10 January 2012
I have been going to Alabama football games since 1983. I have been fortunate enough to only miss a half a dozen or so games (home and road) since 1998. I have now been present for Alabama winning three national championships. I feel confident in this next statement being more truth than hyperbole:
I have never seen a good football team be beaten so thoroughly and completely as Alabama whipped LSU on Monday night.
If someone didn't watch the game and only looked at the 21-0 score, they would obviously think that the Tide handled LSU pretty well. They would also have no idea how little of a chance that LSU actually had in the game.
When the Tigers beat Alabama on November 5 there were a lot of people who thought that the Tide outplayed LSU. Bama moved the ball well all night and gave its offense ample opportunity to score points. Four missed field goals, and interception at midfield, and an interception at the one yard line helped keep the score close. That interception at midfield was returned into the red zone, and a single blown coverage gave LSU a 34 yard gain that put them in position for their other field goal in regulation.
On Monday night the Tide moved the ball well again. That was the only similarity.
On 12 offensive possessions, Bama managed to score six times. One of the six in which it did not was the final possession of the game, where Bama had no intentions of scoring. So that means that Bama scored on six of its 11 regular possessions. Out of those eleven, Bama failed to pick up a first down only twice - the third quarter possession that followed CJ Mosley's interception (missed FG), and a fourth quarter possession where Bama was simply stonewalled (punt).
As a matter of reference, LSU had 11 offensive possessions. The Tigers managed a first down on only four of them. Bama forced LSU into six "3 and out" possessions, and Mosley's interception happened on the second play of a drive. LSU had one drive where they managed more than one first down (Alabama had seven). LSU's eleven drives consisted of the following number of offensive plays: 3, 3, 5, 3, 3, 5, 2, 3, 6, 8, 3. They simply never had any opportunity to establish an offensive rhythm.
LSU crossed midfield just one time, a fourth quarter possession that saw them reach the Alabama 32 yard line. Bama stuffed Michael Ford on the option for a three yard loss, which was followed by two incomplete passes. On fourth down Dont'a Hightower stripped Jefferson in the backfield and Nick Gentry recovered the fumble at midfield. As if to punish the Tigers for their audacity at entering Bama territory, Bama scored the game's only touchdown four plays later.
The play that got LSU across midfield was an 18 yard run by Jordan Jefferson. It was one of only two plays of greater than 10 yards for LSU the entire night (Odell Beckham's 19 yard reception was the other). Bama had 11 plays of a greater than 10 yards. The Tide had at least one on 9 of their 12 offensive possessions.
LSU averaged 375.31 yards per game coming into the night. The Tigers managed 92 yards against Bama on Monday. Let that sink in for a moment, folks. In the biggest game of the season, on the biggest stage, the Alabama defense held LSU to 283.31 yards less than their average - just 24% of their normal output.
It wasn't just the Bama defense that was responsible for this ass whipping.
The LSU defense averaged allowing 252.08 yards per game coming in. Bama's offense put 384 yards on them. The Tiger's allowed just 10.54 points per game. Bama doubled that at 21.
How about the special teams?
While LSU had more kick off return yards than Bama, 125-32, LSU averaged just 20.8 yards per return - 6 yards less than Morris Claiborne's season average. Bama's 32 yards came on just the one return - the only time LSU had to kickoff the entire game.
Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu had just one punt return for one yard. It was probably the hardest one yard of the night, as he was immediately driven twenty yards backwards by a swarming Bama coverage team led by Dre Kirkpatrick. While that might have been sweet revenge against Mathieu for the assault he committed on Kirkpatrick in the November 5 game, the fact that Bama repeatedly completed passes over his head was probably a little sweeter.
So while LSU had just the one return yard (Cody Mandell's other two punts went out of bounds), Bama averaged 22.3 on its three returns - including the game's first big play, a Marquis Maze 50 yarder that helped put Bama on the board.
Cody Mandell has his best game of the season, averaging 44.3 yards per and not allowing Mathieu any opportunity to generate the momentum swinging play that he was able to pull of in LSU's final two games. While Brad Wing average 45.7 yards per punt, that difference of just 1.4 yards has to be considering a win for the Tide. Especially so when you consider that the only big play in the return game came off of a Wing punt.
Add to all of that the fact that Jeremy Shelley twice established a new career long in field goals (41, 44) and obliterated the previous BCS record of two makes in one game. His five made field goals will likely be a record that stands for quite some time.
So, essentially, Bama dominated LSU on the offensive side of the ball. Bama won the special teams battle. And there just simply isn't a word for what Bama did to the Tigers defensively. It might be the single greatest defensive performance in a championship game.
Bama's 14th national championship took a bit of a different route than the 13 that preceded it. But at the end of the day, the Tide's complete domination of all facets of the game resulted in the same conclusion - Alabama is once again atop the college football world.
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