BATON ROUGE, La. — Execution was the overwhelming theme in the LSU locker room after falling short by 10 points against top-ranked Alabama.
But, where should the blame really lie?
LSU held the potent Tide offense scoreless through three quarters until freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts could take advantage of a clearly gassed defense. Hurts accounted for 107 yards through the air, but made his mark with 114 rushing yards on 20 carries and the game’s only touchdown with 13 minutes, 8 seconds to go in the final quarter.
Without question, the Tigers defense had lost a step. After all, a stumbling offense not only was unable to put points on the board, but could only hold onto the ball for less than 6 minutes in the second half.
“He’s pretty good, but it wasn’t him,” sophomore linebacker Arden Key said after LSU’s first loss under interim coach Ed Oregon. “We just missed tackles. On the two times he ran, I could’ve had a sack on him, but I missed those two sacks. Him being able to step up and go for a run, the linemen had time to push me away and get me off balance.
“We were on the field way too long. We’re still good. We stood our ground and we fought.”
Alabama managed 10 points — all in the fourth quarter — after averaging 22.3 points in the first half through the first eight victories of the season.
In a way, you can credit the Tide’s defense for stopping the LSU offense — more so in the second half — then playing ball-control offense until their offense finally mustered the 10 fourth-quarter points.
“We had plenty of chances,” sophomore lineman Will Clapp said. “The defense put us on our side of the 50 multiple times, but we needed to block better and put that into the end zone. We had multiple occasions to take the lead.”
“I just saw Alabama’s D-line almost every play,” Key said. “Something went wrong up front. … We did what we could (defensively) for 60 minutes, but Alabama was a good offense and someone was going to score.”
LSU’s defensive players refused to fully blame anybody but themselves for caving against the Tide late.
That includes senior defensive end Lewis Neal, who consistently used “execution” to explain the late struggles. “Execution” was the reason LSU didn’t win the game, and it’s not just one side of the ball deserving of the blame.
“We got to execute better and we didn’t. It was nothing they (Alabama) did,” Neal said. “Basically, we just got to do what we do at the line of scrimmage. It was nothing they did. We need to execute and take advantage of the opportunities we get. At the end of the day, we controlled all of the opportunities we got in all phases of the ball.”
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