Alabama wore down a game but mistake-prone LSU Tiger squad late Saturday evening in Tuscaloosa. The Tide was playing into the fourth quarter, which is something they have done only once this season. Make no mistake, this LSU squad was recruited and bred to compete with Alabama and for most of the game, the Tigers set the game plan for future opponents.
How many times has Nick Saban rolled the dice in a tie game and called a risky fake punt inside his own territory in the second half? This was a highly uncharacteristic move and something that LSU coach Les Miles would be much more apt to do, but not Saban, whose philosophy is more akin to Ice Man of Top Gun fame.
Knowing his team needed a spark and the game possibly hanging in the balance, Saban’s gamble paid off and the Tide ran off 21 unanswered points for the 38-17 win.
LSU challenged Alabama as well as any team has this year, and as well as any team in the country will this year in all likelihood. Alabama wore down the Tigers and there was no bigger gap than the Tide’s mastery over the fatigued LSU offensive and defensive lines as the game waxed into the fourth quarter. The Tide’s ability to shut down the run and hold the Tigers to under 100 yards for the game made LSU and Zach Mettenberger a one-dimensional team and very predictable offensively. Alabama was able to take advantage of that as the lead widened.
As the second half went on, Alabama’s defense line overpowered the Tiger offensive line and hurried and hammered Mettenberger and the Tigers’ air game into mistakes, hurries and misses. To be fair, the Tigers had their way with the Bama secondary in the first half, but the lack of any success with the ground game enabled the Tide to focus on stopping Mettenberger and the talented receiving corps. They did so in emphatic fashion in the second half.
LSU moved the ball very well early in the game and easily could have been up two touchdowns save for a goal line fumble by the fullback and another costly center-quarterback exchange fumble that allowed the Tide to avoid a big hole early. Two turnovers on the road early against the no. 1 team in the land and being down by only three at halftime is something every team in the country would take, but it was fool’s gold in the end.
LSU is left to wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t fumbled twice or if they had stuffed the fake punt. Now the question at hand is how they rebound against Johnny Football, and then unfortunately decide which bowl they will be attending despite having no interest.
A long offseason awaits a disappointed but valiant LSU team striving to climb the Alabama mountain. LSU fans have one thing to cheer for: they are not Florida, which is rapidly becoming a raging dumpster fire that’s hard to ignore.
Miles and LSU did leave a blueprint of how to beat Alabama, and it begins with not being intimidated. It was clear LSU was not, and that gives them a huge leg up on just about every program in the country. LSU and Miles has had more success against Alabama than anyone else, though losing three games in a row it surely doesn’t seem like it.
Florida State could possibly be the opponent with the best chance to knock off Saban and company, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. This machine Saban has created is showing no signs of slowing down and in fact played their best half of football this season against LSU when they needed it the most. Their ruthlessly efficient balance on both sides of the ball is something that shows little weakness.
Tuscaloosa fans had better savor the flavor of this season because just as Saban sprung the surprise fake punt when no one expected, he may very well have another shocker come season’s end just after hoisting his third consecutive BCS Title trophy.
Terry Waldrop was a longtime college basketball coach and AD. He is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @terrywaldrop, “Like” him on Facebook and follow him on Google or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org