formerly an Alabama beat writer for The Tuscaloosa News, posted this thread over a year ago that’s always in my mind when there’s a defensive back who’s struggling, particularly in the eyes of the fans.
2) There was a safety on this team who was a starter but was clearly a notch below the rest of the secondary. They had multiple all-conference guys, future NFL players, some serious depth from good recruiting. He was OK but just not at that level, and it showed.— Ben Jones (@BW_Jones) September 14, 2019
The general point is that we, as fans, may see a defensive back struggling and giving up a few plays a game and wonder why he’s starting over a younger player who makes flashy plays and looks like a potentially more talented guy; but we don’t see the whole picture. That player who has a couple busts here and there may be contributing in ways that don’t show up directly in the stat sheet and is helping the defense in that way.
Daniel Wright has caught his fair share of flak this season, and he has struggled at times. Seeing that, and the fact that he has continued to be a starter, I’ve thought of that thread and kept it in mind.
Which brings me to the breakdown on the first play. If Wright makes a bad read and screws up his assignment, that’s one thing if he’s still communicating with everybody else and helping get them aligned. If he has those busts and has communication screw-ups, that’s something else.
All that said, that was just one play. And Wright got ejected on a targeting call the next drive, so he didn’t have much of a chance to bounce back from his mistake. We’re not privy to everything that happens at practice and behind the scenes. Maybe the breakdown was just one of those plays that happen sometiems, and all these extra words are for nothing.
I’m not drawing any conclusions from it all. I just think it warrants watching going forward, especially with how Hellams has looked lately (and Brian Branch, to a lesser degree).
2nd and 7: Hellams is near the top of the screen back deep. He takes a couple steps back on the snap, but he sees the receiver break on the slant and the quarterback start to throw. Hellams quickly changes direction and closes rapidly. He goes about seven yards in one second and smashes into the receiver hard. He also wraps up nicely to top it off. LSU got a very generous spot and a first down, however.