In the grand scheme of things, Saturday’s LSU-Alabama game probably didn’t quite live up to pre-game hype – the ‘Game of the Century’ label that many applied to it.
There was no question how impactful it was for the Tigers’ players, though.
“Biggest game ever played in,” safety Brandon Taylor said. “It means a lot to come out with a win in a game like that.”
Added defensive end Sam Montgomery, “It was probably the most physicalest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Some national pundits have dubbed the 9-6 overtime slugfest ugly, ostensibly of how dominant the two defenses were.
Alabama never got deeper than LSU’s 17-yard-line and snapped the ball only four times from inside the 20. The Tigers’ lone trips into the red zone came at the end of the first half and in overtime.
But ugly? That was certainly in the eye of the beholder.
|Mo Claiborne: Snared one of two key interceptions for LSU in the 9-6 win vs. Alabama|
“It was a thing of beauty,” cornerback Morris Claiborne said. “The whole game was intense. We knew couldn’t slip up or make too many mistakes. I loved it.”
So did Montgomery.
“Old-school football, classical football, it’s not about points,” he said. “It’s about when you get two competitive teams that go down to the wire. Get back to what football used to be: Low-scoring, pounding the football for four quarters until the first person gives up.”
The defenses were so dominant Saturday, so captivating, it was impossible for the Tigers to not pay attention when they were on the sideline.
With a huge video screen in each of the four corners of Bryant-Denny Stadium, it wasn’t difficult to catch a glimpse of Alabama’s defense in action.
Some players even eschewed their normal spot on the bench to stand and watch their counterparts do their work.
“You might never see two defenses like that on the same field the rest of your life, so you have to watch,” Taylor said. “We were sneaking some looks whenever we could. If you’re a defensive player, you love to see that kind of game on both sides.”
Added Montgomery, “We had to watch their defense. There’s only one way to get better and that’s to watch other great players – take pieces from other people’s games and add to your own. That’s how you become a great player.”
One of LSU’s marquee players ran into trouble later in the victory with a penalty that could’ve cost the Tigers the victory.
On an Alabama punt, Tyrann Mathieu was flagged for holding against Tide gunner Dre’ Kirkpatrick as he sprinted downfield.
At full speed, it appeared that Mathieu intentionally clothes-lined Kirkpatrick from behind. Replays showed he actually reached up and grabbed Kirkpatrick around the top of his shoulder pads or jersey and jerked him down.
While it might not have been a dirty play, the block attempt was unnecessary and wiped out a 30-yard return by Odell Beckham Jr. and forced LSU to start a drive from its own 5 instead. Exacerbating matters, Mathieu threw his arms up as Kirkpatrick writhed in pain, indicating he hadn’t done anything wrong.
Miles was asked about the penalty Monday and said he agreed with the call, but said – as Mathieu did in a tweet directed at Kirkpatrick Sunday – the LSU player was using a technique the Tigers are taught.
“I thought that it was a very good penalty,” Miles said. “The attempt that Tyrann made was to hit him in the chest and be legal. In other words, what happens in a position like that is that the position the Alabama man had was in front of Tyrann and in position on the ball. So what Tyrann cannot do is hit him in the back. So Tyrann goes running to the position to try and hit him in the chest. I think he hit him legally, but the issue became that he went high and held. That was exactly the call. It was a holding call and I understand the call.”
Mathieu’s secondary teammates defended him Monday, and said the sophomore playmaker was bothered by the play as soon as it happened.
“If he did something, it wasn’t on purpose,” safety Eric Reid said. “It wasn’t malicious. I could see it in his face when he came off the sideline. It wasn’t anything flagrant.”
Added Taylor, “The way he reacted to us, it showed me that he’s growing up and puts this team before him. He’s not selfish at all. He cares about this team more than he does himself.”
Reid claims national honor
A day after being tabbed as the SEC Defensive Player of the Week, Reid picked up an even higher award Tuesday.
|Eric Reid: His hit and forced fumble against Trent Richardson helped set an early tone for LSU's defense.|
The Tigers’ safety was named the Bronco Nagurski Player of the Week after logging six tackles, forcing a fumble and coming up with a game-changing interception of the fourth quarter.
He joins Claiborne and Mathieu as LSU defensive backs who have earned national weekly awards this season.
Claiborne is a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award. He and Mathieu were both on the most recent watch list for the Bednarik Award, and Taylor is on the watch list of the Lott IMPACT Trophy.