Alabama went to Baton Rouge and lost a game in overtime that previous iterations of the Tide would have won by multiple scores. They had nearly 100 more yards than the opponent and converted 50% of the time on 3rd/4th down. Sadly, red zone failures and bad offensive execution in general kept them from opening up what should have been a commanding lead before the half, and a defense that played an outstanding game early on folded late. That has been the theme of this Alabama team all season: the potential showed, but the execution was just too inconsistent. As a result, a LSU team that really isn’t very good will likely win the SEC West and get embarrassed in Atlanta by a Georgia team that is firing on all cylinders.
A few impressions:
The passing game was disappointing
In fact, outside of two plays, it was flat out terrible. Nearly a third of Young’s 328 yards came on the 41 yard scramble drill touchdown late in the game, and a 65 yard catch and run by Jase McClellan early on. The other 49 pass attempts netted 23 completions (47%) and 4.6 yards per pass.
As has been discussed around these parts all year, the reason for it is hard to put a finger on. There were absolutely times tonight when we could see on camera that Bryce didn’t see open guys, and that no look interception in the end zone after he had looked right at an open Jase McClellan before deciding to go for the highlight reel play was utter nonsense.
If there is one major criticism one can make of Young it’s that he too often eschews the easy play, “what the defense gives you,” and instead gets a tad greedy. He has to know that it’s only second down and you’re inside the 5 yard line. Flip it to Jase and let him try to power it in. If not, we still have two more downs or least three points in the bank that you simply cannot afford to throw away. His accuracy was off for much of the night, and there were also times where it appeared that separation was an issue. For most of the night LSU did a decent job of trapping Young in the pocket and he didn’t manage to produce much from it.
If Alabama’s passing game was what we hoped it would be by this stage of the season with a Heisman caliber QB and a purportedly talented group of receivers, the defense holding LSU to 7 at the half would have produced a blowout. Instead, we got a red zone turnover followed by three consecutive three and outs to open the action. It really didn’t seem to be a Herculean effort by the LSU defense, either. The Tide simply didn’t execute as well as they could have, and those failures got them beat.
Saban got the two point decisions half right
It is very “2022 Alabama” that they would have won the game despite uneven play if not for the fact that they failed on both of their two point conversion attempts while LSU converted on their only one. Saban correctly stated that “the chart” tells you to go for two when up by four points. While true, I would love to see the math on that. In the moment I was screaming at him to take the point for the very scenario that played out, and I still don’t understand why the chart disagrees. When you put the opponent down by 4, they need a touchdown. If they get it, you will be down 3. Kicking the extra point in that situation is monumental.
The red zone defined the game
As mentioned above, despite uneven play Alabama won the stat sheet but not the scoreboard, and of course the latter is the only thing that matters. The aforementioned turnover obviously occurred in the red zone, and on the night five total red zone trips netted exactly one touchdown. Meanwhile, LSU managed only three trips to the red zone but scored two touchdowns. One of those was aided by a completely unnecessary pass interference on 3rd and goal from Eli Ricks, on a ball that had little chance of being caught. Of course, Alabama’s lone red zone score also included a pass interference call.
Alabama failed to trap Daniels in the pocket and couldn’t stop the run
Or they at least failed to do it enough. For those who have wondered about the reasoning behind the so called “mush rush,” you saw it on full display in overtime when Daniels walked into the end zone on the first play. It was frankly reckless of Kelly to go for two in that situation considering the red zone success of the two teams, and Battle damn near kept the kid out of the end zone. Like so much that has happened this season, he was just a little late.
Perhaps the most surprising stat in the game was LSU’s success running the football at the Tide. LSU’s backs combined for a healthy 5.9 yards per carry. led by seven carries for 54 yards by Josh Williams. Their ability to run between the tackles was huge in the red zone.
The character of this team will be defined by how they finish
This is the first time since 2010 that Alabama has suffered two losses before Thanksgiving, and there are many parallels between those two teams. Both returned the Heisman winner and another transcendent talent: Julio Jones in 2010 and Will Anderson this season. Both were projected to roll through the schedule. Both lost in Baton Rouge.
That 2010 team closed the season by losing in heartbreaking fashion to eventual national champion Auburn, then showed up and showed out to blow Michigan State out in Orlando. This Alabama team can still make it to a New Year’s Six bowl game if they take care of business in two games that they will be favored to win. Clemson’s loss last night opened the door for Tennessee to still get a bid to the playoff, and if Georgia does to this LSU team what I expect them to do in Atlanta, Alabama would likely pass the Tigers up anyway.
Some of the whiniest and most entitled among the fanbase will likely quit on the season at this point, and that can be a good thing. Erik has noted on several occasions that the bandwagon needs a good purge on occasion, and based on some of the things we see it’s hard to argue with that notion. For those who want to continue following the Tide, rooting and hoping for the best, we will be here right along with you.