There will in all likelihood be some different looks to Alabama’s offense Monday night in the BCS Championship Game, some added wrinkles to keep the tenacious LSU defense guessing.
No matter what the Crimson Tide coaches tweak and alter, though, it’s impossible for them to change their spots too much.
And there’s no reason to, either.
When the clash of college football titans unfolds at the Superdome with a national crown at stake, Alabama’s offense might be dressed a little differently but the leading man will be the same.
“It’s no secret they’re going to rely on Trent Richardson left and Trent Richardson right until we show we can stop him,” senior linebacker Ryan Baker said. “We have to be prepared for that, and we will be.”
Richardson was the bulk of the Tide’s offense in the first matchup with the Tigers. He ran for 89 yards – the most LSU allowed all year – and caught five passes for 80 more, helping set Alabama up for several field-goal attempts.
As good as the powerful junior was, though, LSU adjusted as the game went on and diminished his impact.
Part of that was shoring up pass coverage in the linebacker corps and not allowing Richardson to find wide-open spaces on swing passes.
“They did a great job of hiding him early and finding ways of getting him the ball,” Baker said. “We corrected that and we can’t let it happen again. He’s too dangerous with the ball in his hands.”
From the sound of things, the throws to Richardson on the flats surprised the Tigers. With that play neutralized in the second half and with LSU’s depth kicking in down the stretch, Alabama managed only 114 second-half yards and six first downs.
|Kevin Minter (46) and the Tigers have to focus on everybody getting a hat on Trent Richardson.|
“We had to adjust to a lot of stuff on the fly because they caught us off guard,” middle linebacker Kevin Minter said. “We came out in the second half with a whole different attitude and turned things around.”
As important as attitude figures to be Monday, solid fundamentals will also play a major role.
Any defensive player who answered a question about defending Richardson different offered a variation of “tackling better” as part of their answer.
Likewise, there won’t be any hesitancy for all 11 defenders to put a hat on the Tide’s superb back, who leads the SEC with 1,583 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground.
“You’ve got to make sure you keep your eyes on his hips and you can’t go for the head and shoulder fakes,” safety Eric Reid said. “Come through your hips when you make contact or else you end up on you back.”
Added defensive tackle Michael Brockers, “He’s very good at getting to the second level and exploding. When look at guy that big, you don’t feel like he can outrun you but when he gets to the secondary he’s gone There aren’t too many people who can catch him.
“If you get him go East-West instead of North-South, it’s going to be hard for him to make yards because our speed will get to him. He’s very hard to get down with a single tackler, but if we can get him running side-to-side and not give up any yards after contact, we’re going to be all right.”
Which goes back to the non-secrecy of the Tide’s offense.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron will throw the ball at times and Eddie Lacey will get his share of carries as the game wears on.
But for LSU’s proud defense, the focus is squarely on Richardson.
“By far he’s the best back in the country,” defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. “He’s big and physical and we know what we have to do to stop him and if we do that, it slows their offense down.
“If he’s going North-South or side-to-side, it’s never going to be one guy trying to tackle him. Whenever he gets the ball, we’ve got to all get on him and make it as hard as we can for him to get any yardage.”
Added Brockers, “There’s not a back like him that we’ve faced. He’s physical, he can beat you with speed, he can juke and make you miss. We’ve got to corral him better than we did before.”
With the unprecedented matchup, the Tigers also know Alabama will try some different things, particularly with McCarron. He threw for 199 yards in the first meeting and had as much time as he wanted on several dropbacks.
Whether LSU can bottle up Richardson or not, the threat of play-action gives the Tide some options. So getting to McCarron early and with gusto is high on the Tigers’ to-do list.
While there will undoubtedly be some blitzing to accomplish that feat, Brockers would like the defensive line to set the tone.
“We need to get up field and get in McCarron’s face to make him throw quickly and do whatever we can to rattle him better than we did before,” Brockers said. “That would change their approach a lot.”