BATON ROUGE, La. — There are wins, there are losses and there are beatdowns. On Saturday night in Baton Rouge, the LSU offensive line experienced that third option.
The LSU offense was more stale than a week-old bagel Saturday night, averaging a dismal 2.5 yards per play and faltering toward LSU’s first shutout loss in two years, losing 10-0 to the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for how this transpired, from predictable play calling to bad quarterback play to a great defensive performance by Alabama. But a disproportionate amount of the blame has been and should be placed on the LSU offensive line, which got harassed all night by a superior Alabama front seven. The line allowed Alabama to sack quarterback Danny Etling 5 times and force him into 3 hurries, and that’s not even mentioning the countless missed assignments or Leonard Fournette’s 2.1 yards per carry average.
So yes, there’s a lot of blame to go on the offensive line. And that’s the way left guard Will Clapp thinks it should be.
“We had a great game plan,” Clapp said. “But our offensive line, we need to open up holes and execute better. We’re going to put this one on us.”
Execution was the big buzzword Saturday night, with coach Ed Orgeron and his players throwing it around like Aroldis Chapman throws fastballs and Bobby Knight throws chairs. But that doesn’t get to the root of the issue. LSU’s offensive line made a laundry list of mistakes, from blown assignments to missed blocks to poor communication.
But the biggest issue, at least in Orgeron’s mind, was what happened when one LSU blocker matched up against one Alabama defender and couldn’t win.
“They beat (us on) some 1-on-1s; they made some plays,” Orgeron said. “There were some times where there was pressure. There were some times where there wasn’t pressure and we just didn’t do proper mechanics. We just didn’t play very well.”
But it’s important not to confuse having a bad game with having a bad offensive line. As recently as two weeks ago, LSU’s offensive line ranked among the top-10 graded units in the FBS. And since then, all the line has done has become healthier and more experienced. But the unit ran into a great Alabama front, one that leads the NCAA in both sacks and rushing defense.
As LSU center Ethan Pocic said, the matchup was extremely physical. And as both Pocic and Orgeron said, there wasn’t a lack of effort. LSU just didn’t play well. Whether that was because the Tigers “shot themselves in the foot” as Clapp said they did or because Alabama’s defensive line and linebackers are all future NFL players, doesn’t matter.
To borrow the Tigers’ parlance, the team just didn’t execute.
But why? Why didn’t they execute? That’s still to be seen.
“That’s a great question,” Clapp said when SEC Country asked him what caused the execution problems. “We’ll see on film.”