The highest scoring game in the history of the Alabama-LSU series resulted in LSU’s first win in eight years, 46-41 over Alabama.
Tweet length review of the game
I spent most of halftime scared this game would disappoint on the high expectations the college football community set for it, and I’m thrilled to have wasted that fear. What a football game that turned out to be.
Did you know?
– There were 34 fourth-quarter points in Saturday’s game, which comes after the 2018 game had 29 points total, the 2017 game had 34 points and the 2016 game had 10.
– In three of UA’s last four losses, its offense ran fewer than 70 plays — including this one, in which UA ran 68 plays.
– I’ve throughly documented the correlation between UA’s third-down defense struggles and it allowing teams to get to third-and-short too often, and that reared its head again. Here are the yardages left to gain on LSU’s eight third-down conversions: 1, 2, inches, 1, 3, 10, 5, 2. Here are the distances on the seven third downs on which UA got the stop: 17, 16, 1, 9, 7, 4, 13.
– Alabama went for it on fourth down five times, just the second time in the Nick Saban era it has gone that high. The other was when it went for it six times in last season’s national championship game against Clemson. In both cases, UA converted three times.
– Of LSU’s 35 non-sack rushing attempts, only three were stopped for no gain or a loss. Of UA’s six tackles for a loss, five were sacks, thus only one tackle for a loss against the run. LSU ultimately averaged 4.2 yards per carry, and when removing sacks that number jumps up to 5.8 yards per carry.
– Alabama’s offense committed four penalties on first downs, costing it a grand total of 38 yards, but it didn’t end up killing the drive as much as common sense dictates. UA ultimately moved the chains on three of those four series of downs.
– Two statistical achievements for UA players: Tua Tagovailoa is now third in school history in career passing yards (418 against LSU puts him at 7,186) and DeVonta Smith is now the first UA receiver to have multiple 200-yard receiving games in a season since Amari Cooper in 2014. Tagovailoa passed Brodie Croyle on the career passing list and is now 738 yards behind John Parker Wilson for second on the passing list.
What about this game will be remembered in January?
It will clearly be remembered as the game that thrust UA’s College Football Playoff hopes into doubt, but I think the fireworks of the fourth quarter won’t be forgotten quickly. Thirty-four points in the final 15 minutes is something to behold in any game, but especially in one with these two programs.
Quoting Nick Saban
– “The only disappointment that we have is we want people to do their job, and there were a few occasions where, whether it was miscommunication or maybe a player didn’t take the quarterback when he was supposed to on a zone read, or we didn’t play the gaps exactly right. We had a couple of busts in the secondary that were critical, but they (LSU) do a lot of things. A lot of different formations, a lot of empty, a lot of reloads that take a lot of adjustments. We played six defensive backs a lot in the game thinking we could adjust better to that, and I think we did, but we still made some mistakes that gave them plays.”
– “We seemed to be a little out of sorts in the first half, which I’m responsible for the mindset of our team, so obviously I didn’t get that done with them.”
Quoting the Crimson Tide
– Right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. on the improvement of the running game in the second half: “More of an energy thing, really sending a statement. Early on I think we ran the ball effectively, then it kind of fell off. We came from behind, had to make some plays and picked it back up in the second half.”
– Safety Xavier McKinney on the LSU offense: “I don’t think it was so much the empty stuff, they were just putting a receiver at running back and he was actually running routes out of the backfield. They were going into bunch and having him in the backfield, also. I think that’s where it came from.”
– Wills on the second half as a whole: “I feel like we made a big statement. We showed what we can do, we showed we’re a good team, but too late.”
– Wide receiver Henry Ruggs III on the second half: “It just shows that we’re resilient and we won’t give up, but at the end of the day, we still didn’t finish it. We didn’t do what we needed to do. We have to take advantage of the opportunities that we have and make the team better.”
Quoting the opponent
– LSU coach Ed Orgeron: “You know, when I got on the plane coming here, I felt like we’ve got it. We’ve finally got the tools we need, we’ve finally got the players we need, we’ve finally got the coaching staff we need to beat these guys. I told that to (offensive coordinator) Steve Ensminger when he was sitting on the side, I told that to (special teams coordinator) Greg McMahan. I feel it was a combination of going to a spread offense and obviously the great recruiting, those great receivers that we had, and I think just Joe Burrow. To have a championship team, you have to have a championship quarterback. So, I felt like we had it then. Obviously, I knew we had to do it, and we did it.”
– LSU quarterback Joe Burrow: “This is why I decided to transfer. I wanted to play, and I knew I could play on this stage and you know I got great people around me, great coaching staff, great program all-around. And I cannot say enough good things about my offensive line tonight. [Alabama] had a great defense, a fresh package that we had not seen a lot of this year, and they did so well for me tonight.”
– Burrow on the celebration: “That was pretty special, having these guys embrace me the way they have. Some quarterback from Ohio that came in last June before the season, and the way they have embraced me, I can’t say, I mean it means a lot to me that this entire program has embraced me and the whole state as well.”
One man’s very arbitrary top four players of the game, in no particular order
– LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 20 carries for 103 yards and three touchdowns, plus nine catches for 77 yards and a score. That’s 6.2 yards per touch over 29 offensive touches, an incredibly impressive performance in a game of this magnitude.
– Burrow: 31-39, 393 yards, three touchdowns and 14 carries for 64 yards. As he said above, games like this are why he transferred, and he showed his faith in himself was not misguided. That performance does a lot for his LSU legacy and this LSU team, but also his future as a professional football player.
– UA running back Najee Harris: 19 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown, three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown. He came out of the locker room at halftime like a man possessed, and it played a massive role in getting Alabama back into the game.
– DeVonta Smith: Seven catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Yes, 149 of those 213 yards came on the two touchdown plays, but three of the other five catches went for first downs.
Against the spread
Alabama closed as a favorite, so that clearly went out the window, and the over was a no-brainer. The over/under of 65 1/2 was passed with 5 minutes and 32 seconds left, and both teams would score one more time before it was all said and done.
The penultimate SEC game of the season, an 11 a.m. trip to Starkville to see the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Joe Moorhead and co. had an open week this week, so they got a jump on scouting this weekend.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson