The Game of the Century lived up to its billing in some ways. In others it was a tale of what might have been. The1 epic battle between the two best teams in college football answered a lot of questions. It’s clear Alabama has the best defensive unit in all of college football. LSU was shut down offensively and couldn’t find an answer for the Tide defense. However, Bama’s offense continued to shoot itself in the foot and made mistakes that were uncharacteristic for this team.
For those of you wondering what we do now, all hope is not lost. If Alabama continues to dominate the competition the rest of the year there is still a chance at a shot at the title game. If Oklahoma St. and Stanford lose, Alabama could be next in line for a rematch with LSU. OSU has Oklahoma at the end of the year and Stanford has to get by Oregon. Alabama must go out next week and keep doing what they have done all year long to convince voters they belong in that title game if the opportunity is there. This game offered highs and lows in bunches for the Crimson Tide and as much as it pains me to relive that game let’s get to it.
T-Rich. Trent Richardson put to rest any doubt about who the best player in college football is with a legendary performance. The loss will take away from his votes in the Heisman race, but he made a statement on the biggest stage, against a team focused solely on shutting him down. Richardson showed a level of talent, toughness and determination rarely seen at the college level and he just refused to be denied. If media favorite Andrew Luck loses to Oregon, Richardson should be in the driver’s seat.
Defense. Alabama’s defensive unit put to rest debate about who the best in the country is, shutting down LSU’s offense the entire game. All the hype surrounding the tigers four running backs and receiver Reuben Randle was proven to be just that. The big offensive playmakers for LSU were ineffective and a non-factor in the game. The entire Bama defense played an excellent game and stood helplessly on the sidelines while special teams missed field goal after field goal.
O-line. The Crimson Tide offensive line played their best game of the year and were absolutely dominant against an LSU defensive line experts said had the edge. I never bought into that hype and neither did the players; LSU rotated eight defensive linemen throughout the course of the game and Alabama’s O-line did an excellent job. McCarron was not picking himself up off the ground on every play and they kept opening small lanes for Trent. Barrett Jones played the last quarter on basically one leg and showed tremendous heart and determination.
Kicking game. All season long the kicking game has been a disappointment. Alabama has not been in a position all year where the lack of a solid kicking game has made any sort of difference in the final outcome. That certainly wasn’t the case last night, with Tide kickers missing two field goals and having one deflected. The first two attempts by Foster didn’t even come close to the uprights, and Shelly’s attempt was just too low as he tried to push the ball well beyond his range. The only way to fix this problem is to bring in a kicker who can actually give you a chance at winning. We can’t get #1 kicking prospect Adam Griffith on campus soon enough; he may prove to be the most valuable recruit in the 2012 class after all.
McCarron’s youth. A.J. McCarron played a good game against the number one team in the country, but his lack of experience was a factor. He was late in getting the ball to the receivers all night and that led to an interception resulting in a Tiger field goal. Saban was livid on the sidelines several times when A.J. overlooked a wide open receiver, choosing to throw into coverage instead. In overtime he threw a fastball right into Richardson’s gut on a screen pass, giving him no chance to make a play. On third down he felt some pressure coming from an LSU lineman, and instead of fighting to get to open field and get positive yards he basically laid down and took a huge sack. The negative yards on the sack and failure to get Trent the ball on the previous play left Bama out of field goal range once again.
Questionable coaching. I didn’t think I would have to be talking about coaching decisions in a game of this magnitude, but there were many decisions that left me baffled. Getting Trent the ball any way possible should have the priority but it didn’t seem to be at times. Calling a screen play on 3rd and 20 instead of 1st and 10 is just one example of the ineffective play calling that went on all night. Leaving Maze in to field a crucial punt when he was unable to run was just frustrating to watch, especially with the endless talent on the sidelines. It got even worse watching an injured Marquis Maze try and execute a trick play that involved him throwing a pass when the LSU defense had no answer for Trent Richardson. My pregame breakdown warned about not straying away from what you do best and not asking players to do things that they aren’t used to doing. Alabama did that and LSU didn’t.
Bad Officiating. The officials were solid most of the game, but there were calls and no-calls that are absolutely inexcusable. On the pass play from Marquis Maze to TE Williams it was called an interception on the field and then confirmed in the replay booth. That call was one of the worst I have ever seen in any game. I have spoken to several officials – college and high school – about this play and they all say it was simply a catch and a bad call. There wasn’t enough visible evidence to overturn it so it stood, but had the field official called it a catch it wouldn’t have been overturned. Williams had the ball when he hit the ground. At that point, he was down by contact and the play should have been dead. Reid took the ball away after he was on the ground, making it impossible to have been an interception.
On Alabama’s last punt of the game Dre Kirkpatrick beat Tyrann Mathieu off the line and had his sights on the return man. Mathieu ran up behind Dre and clotheslined him, grabbing his helmet, twisting his head and finally throwing him to the ground. This play was ruled holding by the officials, which is outrageous. Mathieu flagrantly and deliberately set out to injure Kirkpatrick and should have been flagged for personal foul and ejected from the game.
The lowest low is without a doubt the loss, and the team has to find a way to regroup and get ready for Mississippi State next week. Alabama made some uncharacteristic mistakes and were penalized at crucial times during the game. It took ten weeks to answer the question about which former players would be missed the most, but we all know now it is Julio Jones. McCarron has a decision to make as to what kind of quarterback he wants to be, and this game offers valuable lessons that will make him better if he looks at it that way. There’s a lot of football left to play, and this team needs to continue to improve in case they do get another shot at LSU.