BATON ROUGE, La. — Moral victories don’t show up in the standings.
In a game that was somehow even lower scoring than “The Game of the Century” in 2011, LSU’s defense played three perfect quarters of football before relenting to Jalen Hurts and the Alabama offense in the fourth, losing 10-0 and all but ending the Tigers’ chase for an SEC title bid.
LSU’s defense was spectacular through the first three quarters, blanking the Alabama offense, forcing two turnovers and consistently providing the offense with great field position. But the LSU offense couldn’t do anything with that field position. Leonard Fournette had arguably a worse game than his 19-carry, 31-yard snoozer in 2015, rushing for 35 yards on 17 carries with a long of 9. Quarterback Danny Etling wasn’t much help either, as he completed less than 50 percent of his passes and throwing 1 interception.
Dave Aranda: There aren’t many defensive coordinators who can hold Alabama’s offense scoreless. But Aranda did just that, keeping the Crimson Tide off the scoreboard for the entire first half for the first time since 2007. His defense was electric, forcing Hurts into making 2 turnovers and holding the Tide offense without points until early in the fourth quarter.
Aranda’s players: This wasn’t all scheme. It’s hard for the likes of Kendell Beckwith, Jamal Adams and Tre’Davious White to see their stock rise, but Saturday was a clinic in how to prove your NFL potential. LSU’s DBs were particularly impressive in the run game, combining to record 5.5 tackles-for-losses. And while Arden Key might not have had a huge game on the scorecard, he made his presence felt consistently, changing the direction Hurts took on his dropbacks multiple times.
The LSU O-Line: Etling didn’t play a good game, but in his defense, he barely ever had a chance to. The Alabama defensive line is too much for every offensive line in America, but the LSU front five had been extremely stout all year. Not Saturday. Etling was sacked 5 times and hurried 3 more en route to the ugliest throwing night of his young LSU career.
Efficiency: When you force turnovers and start in plus territory, you have to take advantage of it. LSU couldn’t. The Tigers forced two turnovers around the 50-yard line and scored neither time, once missing a field goal and the other being forced to punt. This is a bad sign of a reinvigorated offense under the Ed Orgeron regime that has prided itself on opportunism.
Orgeron: Will Orgeron get promoted to full-time head coach Sunday? No. But did he hurt his chances of retaining his job for next year? Absolutely not. Playing Alabama close is one of the hardest things to do in college football. And Orgeron proved he can hang with the best of them.
Fournette: We all know Fournette can play. But the Alabama defense is his weakness. He can’t break through it. This isn’t something we didn’t already know about Fournette. But coming off a game where he averaged more than 18 yards per carry, his 2.1 yards per carry Saturday night were more than a little underwhelming.