L.S.U. Has a Week to Reflect on Alabama
By Paul Myerberg // Jan 10, 2012
L.S.U. has eight months to dwell on last night’s loss, which means that the Tigers can wallow in self-pity all the way until September, if they so chose. I’d advise against that: as L.S.U. well knows, any extended time spent treading water means you’re losing ground in the do-or-die SEC. What the program has is days, perhaps a week, to look back at a disastrous Monday night – any additional time would leave L.S.U. behind the eight ball in recruiting, and that’s not a good idea anywhere, but especially in, yeah, the SEC.
The initial look back to a B.C.S. National Championship Game loss doesn’t necessarily reveal an off night: calling it simply an off night for the Tigers doesn’t give due credit to Alabama, which dominated in every facet, both on the field and along the sidelines.
It’s in the latter, last night’s coaching, that L.S.U. has questions it needs to address. Not in the big picture, perhaps. This is the same staff that led the Tigers to a perfect 13-0 regular season, complete with a dominating SEC title game win over Georgia and, though this seems ages ago, an overtime victory in Tuscaloosa.
But you saw the dichotomy in in-game adaptability once Nick Saban and Kirby Smart revealed their defensive game plan. It was very simple, but deadly in its simplicity: dominate on first down, control L.S.U.’s ability to move east-west, get physical on the edge and bring the house on clear passing downs.
Deadly, and pure, vintage Alabama football as played under Saban. The Tigers never adjusted. And here’s guessing that even superb in-game alterations wouldn’t have played a significant role, considering how well the Tide were playing defense, but making changes – changing personnel, formations, packages – would have given L.S.U. a chance.
Offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa maintained a vanilla approach. Here’s the moment that stands out: L.S.U.’s drive to open the fourth quarter, when the Tigers already trailed by 15-0. On the first third down try, a 3rd-1, L.S.U. called for a quick-hitting run up the middle to Kenny Hilliard; he gained two yards, giving L.S.U. a first down.
First down from its own 33: L.S.U. calls on Michael Ford, who gains three yards. Second down, seven yards to go: Jordan Jefferson gains another three yards to the 39. That leaves 3rd-4, and to convert, the Tigers call what seemed like the identical play that Hilliard ran to convert the previous first down.
No imagination, and no chance. Alabama cut the play down for no gain, if not a short loss, and L.S.U. punted it away. It’s just one series, but the team’s failure to try anything different – to try whatever it takes to do the impossible, it seems, and move the ball – stands in stark contrast to Alabama’s ability to move the ball with far less difficulty.
In terms of personnel inflexibility, L.S.U.’s decision to stick with Jefferson despite his extreme struggles seems out of tune for a program and staff, led by Miles, that has made hay off of playing hunches. Jarrett Lee is not a great fit against this Alabama defense, no. But anything had to be an improvement; Lee should have played a series, if not one play, in an effort to provide a spark for a listless offense.
L.S.U. failed on offense. The Tigers failed on special teams, failing to provide the sort of big-play moment that propelled wins over Oregon, West Virginia, Arkansas and Georgia. And L.S.U. even failed to regain its regular season form on defense, as the Tide negated the Tigers’ advantage in the secondary.
Nary a peep from Tyrann Mathieu, who was made impotent as a return man by Alabama’s ego-swallowing punt game. Out of bounds or high in the air: Alabama didn’t give Mathieu a shot. And on defense, Mathieu’s one moment on center stage may have come on Kevin Norwood’s amazing sideline grab to close the first quarter.
So where does L.S.U. stand today? In the same boat as Florida following the 2009 SEC title game, as noted earlier today. After challenging Alabama in the regular season – more than challenging, actually – the Tigers need to regroup and reload in time for next fall, when the national title chase begins anew.
Florida never recovered; the Gators were so thoroughly dominated that they’ve yet to recover, and this year’s team was light-years removed from both L.S.U. and Alabama. The Tigers are cut from different stock: the Tigers will be back, but it’ll take some soul-searching to recover the lost momentum. The program has a week or so to wallow. By late January, it’ll be time to refocus.
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Tags: Alabama, B.C.S. National Championship Game, Florida, Greg Studrawa, Jordan Jefferson, Kirby Smart, L.S.U., Les Miles, Nick Saban, Tyrann Mathieu
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