Rapid Reaction: Alabama wears down LSU in epic defensive struggle
On what had been an upset Saturday in the SEC, Alabama avoided the fate that hit Texas A&M and Florida.
Jalen Hurts rushed for 114 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown, and Alabama wore LSU down late for a 10-0 win at Tiger Stadium.
Alabama’s defense did a number on what had been a hot LSU offense, holding Leonard Fournette to 35 yards on 17 carries. The Tigers managed just 125 yards total offense.
What it means
Alabama solidified its spot as the SEC’s best team. Not only is the 9-0 Tide the only unbeaten team, the SEC’s one-loss teams in Texas A&M and Florida both lost.
It also meant the Tide continued its dominance of its SEC West rival, winning for the sixth straight time, including three wins at Tiger Stadium.
For LSU, now 5-3, the focus shifts to what to do with interim head coach Ed Orgeron. The speculation was that a win over Alabama might seal the job for him. With the SEC championship now out of the Tigers’ grasp, the shift goes to how well LSU finishes, and if it’s enough for Orgeron to get the permanent job.
What I liked
- The way Dwayne Thomas backed up his trash talk with big plays early. He had two tackles for loss and batted down a pass in the first half and had another tackle for loss in the second half.
- Alabama’s defensive front dominated LSU’s front in much the same way it did in last year’s 30-16 win over the Tigers. On most offensive plays when the Tigers would try to run power plays, the line would move backwards into the Tigers’ backfield.
- Alabama choosing to go for it on 4th-and-goal at the LSU 32-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Saban and Lane Kiffin showed aggressiveness and, of course, it didn’t hurt that the Tide’s defense was something to rely on. Bama went on to score the only TD of the game to go up 7-0.
- LSU’s defense on the the 4th-and-goal play on Alabama’s first possession of the second half. It had no chance from the beginning.
- Pinned inside its 10 twice, Alabama found plays to get it out of the hole both times.
What I didn’t like
- Alabama’s defense is great, but if the only team the Tide played was LSU, it might be the best defense ever. Having Steve Ensminger as offensive coordinator got the Tigers no more mileage against the Crimson Tide defense than when Cam Cameron was calling the shots.
- Hurts finally looked like a freshman at times with two turnovers in his own territory. But even though the defense wasn’t spotting him points, it did keep LSU from scoring.
Who’s the man
Ronnie Harrison spearheaded the Alabama defensive effort with two big plays.
He blocked Colby Delahoussaye’s 49-yard field goal in the first quarter to kill an LSU drive. Then, after Hurts scored a touchdown to gie Alabama the lead in the fourth quarter, he hit Tigers quarterback Danny Etling as he threw, allowing Minkah Fitzpatrick to intercept a wounded duck.
On a defensive day, those were huge plays.
Facing 2nd-and-15 at its own 5, Jalen Hurts found little-used backup H-back Miller Forristall wide open for a 22-yard gain to get the Crimson Tide out of the hole.
On the same drive, Alabama faced 4th-and-1 at the LSU 32, and the Crimson Tide broke the huddle late with trips bunched tight to the left and Hurts quickly pitched to Bo Scarbrough for a 10-yard gain, setting up the touchdown run.
It sparked a 90-yard drive that resulted in Hurts’ 21-yard touchdown run.
Both teams missed field goals in the first half. In the first quarter, Delahoussaye of LSU had his aforementioned attempt blocked by Harrison. In the second quarter, Alabama’s Adam Griffith missed a 42-yard attempt wide left.
It doesn’t get much easier for LSU going forward. The Tigers fly to Fayetteville next weekend to play Arkansas. Alabama hosts resurgent Mississippi State.