Draw pays dividends

Though the final score hardly showed it, Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione knew his offense would have to be at its best last Saturday. <br><br>"When you're going against the No. 1 ranked defense in the nation," he explained, "you have to invest in some things early in the game to try to get some dividends as the game goes on."

Franchione was talking about the first quarter, when the two squads engaged in something of a feeling-out process. Alabama ran inside a few times, with little or no positive result.

Then the Tide coaches started attacking the corners of the Bayou Bengal defense. "It was somewhat by design and also adjustments," Franchione related. "We felt like we needed to utilize our speed to get to the perimeter. We knew that it might not pay immediate dividends.

"That was an investment."

Benefitting from the block of Sam Collins on this play, Santonio Beard had two rushing touchdowns versus LSU. (Associated Press)

Switching to some option runs, the Tide tried to stretch out the defenders, hopefully creating some space between LSU's "coke machine" defensive linemen. But Nick Saban had his troops prepared for the play, as several times the Tide was stopped cold.

However, Franchione was "making an investment" that he knew would pay dividends later on. "Our early thoughts were to run the option and go to the perimeter with the sweep and throw the football," Franchione explained. "Then we would eventually come back to our tackle-to-tackle game. That's exactly what turned out. Early in the game we didn't have tremendous success with the option, but it seemed to create some vertical seams in their defense as they played horizontally.

"We just scratch where we were able to scratch, and we scratched out some yards on that play last night."

Franchione is, of course, understating. By game's end the Tide had run the ball 54 times, controlling the clock and amassing 300 yards on the ground.

But again, early on nothing came easily. "We're patient offensively," Franchione said. "I think we have enough of a maturity to us that versus LSU for a quarter and a half we just banged it around."

The first quarter ended scoreless, 0-0. But the Tide was to rise in the second. "Nobody on our team didn't believe that we weren't going to eventually score some points," Franchione said. "Sometimes some offensive teams are not quite that way. They can get discouraged. But we just kept hacking. Nobody felt frustrated."

Under the direction of position coach Lee Fobbs, Alabama's running backs are among the best in the nation.

Alabama struck first on a 64-yard second-quarter drive. Utilizing just one pass, the Tide drove to the LSU six-yard line, where Tyler Watts pitched to Santonio Beard for the score.

But a missed extra point had Bama up by less than a touchdown, making it anyone's game at that point. Then just before half the Alabama running game turned the tide.

Relying heavily on a simple draw play, the Tide rushed 96 yards down the field to score in less than two minutes. Franchione talked about the play calling. "We did not necessarily think our earlier game plan was going to lead us back to the draw play, but we did think it would lead us back to tackle-to-tackle running ability.

"If we had started the game running inside, I don't know that we would have eventually have had that kind of success."

At various times this season Alabama's running backs have picked up yards inside and out. Versus LSU Shaud Williams led all rushers, gaining 131 yards on 16 attempts. And Santonio Beard was again the designated scorer, racking up two touchdown runs as part of his 109-yard performance.

Both tailbacks shredded LSU with the draw. "It's a play that we used a lot early in the season, then we went to other aspects of our offense," Franchione said. "We really didn't go into Saturday's game thinking it was going to be a big part of things."

Against the then No. 1 defense in the nation, Alabama ran 79 offensive plays, dominating time of possession in the second half 21:33 to LSU's 8:27. Tide runners carried the football 54 times, but didn't fumble even once.

As usual, Shaud Williams ran hard versus the Bayou Bengals. (Associated Press)

Franchione commented on one reason the draw works so well for his team. "The draw play has been one that complements our ability to break the pocket with Tyler (Watts) and do things on the perimeter. We adjusted during the game.

"Saturday we got them running a little big sideways with the option, which opened up seams on the inside."

Among other accomplishments last season, the Tide led the SEC in rushing. This year its reliance on rushing has lessened, but Alabama's passing yards are significantly up.

As a result, with just one conference game remaining, the Tide leads the SEC in total offense. "The beauty of what we've done offensively is the multiplicity," Franchione noted. "When we get into a game and things are a little different from what we expected, we are able to adjust."

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