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November 8, 2010
Upon Further Review: Alabama at LSU
TUSCALOOSA _ My, how some people forget.
Like how the University of Alabama football team had won six straight games against top 10 opponents, when it previously hadn't enjoyed even a three-game streak since Paul W. "Bear" Bryant was still coaching.
Or how young this year's Crimson Tide is with only a handful of seniors, playing a team with comparable talent that got every break.
Or how Tiger Stadium may be the nation's toughest venue to visit, and how badly LSU wanted to beat A) Alabama; B) The reigning national champions; and C) Nick Saban.
Consequently, following Saturday's 24-21 loss Alabama can still go to Atlanta for the SEC Conference Championship Game, but only if a number of things happen including it beats Mississippi State and Auburn, and Auburn loses to visiting Georgia next Saturday.
Scenario 1: The three-way tiebreak.
LSU would have to lose to Arkansas for the potential three-way tie at 6-2. According to SEC rules even though all three teams would be 1-1 against each other both Alabama and Auburn defeated the next team in the division standings, Arkansas, while LSU did not. That would eliminate LSU from consideration, and between Alabama and Auburn the tiebreaker would go to the Crimson Tide due to the head-to-head victory.
Scenario 2: The four-way tiebreak.
If Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU are all tied at 6-2, in the head-to-head against the four teams Alabama and Auburn would be 2-1. Alabama would then again get the tie-breaker.
Somehow, though, that's all probably the last things on the players' and coaches' minds heading into next week's game against Mississippi State.
Here are the awards:
Play of the game: Alabama's longest gain was sophomore running back Trent Richardson's 22-yard run to set up his 1-yard touchdown reception. Not only did he somehow hurdle through the line with a burst, but then spun to avoid two would-be tacklers.
Player of the game: It's not very often a nose tackle makes eight tackles, far-and-away a career high for junior Josh Chapman, who also had Alabama's only sack.
Statistics of the game: Here are a bunch:
During Alabama's last seven games against LSU the team leading at halftime has won only once.
LSU had 338 yards of total offense in the second half, more than it averaged for entire games coming in.
For the second time this season an opposing quarterback had a career game against the Tide. Coming in, Jordan Jefferson hadn't had a touchdown pass since the season opener against North Carolina.
The 75-yard touchdown and the 47-yard completion accounted for nearly 60 percent of LSU's 208 passing yards.
LSU's yards on third downs by quarter were 1, 24, 46 and 56. The Tigers also gained 52 yards while converting two fourth downs.
Going by Saban's definition of a big play (a run of 16 yards or more or a pass of 21 yards or more), Alabama had one compared to LSU's seven.
LSU didn't complete a pass on its last touchdown drive.
Alabama still only has two fumble recoveries this season.
Hit of the game: Chapman had to go through two players to make the 12-yard sack of Jarrett Lee.
Did you notice? Senior tight end Preston Dial took exception to Derrick Bryant continuing to try and rip the ball out and pull on Richardson after the whistle blew after he was stopped at the 1. On the subsequent play when the running back scored Bryant also gave Richardson an extra shot after he was down, moments after cornerback Patrick Peterson had come down on Richardson's leg aggravating his sore knee.
Here are 10 other notable things from Saturday's game, beginning with the plays most Alabama fans would like to forget:
The fake punt: LSU had already executed two fake punts this season, and even though the ball wasn't in Alabama territory the Crimson Tide should have been more aware. Alabama had already shown the same look, with everyone but the deep man on the line, so the Tigers had an easy audible to make. On the side Josh Jasper ran 29 yards for the first down the Tide had, from the inside out, Alex Watkins, Will Lowery, Hardie Buck and John Fulton. When everyone but Fulton crashed the interior he was left alone.
The 75-yard touchdown: Give credit to Jefferson for getting the pass off despite facing a looming hit from junior defensive end Marcell Dareus, but the play took advantage of blitzing junior defensive back Phelon Jones. Freshman linebacker C.J. Mosley went wide to pick up a potential receiver and while junior linebacker Courtney Upshaw appeared to be keeping an eye on the running back only so was Dre Kirkpatrick instead of dropping back. Reuben Randle caught the ball in stride at his own 45 and already had too big of a lead on junior safety Mark Barron to be stopped for the longest play Alabama has yielded this season.
The end-around: On third-and-4 at the LSU 35, Kirkpatrick read it but his relays to the other side didn't seem to get there in time. Once receiver Russell Shepard got around senior linebacker Chavis Williams he cut between two blocks with only Barron preventing a touchdown. He was shook up and had to leave the game for a play after taking a painful cleat to the midsection while making the tackle.
Fourth-and-1reverse: Saban stated during his press conference that there was someone assigned to prevent a misdirection play. Upshaw followed the running back before he gave the ball to tight end Deangelo Peterson and junior linebacker Jerrell Harris didn't keep the containment resulting in the 23-yard gain to set up a touchdown.
Sack and fumble: For the second straight year defensive tackle Drake Nevis had a monster game against Alabama, with this his best play. Nevis got off so quickly and turned junior center William Vlachos aside so fast that McElroy actually never saw him coming. The quarterback was looking at junior running back Mark Ingram to unload a screen when Nevis reached out while falling and knocked the ball loose before hitting Greg McElroy squarely on the knee. Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who was blitzing up the middle, made the fumble recovery.
Third-and-13: Alabama was desperate to get the ball back and LSU had third-and-13 at its own 20, when Lee connected with Randle for a 47-yard completion to essentially kill any hope of a comeback. True freshman cornerback DeMarcus Milliner had the initial coverage, but released him to ... no one, with sophomore safety Robert Lester already on Shepard. When Milliner seemed to realize that Jones had the underneath route, Deangelo Peterson, he tried to catch up but it was too late.
Julio Jones vs. Patrick Peterson: The junior receiver finished with 10 receptions for 89 yards and one touchdown. Of those, Peterson was covering him on six of the catches for 51 yards. The 19-yard pass off Jones' back shoulder was tied for Alabama's longest completion. The thing that makes Patterson so impressive is the way he wraps people up, giving up almost nothing like with Richardson's touchdown when he barely got it over the line. Overall the Tide didn't do well in yards after the catch with just 93, the longest being the 12 by Dial on his 19-yard gain, its second-worst showing of the season.
McElroy's day: Fans looking to place blame need to look elsewhere because except for the interception McElroy played pretty well. A bigger question is why Alabama didn't go after LSU's two true freshmen in the secondary after two starters left with injuries? McElroy completed 21 of 34 attempts, with Alabama arguably having a season-high five drops to go with an arm hit, three pressures and a deflection. On the three touchdown drives he was 13-for-15 for 136 yards. He was 7-for-11 on third downs and 3-for-4 in the red zone. Delayed blitzes factored in the other two sacks, one after Richardson went out for a pass. Incidentally, McElroy went over 2,000 passing yards for the season.
Special teams: Alabama had its worst performance of the year. In addition to the fake punt, Richardson nearly goofed on the return he mishandled and downed in the end zone, there was a bad snap on the second extra-point, junior Brad Smelley recovered the fumbled return by junior Marquis Maze and no one was able to recover the punt that hit Ron Brooks, though he only had to fall on the ball. After a poor first punt freshman Cody Mandell responded well by booming a 50-yarder and dropped two within the 10. Kirkpatrick made a key block on a punt return to keep the ball from being downed deep in Alabama territory. True freshman Jalston Fowler was on kick returns and true freshman Nick Perry played kick coverage.
The penalties: Alabama had season-low three penalties, although a holding call on Vlachos was declined. Maze was called for a block to the back, Ingram was flagged for holding and sophomore guard Chance Warmack had a false start. Officials could have called LSU for a pair of out-of-bounds hits and defensive end Barkevious Mingo punched McElroy's helmet.