Dillon Lee Stepped Up For Alabama

The enduring memory of Alabama’s 30-16 win over LSU in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night will be the Crimson Tide defense holding the Tigers’ outstanding tailback, Leonard Fournette, to 31 yards on 19 carries.

Also to be remembered, certainly, is Alabama tailback Derrick Henry perhaps vaulting past Fournette in the Heisman Trophy race as Henry had 38 rushes for 210 yards and three touchdowns.

In the future, it may prove that Adam Griffith’s 55-yard field goal was a critical play for the LSU game and for his confidence for the season as it gave Bama a 13-10 lead to take to halftime intermission.

Griffith’s field goal gave Alabama the lead after LSU had come back from a 10-0 deficit to tie the game. The three points just before halftime were important because LSU was to get the second half kickoff.

After the first two quarters, Fournette had 9 carries for 9 yards, but Tigers quarterback Brandon Harris had completed three passes for 90 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown pass to Travin Dural.

After Griffith’s kickoff into the end zone to start the second half, LSU started at its 25. Alabama had its run-stop defense on the field, but Harris came out passing. Jarron Reed put pressure on the LSU quarterback and his throw went between two potential receivers.

And in between those receivers was Alabama senior linebacker Dillon Lee. Lee picked it off – the first interception of the year suffered by the LSU quarterback – and the Tide was set up for Henry’s second touchdown and restoration of that 10-point lead at 20-10.

Lee was happy and his Bama teammates were happy. “Everybody was really happy,” Lee said. “I guess you could tell. Everybody kept slapping my head all the way back to the bench. It was something we needed coming out of the half to re-establish what we were trying to do.”

Of course, not everyone was happy. Lee’s interception came at the 32-yard line and was returned to the 28 on the LSU side of the field, where Lee went out of bounds. Anthony Jennings, the Tigers’ back-up quarterback, seemed to have words with Lee – probably not, ‘Nice catch.’

“He tried to take the ball away from me,” Lee said. “I was like, ‘Get out of here.’ I just turned around.”

Actually, it was a nice catch, in part because Lee’s left hand and wrist were heavily taped. “I was kind of worried about that,” Lee said. “I was noticing it in warm-ups. It was hard to catch because I had hurt my thumb and my wrist.”

Lee, a 6-4, 242-pound native of Buford, Ga., had more than his interception to show for the game. He thought it was his best college game ever. He said, “Just because I played good on defense. Had that interception. I thought I played good on special teams, had some special teams tackles that helped field position. I just felt I played a complete game.”

Lee was in on three tackles, including making one for a loss of five yards.

Lee, who plays an outside linebacker position, is ordinarily part of the run-defense package, along with Denzel Devall. In pass-rush defense, the outside linebackers are a different type, fast edge rushers, indicative of the “quick twitch” players Tide Coach Nick Saban has been adding to the defensive arsenal.

Lee said it starts with the defensive front. “They take a lot of pressure off the whole defense whether it’s pass rushing, gap control, demanding double teams,” he said. “They give the offensive line fits with their blocks. They affect every aspect of the game, and every game so far they’ve affected the quarterback.”

That, too, is a large group. Lee said, “We’re always rotating linemen in. We have Jarran Reed, Dalvin Tomlinson, A'Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen. They are all rolling in and all very good.”

Then come the rush linebackers who are usually in on pass situations, Tim Williams, Rashaan Evans, and Ryan Anderson.

Lee said Alabama’s defensive performance against Fournette and LSU “shows we’re ready to play against whoever. Playing us is a challenge, and I think we welcome any challenge, any offense.”

He also noted that opposing offenses usually change plans for the Tide. “Offenses don’t really do against us what they have been doing all season,” Lee said. “They try to do something different they think will work. Switch up.”

Before the season, fellow Bama linebacker Reggie Ragland said that opponents didn’t fear the Alabama defense like they had in the past. Lee said, “I think we’ve been good getting back to how it used to be, teams not wanting to play us, kind of creating a nightmare for offenses trying to move the ball in critical situations. I think we do a good job of that this year and I think we’re getting back to where the defensive trend used to be around here.”

There still is buzz about Alabama’s win over LSU, but now the Tide has to forget about that game and look ahead to Bama’s game at Mississippi State on Saturday. Kickoff in Starkville will be at 2:30 p.m. CST with television coverage by CBS.

Lee didn’t know about Ole Miss losing to Arkansas last Saturday afternoon until after Bama’s win over LSU, but he recognized the significance. And he thinks that helps the Tide going forward.

He said, “Since Ole Miss lost, we’re kind of back in control of what happens from here on out and I think the guys will be more excited this week, going into the next game knowing that every game we win from here on out is taking us where we want to go.

“Kind of like talking about getting up for LSU and it kind of inspires you to keep playing hard. Why stop now, or why make an excuse now like being tired, when everything is in front of us.”

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