REPORT CARD: LSU vs. Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - In a conference as historically prominent as the SEC, there are a number of games that can be recalled upon when speaking of the greatest games ever.

Teams so historically significant in college football history such as Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss, there are too many games to recall when it comes down to the greatest.


For LSU, Saturday's contest versus the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa will not doubt go down in the books as one of the Tigers biggest games – and greatest wins.


The Tigers 1959 date with Ole Miss was a huge game. It was the last time LSU met a team when both squads were ranked in the top five. No doubt the Tigers matchups with Georgia in the 2003 SEC title game and Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship game rank right up there as well, but Saturday's 16-13 overtime win over Alabama was one which we be recalled for decades to come.


While there are a plethora of games being overshadowed here, few games have carried the weight this one did. The SEC Western Division title on the line no doubt, a trip to the SEC title game, a BCS bowl bid and the very slim chance of a possible shot at a national title.


While the game meant a great deal to LSU in terms of a possible league crown, Alabama had more to lose. One of three unbeaten teams left in college football, the Crimson Tide entered the contest clutching desperately to its prefect record and dreams of possible getting into the national title game.


No game meant has ever meant more for a single person than Saturday's game did for LSU coach Les Miles. Already in a difficult situation following the legendary Nick Saban, Miles was faced with enormous expectations from the get-go. A loss to Tennessee on Sept. 26 made an already restless fan base grow ridiculously impatient and Miles needed the high-profile victory to quiet the vocal mob and add another feather in his cap of credibility.


While Miles earned major stripes on Saturday, his quarterback did the same. JaMarcus Russell came to LSU and was met with a hero's welcome. However, it took time for the 6-6 Mobile native to catch on and by the time hotshot Ryan Perrilloux arrived in August, Russell was thought of as old hat.


While he has played well most of the season, despite a few rough spots, many still called for backup quarterback Matt Flynn instead of Russell. It didn't matter that Russell ranked near the top in every passing category and ranked second in the league in passing efficiency, folks wanted a change.


Russell pretty much put the silencer on those critics Saturday delivering what will go down as one of the most memorable touchdown passes in school history to Dwayne Bowe in overtime.


This game had it all.


While there was more defense than offense, the game was an old school battle of super powers playing with everything on the line. There were momentum shifts, controversial plays, rallies, even overtime; in the end the Tigers came out on top.



The Offense:


From the start, it looked as if Alabama's defense was everything it was supposed to be.


The Crimson Tide blitzed and harassed Russell into incompletions, sacks and limited the Tigers ground game to literally nothing in the first half. Actually, the Tigers had one rushing yard on 14 attempts in the first two quarters.


In all, LSU totaled 72 total yards of offense, trailed 10-0 and showed no signs of life whatsoever


Then, as if a switch had been flipped, the Tigers came out in the second looking like a different team. LSU took the ball to open the third quarter, marched 80 yards in nine plays and cut Alabama's lead to 10-7 when Justin Vincent bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out on fourth and goal.


LSU scored on its next possession as well when Chris Jackson knocked home a 42-yard field goal to tie the game 10-10.


The different in the second half from the first, LSU stretched the field. In the first half, the Tigers didn't test Alabama's secondary deep. The Tide played single coverage on LSU receivers and packed the box to stop the Tigers running game. On LSU's first drive of the second half, Jimbo Fisher turned Russell loose and the sophomore responded.


By game's end, Russell didn't put up a good percentage (16 of 30 passes), but he did account for 229 yards and the game winning touchdown pass to Bowe in overtime.


Russell made as many bad throws as he did good ones, but played with lots of poise in the pocket and even executed a couple of designed quarterback draws implemented for this game. Miles said Russell did a good job of ad-libbing and he made things happen by scrambling around, sometimes awkwardly.


The running game produced a mere 46 yards in the game, however that stat is a bit skewed considering Russell lost 28 yards in sacks and Xavier carter was dragged down for a 13 yard loss on a botched double-reverse.


Joseph Addai left the game after re-aggravating an ankle injury sustained in the North Texas game. Justin Vincent did a terrific job in his absence running for 56 yards on 20 carries.


LSU's receivers, primarily Bowe, had a big game. Bowe hauled in seven passes for 98 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime. A very emotional Bowe celebrated with his teammates as the touchdown was sweet redemption after he dropped a sure TD pass that would have sealed the win earlier this year in the Auburn game.


Craig Davis had four catches for 58 yards and could have had another had the catch not been overturned by replay. Actually, three times officials replayed receptions by Davis, twice the calls on the field were upheld.


Overall, the offense did nothing spectacular, minus a couple of big league throws by Russell and sheer determination when trailing 10-0. But they did what needed to be done to leave Tuscaloosa with a victory. One of the keys to victory was the first team to 13 points would win the game. Alabama did score 13 first, but LSU got it chance to match that number and instead came up with 16.


Grade: B



The Defense:


Just as it was a tale of two halves for the LSU offense, the Tiger defense followed suit.

While the numbers on the scoreboard didn't look all that that lopsided at halftime with Bama leading 10-0, the stat sheet showed otherwise.


Entering the game, the Crimson Tide had scored all of one touchdown in 12 previous SEC quarters of football. By halftime, Alabama matched that total and tacked on a field goal for the 10-0 lead. However, the Crimson Tide's limited offense had rolled up 207 yards of offense and had to be kicking itself for not having more points on the board.


Little did LSU fans know that at halftime senior defensive tackle delivered a locker room speech that energized the team, things changed dramatically in the second half.


Thanks to several sacks and numerous big hits on Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle, the LSU defense held the Tide to four yards of offense in the third quarter. Up until Alabama put together a last gasp drive that gained 58 yards within the final minute and ended with the final horn in regulation, the Tide offense manufactured only nine yards on offense in 28-plus minutes of football.


While the LSU defense surrendered huge chunks of yardage in the first half, the Tigers made adjustments in the second half, instituted many more blitz packages resulting in quite an impressive defensive stat sheet. LSU logged five sacks, six tackles for losses and seven quarterback hurries. Cameron Vaughn, LaRon Landry and Williams all had seven tackles each while Ronnie Prude and Claude Wroten each had six stops.


Alabama's defense got al the notoriety coming into Saturday's game, but the Tigers' stepped up to the challenge of its senior captain and preserved the victory.


Grade: A



Special Teams:


It is hard to criticize LSU place kicker Chris Jackson for missing three field goals on Saturday.


All three misses were from 43 yards and beyond and none were outright shanks. He did make a 42-yarder that proved to be the difference in the game, but all the hoopla could have ended much sooner had he made even one of the three missed kicks.


What Jackson did lack in the scoring portion of LSU's kicking game he made up for punting the ball. Jackson punted six times for a 45 yard average with a long of 53 yards.


Skyler Green was a non-factor as he managed to return one punt one yard and totaled 28 yards on two kickoffs. Alabama took the senior playmaker out of the game continually sky punting the ball where Green couldn't get room to get going.


Grade: C+





Miles said there was really no comparing the Tigers win over Alabama to his pair of wins over Oklahoma when he was at Oklahoma State.


Miles said he expected to win this game while at OSU the Cowboys were heavy underdogs and just hoped to stay in the game. The first year coach felt he had the better team with the better talent and in the end that was the case. However, at the beginning, it looked as if the more talented team might get blown off the field.


But Miles, who has been criticized for not making effective halftime adjustments, did an outstanding job adjusting to the Tide and it showed in the second half.


But the most important thing he did Saturday was remain patient. The Tide loves to win ugly. They like to lull you to sleep with a lackluster offense and a flurry of punts until you let your guard down make a mistake that costs you the game.


Miles calmly played the Tide's cat and mouse game and picked his spots to strike both on offense and defense. The Tigers didn't turn the ball over as they were so prong to do earlier in the season and did not give Alabama cheap points on miscues.


Miles and his staff are to be commended for an excellent gameplan that worked to, well near perfection.


Grade: A

Tiger Blitz Top Stories