BATON ROUGE, La. — Each close game has a handful of critical moments where things swing one direction or the other. LSU’s 10-0 loss to Alabama on Saturday was no exception.
Though LSU’s offense struggled, there were still a handful of windows through which the Tigers could have crawled to score some points.
Likewise, the defense was only a play or two away from potentially sending the game into overtime still deadlocked in a scoreless tie.
It’s water under the bridge now, but here are five plays that might have us talking about LSU’s upset over mighty Alabama had they resulted in different outcomes.
5. The gift turned three-and-out
Situation: LSU starts its first possession of the game at the Alabama 33 following a Jamal Adams interception.
What Happened Was: Danny Etling dumped a pass to Malachi Dupre for 3 yards, then threw an incompletion. Etling was sacked on third down, setting up a 49-yard field goal attempt. Colby Delahoussaye’s kick was blocked, and Bama dodged a bullet.
Alternate Ending: Rather than passing on third down, LSU runs a draw to Fournette. It’s not a first down, but sets up a more manageable field goal for Delahoussaye. Or perhaps a Fournette carry on second down would have set up a better third-down situation. The Tigers get points on the board, and an already frenzied crowd works into 57 more minutes of decibel-piercing madness.
4. The unfortunate umpire
Situation: Backed up near the goal line on a third down in the third quarter, LSU seems to have sure a first down on a dump off to Leonard Fournette.
What Happened Was: Unfortunately, Fournette’s path moves directly into the umpire, whom he is forced to dance around. That gives Alabama’s Reuben Foster enough time to make the tackle at the 15, just short of the chains.
Alternate Ending: This play is mostly symbolic of what type of day it was for the LSU offense and didn’t likely have much effect on the outcome. But it is also possible the Tigers would have picked up another first down or two on the drive and then flipped the field on Alabama with a Josh Growden punt.
3. Delay of Game
Situation: LSU gets the ball on the Alabama side of the 50 for the second time following Frank Herron’s strip-sack of Jalen Hurts in the third quarter.
What Happened Was: Having already burned two timeouts pre-snap earlier in the quarter, LSU takes a delay of game prior to third-and-3 from the Alabama 35. Now facing third-and-8, the Tigers are forced to throw. Etling is sacked for an 11-yard loss and LSU punts.
Alternate Ending: If not for the previously wasted timeouts, LSU calls one to avoid the delay of game. Needing just 3 yards at the 35, the Tigers treat the situation as four-down territory and have two cracks at the first down. A touchdown or field goal could well have followed.
Situation: Alabama faces third-and-9 from the LSU 21 in a scoreless fourth quarter draw.
What Happened Was: Jalen Hurts busted loose for a backbreaking 21-yard touchdown scramble. But upon further review, as many as three LSU tacklers may have been getting held on the play. No penalty flag was thrown.
Alternate Ending: The Tide are pushed back to face a not-so-doable third-and-19 from the 31. That is still within Adam Griffith’s field goal range, though he had missed a 42-yarder in the same end in the second quarter. You never know with kickers.
1. D.J. Chark’s feet: Too big
The Situation: LSU is driving in the second quarter, making it to the Alabama 45 after picking up three first downs.
What Happened Was: The Tigers used a bunched-up formation to give the appearance of a run play, and sent D.J. Chark deep. He made the catch at the Bama 15… but unfortunately his toes were out of bounds, making it incomplete. It’s as close as LSU would come to the red zone.
Alternate Ending: We asked Chark himself if the game might have turned had he been able to haul that pass in.
“If I was able to get in bounds, we were right there,” Chark said. “I feel that’s a guaranteed ‘3.’ Another point wasn’t scored until the fourth quarter. That changes a lot. That gives our defense momentum. Maybe they shut them out and we can win 3-0. If I was able to get my foot in, it would have changed a lot.”
For the record, Chark is a size-12. It probably would have taken size-7.5 or smaller to make the catch a reality. But in a defensive dogfight like Saturday night’s, the margin between victory and defeat can be that narrow.