REPORT CARD: LSU 28, Alabama 14

Dwayne Bowe, Jessie Daniels, Craig Davis, Peter Dyakowski, Daniel Francis, Ryan Gaudet, Keron Gordon, Chris Jackson, LaRon Landry, Justin Vincent and Keith Zinger.

 

They all became Tigers the year LSU won the national championship in 2003. In a series that dates back 101 years and 70 games, they are the only individuals who can say they played at LSU for four consecutive years and don't know what it's like to lose to Alabama.

 

Conversely, Mike Shula can still claim he doesn't know what it's like to beat LSU as the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback or as head coach of Alabama. Unfortunately for Shula, losing to the Tigers isn't his only concern. The Tide now have only the Iron Bowl to determine whether they will finish this year 7-5 or 6-6.

 

At the beginning of the season, LSU fans were lamenting the 2006 road schedule from Hell and were searching the home tilt to find anything decent. Arizona and Fresno State both proved to be flops, and the finger was pointed at Alabama as the marquis match-up. It's pretty evident just how unattractive the Tigers' home stand is this year when the "premier" opponent was an 18-point underdog. – the most lopsided spread Alabama has faced in the history of its program. Yes, the Rebels are still waiting in the proverbial wings, dreaming the impossible dream of beating LSU on Saturday. As this past Saturday showed Texas, Auburn and California, nothing is impossible.

 

A question to ponder – What will be the bigger topic on Alabama sports talk radio this week? How did Auburn lose to a Georgia team that lost to both Kentucky and Vanderbilt in the same season or how much does Alabama have to lose to Auburn by for Shula to be removed as head coach? The short answers for us are: We don't know, and it doesn't matter. Shula will be back for at least one more year regardless.

 

But we don't have to grade them.

 

 

THE OFFENSE

 

Without Will Arnold and Craig Davis, LSU flourished with a balanced attack. The Tigers rushed for 211 yards and passed for another 207 thanks to an 18-of-21 showing by JaMarcus Russell that included three touchdowns. On the ground, Keiland Williams looked like the featured back everyone has been waiting to see prior to twisting his ankle, Russell showed his elusiveness as a scrambler and anyone who carried more than once averaged at least 3.6 yards each time.

 

Bowe, Doucet and Jacob Hester played well in Davis' absence. Each hauled in a touchdown to keep the Tigers ahead of Alabama on the scoreboard, and both Bowe and Doucet continue to write their names in LSU's record book.

 

Doucet recorded the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, and Bowe and Russell are just one touchdown away from tying the duo of Tommy Hodson and Wendell Davis as LSU's all-time touchdown combo of quarterback-wide receiver.

 

The Tigers converted on all three of their fourth down attempts, including a fourth and one to keep alive the drive that put them ahead 21-0. But for Les Miles, nothing probably looked better than Peter Dyakowski getting way downfield to make the final block Williams needed to put LSU ahead 7-0.

 

A few warts, but LSU's 28 points ties the most given up by Alabama's defense this season.

 

GRADE: B+

 

 

THE DEFENSE

 

LSU's No. 1 ranked defense missed Jessie Daniels a lot more than the Tigers' offense missed Arnold and Davis.

 

At times, Chevis Jackson and Keron Gordon seemed lost or shocked that John Parker Wilson hadn't been sacked yet. Much like against Tennessee, the Tigers' secondary didn't always get over in time to make plays. The result – LSU's defense gave up 291 yards through the air. But they allowed just 78 on the ground.

 

After a shaky start that saw the Crimson Tide's offense moving down the field, seemingly at will, LSU clamped down. The Tigers forced two punts and a fumble in the red zone to stop Alabama from adding to their 14-point total in the first half and then completely shutout the Tide in the second half. In fact, Alabama didn't reach the red zone once in the second half.

 

There were times where a nanosecond would have meant more sacks or incomplete passes for the Tigers, and there were definitely some passes Wilson threw that were completed by sheer luck or skill on his wide recievers' part.

 

Yes, the Tigers gave up 369 yards, but four sacks, two turnovers, 2.8 yards per rush and holding Alabama to 3 of 11 on third down conversion attempts evened that out.

 

GRADE: B (for Bend, don't Break)

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

As on offense, Craig Davis was missed. Early Doucet stepped in to take up the slack here as well though. No, Doucet didn't return any punts for touchdowns. In fact, Doucet's return average was negative .5 for the two punts he did return. But he didn't put the ball on the ground, and that is always priority one.

 

No field goals were attempted, but Colt David did extend his consecutive PATs made mark to 75. He is now alone in second place in school history in that category.

 

All four of the Tigers' punts seemed to go off with out a hitch, and when Alabama attempted a fake punt, LSU was able to stop that as well. The only glaring glitch came after the Tide scored their second touchdown and the Tigers fell asleep on an unexpected onsides kick. Thankfully for the Tigers, that recovery did not result in anymore points for Alabama.

 

GRADE: B-

 

 

COACHING

 

Offensively the Tigers' game plan allowed them to do what they wanted. The running game opened passing lanes and, in the end, LSU was able to run out the clock without having to put the ball in the air.

 

Defensively the Tigers gave John Parker Wilson too much time to throw the ball for much of the first half and didn't pressure him enough until the second half. But there were no three-man rushes, and give Alabama's front line credit for keeping LSU's front four from simply running over them. The Tigers were forced to switch to something different on defense than what they originally thought they could do and still held Kenneth Darby to 2.8 yards per carry.

 

Following the first road win of the season, the coaching staff had their team ready to play. There was no letdown, and mathematically LSU is still playing for a shot at the SEC Championship and a BCS Bowl berth.

 

GRADE: A


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