NEW ORLEANS -- Make no bones about it, Alabama was the better team on Monday night in New Orleans.
At the end of a 21-0 rout, which marked the first time a team has been shut out in the national championship during the BCS era, the Crimson Tide were nearly flawless.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron took home the game’s MVP award, finishing 23-of-34 passing for 234 yards.
Heisman candidate Trent Richardson ran for 100 yards on 20 carries, including the game’s lone touchdown.
While the kicking game bit the Tide the last time the two teams met, Jeremy Shelley’s five field goals on Monday night were good for a BCS Championship game record.
Then there was the defense, a unit that looked like they never missed a coaching moment from Nick Saban during the past month of preparation.
“They had a great scheme for us,” quarterback Jordan Jefferson said. “They aced the test.”
Jefferson struggled from start to finish, going 11-of-17 passing for 53 yards and an interception. Favored over fellow senior quarterback Jarrett Lee in large part because of mobility, Jefferson managed only 36 yards on 14 carries – an average of 1.1 yards per attempt.
“They did a great job of getting pressure,” Jefferson said about an Alabama defense that recorded four sacks and never gave him time to settle in. “They had some good blitzes every now and then.
“We just fell short offensively.”
How did things go south so quickly?
For starters, the offensive line was as bad as the quarterback play, a unit that was unable to keep Alabama from bringing pressure into the backfield – which stopped the run game in its tracks and made the Tigers all too predictable as the game progressed.
“They shut down the run and knew we were passing, and the offense could never get it together,” receiver Odell Beckham said. “(Jefferson) didn’t have time to really throw the ball. A lot of plays the receiving group felt like we were open, but I am looking back and he is getting sacked.
“It makes it hard on him to make a good play and throw the ball to the receivers when he doesn’t have much time.”
For left tackle Chris Faulk, Saban wasn’t dialing up anything out of the norm.
“They weren’t doing anything that surprised us,” Faulk said. “They were just bringing more than we could block.
Left guard Will Blackwell added: “They didn’t do too much differently. We just didn’t execute. They gave us some new looks, but nothing we had never seen before. We just didn’t block them. That’s going to be the part that hurts the most.”
As the dust settles, LSU fans will question the offensive game plan, no matter how lights out the Tide played on the defensive side.
After first-year offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa said he called a bad first game against Alabama and had drawn up a much better plan for round two, there was still plenty left to be desired.
On the ground, five different LSU runners managed a combined 79 yards on 27 attempts – good for an average of 1.4 yards a touch. After Jefferson and running back Michael Ford used the option attack to squeeze past Alabama in November, the Tide made certain it wasn’t fooled twice.
“They had a great game plan to stop the option,” said Ford, who finished with one yard. “I couldn’t really tell you what happened. We tried to trick them up by putting Kenny (Hilliard) in to run the option, but they had an answer for everything.”
So why not take a crack at a downfield passing attack, whether with Jefferson or backup Jarrett Lee?
Again, the Tigers didn’t have much of an answer for what Saban had dialed up.
“They were playing a lot of safeties over the top on both sides of the ball,” Jefferson said. “It was kind of hard taking those shots up the field because they weren’t giving us one-on-one.
“Taking shots down field wasn’t really the answer.”
In the end, with red and white confetti covering the Superdome floor, it was an Alabama defensive effort that forced LSU into its worst offensive performance of the season.
“We had some certain plays set up, but we couldn’t put the pieces together,” Beckham said. “All in all the game plan was to win, but we could never get anything going.”