BATON ROUGE, La. — For three quarters, LSU’s defense played about as well as can be asked against a team putting up 40 points and 500 yards per game.
The Tigers offense, on the other hand, played about as poorly as one could against a defense averaging just 2.45 yards per play in a 10-0 loss the the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
This week’s report card is a reflection of those showings of very good and very bad from the Tigers.
When you get shut out, there is no other grade you can receive.
Everyone played a role in the futility. The offensive line had its poorest performance of the season, though virtually every offensive line that has faced Alabama this season can say the same thing. The Crimson Tide had 3 sacks on LSU’s first two possessions and finished with 5.
Very few holes were opened for Leonard Fournette, who didn’t do much with them on the rare occasions they appeared. He finished with 35 yards on 17 carries with a long of 9 yards.
Danny Etling rarely had much time to throw, and when he did he frequently made a mess of it. Etling rushed throws after getting caught holding on to the ball too long the first two drives. Of his 92 yards, 41 came on one play. Outside of that connection to D.J. Chark, Etling was 10 of 23 for 51 yards and an interception.
It brought to mind the photo of Buzz’s girlfriend that Kevin McAllister finds in “Home Alone.”
2.45 yards per PLAY for LSU offense tonight. Woof. pic.twitter.com/9yI3ifTiik
— Alex Hickey (@bigahickey) November 6, 2016
Alabama’s offense had not scored fewer than 30 points against any opponent it faced this season. LSU changed that in a big way as the Crimson Tide were fortunate to claw their way to 10 points.
Jalen Hurts’ 21-yard touchdown to break the ice in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty that brought to mind the days when Johnny Manziel was only known for what he did on the football field. It did not hurt that running back Bo Scarborough seemed to get away with an obvious hold on the play, though the uncalled penalty was not what sprung Hurts free.
Fatigue finally set in on Alabama’s second possession of the fourth quarter, a 15-play, 90-yard drive that ate 9 minutes, 51 seconds off the clock before resulting in a field goal.
The Tigers helped their own cause by forcing a pair of turnovers on the Alabama side of the 50, but got no help from the offense.
“All we needed to do was kick a field goal, and the momentum would have still continued to be on our side,” defensive end Arden Key said.
Special Teams: D+
About that field goal …
Colby Delahoussaye missed his one and only shot in the first quarter, a 49-yard attempt that was blocked by Ronnie Harrison. Blocks have been an issue for the Tigers this year. LSU had a pair of extra points blocked in the first month of the season.
Tre White, one of the smartest players on the team, made a horrific decision when he fielded a 54-yard punt at his 3-yard line in the third quarter and was tackled immediately. Rarely do 54-yard punts stop on a dime, so a touchback likely would have followed had White gotten out of the way.
Josh Growden and the punt coverage team redeemed the special teams unit, downing 5 kicks inside the 20 and 4 inside the 10.
There’s no question Ed Orgeron had this team properly prepared and motivated. Alabama blows teams out of the water. LSU took every punch until it was too tired to remain standing.
Dave Aranda had a great gameplan against a great offense, and it didn’t crack until Jalen Hurts finally showed his true colors following 45 minutes of frustration.
But the plays and packages used on offense clearly left a lot to be desired. Perhaps LSU was being a bit too conservative against a defense that has scored 9 touchdowns by itself this season, but Saturday night you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between Cam Cameron and Steve Ensminger.
In particularly, Derrius Guice was not used enough. He carried the ball twice — the same as fullback J.D. Moore.
There is a chance Auburn will play Alabama closer than this in the Iron Bowl, though I have a feeling that game will look pretty similar to Saturday night’s.
But other than that, you’re probably not going to see an opponent play the Crimson Tide closer than the Tigers did, at least until the College Football Playoff gets under way.
Though disappointing, LSU could have done a heck of a lot worse than it did Saturday. But that is also the source of frustration — with better execution, there is no reason the Tigers could not have pulled off the biggest upset of 2016.