Neither was it the Alabama team from such heartbreaking, close-in-the-fourth quarter losses as Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee of the 2006 season. It wasn't that close. After LSU went up 14-0, LSU let Alabama get with in striking distance once right before the half, but came up with a big play Glenn Dorsey, causing a John Parker Wilson fumble that ended the scoring threat.
"I think we stopped ourselves," Alabama fullback Tim Castille said. "I don't think they did too much more. We really could have scored some more points in the first half. We had penalties that killed a drive and had that fumble before the half. I think we really should have went into the half tied."
He's right. They should have. But after 60 minutes of game time had elapsed, LSU was without a doubt the superior team: in offense, defense and special teams. And with all the talent on the other side of the field Saturday night in LSU's 28-14 win over Alabama, it could have been worse. It makes this game tough to diagnose.
There was some imagination on display from the offense, like when John Parker Wilson hit Kenneth Darby on a rollout right, throwback left that found him open in the end zone for Darby's first touchdown this season. They told us it had been in the playbook all season, but that was the first time we'd seen it, and it looked good. There was some chance-taking going on with special teams, first with a surprise onside kick and then with a fake punt attempt (that went awry) in the fourth quarter. On defense there was a difference that wasn't so good. Poor tackling which might be a credit to the talent of LSU players as much as anything.
"I thought our kids probably had as good a look in their eye before the game as they have ever had," Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said. "They blitzed us a couple of times down there (in the red zone) and disguised it well – and they are good."
"We didn't run it as efficiently in the second half as we did in the first half," Shula said.
The problems still existed, of course, but the difference was noticeable. It's a difference that many fans would have loved to see in Gainesville, or in Tuscaloosa against Duke and Ole Miss, or in Tennessee. What was unmistakable about Saturday's game in Baton Rouge was the agent of change. Despite public comments which remained status quo for the most part, and proclamations bordering on stubbornness about the offense, there was a noticeable shift in philosophy. The willingness to take calculated risk was present in full force.
Hopefully, changing the approach will pay off for Alabama next week against Auburn.