Alabama Football: What We Learned From The LSU Game


With each passing week we’ll learn more about the 2014 Alabama football team. We’ll spot trends as they emerge and puzzle at both the positive and negative outliers. In this weekly feature I’ll highlight a handful of the lessons this team is teaching me.

This team needs to win – This Alabama team has a flair for the dramatic. It seems to make plays when those plays will make the boldest of statements. Opening touchdowns against Florida and Tennessee, two offensive revival drives against that same Tennessee team, and Saturday the drama went to a new level. After nine punts, a missed field goal, and a fumble; the Tide offense came to life and was nearly flawless in driving for a tying field goal and later a game clinching touchdown in overtime.

The defense is in on the action too. While LSU controlled the ball for over 12 minutes in 3rd quarter, perhaps the most compelling stat of the game was the zero points their efforts yielded. I’m reluctant to call anyone a team of destiny, especially in college football where fortunes can turn on a dime, but this squad doesn’t simply want to win, it seems to possess a need for it. That’s good. They’ll need it.

Saban is not calling plays– Twice, once going into half and once following the game, Saban lamented the Tide’s play calling. Both times he was colorful in saying the Tide was wasting snaps by continuing to pass the ball against the Tigers while he remained convinced the Tide could move the ball on the ground. In times past – last year’s LSU game being a prime example – when Saban has suggested a need for the Tide to run the ball, the play calling has obliged. However, such was not the case Saturday.

Saban did elaborate in his postgame comments. When faced with select man to man looks, the game plan called for Blake to have the option to check into a pass play. It was not a bad design but it proved to not be effective.

So why didn’t the Tide switch to a running attack, especially in the 3rd quarter when the defense could use the break? Because Saban is granting Kiffin the autonomy many believe his predecessors were not allowed. Was it a condition of the hiring? Will it sour the relationship? Will it inspire a new wave of offensive creativity? All unanswerable questions today but the matter of who is running the offense was put to bed.

Buy the Alabama Offense – I’m taking a long position on this Alabama offense after Saturday night. Sticking with the stock analogy, many are selling after the dismal showing – did I mention 9 punts, a fumble, and a missed field goal? But I watched the entire first half thinking the Tide’s timing was only slightly off. An extra inch of separation here, holding onto a pass there and this offense gets rolling.

Since I may already been alone on this island, I’ll press my point. The Tide’s physical execution was sharp. The play calling, while pass heavy, was opportunistic in design. The ball was spread around as 7 receivers caught passes. Mentally there were lapses and Blake remains good for a couple head scratchers each week, but taken in context of their prior road performances, the Tide was just off the mark against the Tigers.

And the Oscar goes to – It remains true that some games pivot on only a handful of plays. One such play was the personal foul on LSU lineman Vidal Alexander for shoving Tide defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson following the Tiger’s first play after recovering Yeldon’s fumble at Alabama’s six yard line. The 15 yard penalty placed the ball at the 21 and put LSU in a 2nd and long situation. Alabama’s defense held LSU to a field goal which they would later match to send the game to overtime.

What you may not have noticed, the TV commentators didn’t, was Robinson’s acting job. Daniel Moore won’t paint a picture of it, but A’Shawn’s Flail in Death Valley helped to keep the Tide’s dream alive.

Check back next week as I continue to track these and new items as they emerge from the field. Also be sure to check out the Alabama football podcast on iTunes as I explore and debate these topics and many more in a more animated format.