Thomas' Take: Grading Alabama

LSU came up short in Tuscaloosa and after reviewing the film Scouting Analyst Jason Thomas hands out his grades on the Tigers.

There’s been so much debate over the officiating on Saturday ranging from blown calls to a flat out conspiracy theory.

Well, let me start by saying that penalties and blown calls do not cost you a game. They did not cost LSU this football game.

With that being said, there are three different plays that point to the shoddy officiating that most saw on Saturday and for a league that makes as much money as the Southeastern Conference does one would think that SEC Commissioner Mike Slive would want to address this deficiency rather than throw his weight around with fines and memorandums to those who point out the obvious.

On the first LSU series, on a third down and five, Jordan Jefferson drops back and surveys the field and decides to run for the first down. If you watch the play, he seems to be about a half yard past the first down marker when an Alabama player knocks him back a few yards for the tackle.

The line judge is right there and spots the ball not where Jefferson’s forwards progress was, but where he was tackled. Instead of a first down you now have fourth and a foot. That’s a big call on the first drive of the game and it was lousy, or just downright corrupt.

Later in the game, Alabama was flagged for pass interference, but the flag was waived off because the pass was deemed uncatchable.

That same exact play happened to LSU later in the game, and yet the flag was not waived off.


Finally, there is the interception that was not. You can sit here and hem and haw and say that maybe he had possession, maybe his foot was down, etc. That stuff isn’t important to me. That was a catch, he was in bounds, and the play should’ve been overturned.

At this point, why not just get rid of instant replay? It’s obviously not being used properly. I’ve seen bad calls not overturned, and good calls made into bad calls thanks to the booth.

This isn’t an LSU/Alabama problem. It’s an SEC problem and it’s widespread. I dare say that there is so much money riding on college football these days that it’s unfortunate but not surprising that these things happen weekly.

Now LSU fans keep in mind that before the interception that wasn’t there was a fourth and six. The Tigers were going to get the ball back, but Daniel Graff ran into the kicker. The interception play never should’ve even come about, so let that go.

One last thing on that fourth and six punt. After marking off the penalty, suddenly Alabama has fourth and inches?  How does fourth and six turn into fourth and inches when it was a good six yards to go for the first down?

This happens way too much in way too many games, and there is no accountability. Oh wait…if you’re a coach and you complain about the officiating then you get fined.  Nice.

Alabama won the game people. I’m not completely convinced they’re better than LSU, especially a healthy LSU team, but they won. Life goes on. Move on. LSU somehow moved up in the BCS rankings and they now sit at number eight and that’s right Tiger fans, one ahead of the dreaded USC Trojans.

It seems the Tigers garnered more respect in losing than they had in winning seven previous contests.

Facing this LSU team now is the task of regrouping and fighting their way to a 10-2 finish. Will they continue to fight the way they did so admirably on Saturday or will they cash in their chips early like they did last year after the tough loss to Bama? Last year, after the Alabama game, it appeared that the LSU team had had its heart ripped out. It will be interesting to see how they respond to this. But before we move on let’s take a look and see how the Tigers graded out on Saturday.


Really unfortunate that Jordan Jefferson got hurt early in the second half. He was having a solid game in a hostile environment and was on his way to becoming a big time college quarterback. He still will make it, but this game would’ve been a huge confidence builder had he finished it.

Jefferson said he sprained his right ankle and he worked on taking some drops on the sideline to see if he could plant on his foot but to no avail.

With Jefferson on the sideline Jarrett Lee got his chance and played as well as you could expect given the circumstances. But his lack of mobility really hurts the offense.

Jefferson finished the game 10 for 17 for 114 yards and one touchdown. Jefferson while playing threw the ball accurately and was making not only quick decisions, but the right decisions. This game should’ve been his coming out party taking the magnitude of the game and the environment that he was in into consideration. Instead Tiger fans will be left wondering what if.

Lee finished the game 4 for 10 for 44 yards. He was sacked twice and threw one interception. The interception was on a fourth and long and it was a desperation throw. Frankly, Lee doesn’t look comfortable in the pocket when athletes start flying all around him. But, in his defense, very few backup quarterbacks would against one of the best defenses in the country.

Grade Incomplete

Running Backs

Charles Scott is another player that LSU fans really needed to see finish the game. At the completion of his longest run (34 yards), Scott came down awkwardly and broke his collarbone.

His regular season is over, and it’s too bad. Scott was really starting to play well, and he was hammering the Alabama secondary and linebackers. Hard to say, but I’m not sure if LSU loses this game with Scott and Jefferson in the game.

That’s football though. Scott finished with 13 carries for 84 yards.

Stevan Ridley came in and carried the ball twice for a total of eight yards, but did score a touchdown in the red zone. Ridley looks ready to fill in with Keiland Williams. On the touchdown, he started to his left, hit a brick wall, stepped back and beat the entire Alabama defense to the outside on the right for the score.

That’s good instinctual running. It’ll be interesting to see how much he plays and how well he plays the rest of the season.

Grade B

Wide Receivers

For the most part, Alabama did a good job of containing the LSU wide outs. Terrance Tolliver had four receptions for 46 yards with a long of 41. This play was an 8 yard hook and Tolliver beat the corner and streaked down the sideline. It took three Alabama defenders to bring him down.

On the next play, Charles Scott rushed for four yards, and then LSU got an illegal substitution penalty and the drive stalled. It was a strange decision. Scott and Williams were lined up in the I formation with Scott at fullback. LSU had a lot of momentum, and then the drive stalled thanks to multiple personnel packages and bizarre play calling.

DeAngelo Peterson catches his first touchdown as a Tiger

Brandon LaFell also had four receptions but for only 28 yards. LaFell took the loss hard. You could see the young man crying on the sideline at the completion of the game. That’s hard to watch.

The backup tight end came into the game and made a pretty big impact with Richard Dickson nursing an injury on the bench. DeAngelo Peterson had two catches for 40 yards and one touchdown. It’s a big stage for a true sophomore to make his first start and he played well.

LSU looks to be in good hands at tight end when Dickson moves on to the NFL.

Grade B

Offensive Line

Considering the caliber of their opponent, the line played their best game of the year. Before he got hurt, there was room for Charles Scott to run.

When Jefferson was in the game, there was plenty of time to throw the football. The loss is tough to swallow, but it should be pointed out that LSU appears to be playing very good football right now.

Jefferson was sacked only once. Lee was sacked twice, but Lee is a statue. He has no ability to move away from pressure and once Jefferson was out of the game, Nick Saban dialed up the pressure.

It was a good effort by an often criticized offensive line.

Grade B+

Defensive Line

This grade is tough. The defensive line and the defense in general played really well in the first half. They didn’t play so well in the second half.

It was clear early in the game that LSU was keying on Mark Ingram and it worked. Nick Saban saw that so he threw the ball more but when Ingram did get the ball he didn’t gouge LSU too badly with six carries for 38 yards.

Kelvin Sheppard logged eight tackles and picked off a pass

In the second half, though, Ingram and the Tide got rolling as he rushed 16 times for 107 yards. In fairness to LSU, Alabama seemed determined to throw the football in the first half. After halftime, they decided to go back to what had worked so well for them all season.

Drake Nevis had the best game of all the defensive linemen. He had seven tackles with two solo and five assists. He also recorded a sack and a safety.

Grade C


They didn’t play like the dominant squad that LSU fans have come to expect. Again, the opponent deserves some credit. Alabama has a fine football team, and they excel at running the football with a big offensive line.

Perry Riley got hurt and Jacob Cutrera filled in admirably. Cutrera recorded a career-high 11 tackles with four solo and seven assists.

Kelvin Sheppard had eight tackles with four solo and four assists. He also intercepted a pass late in the half to keep Alabama from scoring. Saban went ballistic on the sideline undressing his quarterback Greg McElroy for making the throw.

Grade C

Defensive Backs

Well it’s another tough one to score. Patrick Peterson was in and out of the game with leg cramps. His big play of the game was not recorded.

The sophomore cornerback had his way with Julio Jones all day, but Jones got free on a short route while Peterson was on the sideline. And 73 yards later, Alabama took the lead in the fourth quarter and never looked back.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that if Peterson was in the game, this play never happens, and maybe LSU wins. But Alabama made a play and LSU didn’t. It was an unfortunate chain of events for LSU fans to digest.

With Peterson out at that point, you’d expect the LSU defense to be in more of a shell coverage, but it’s easy to second guess.

Chad Jones had another solid outing. He was hammering people in the secondary and popped a few balls lose. Marquis Maze did beat Jai Eugene over the top on an inside release, and Jones was late getting over there.That should’ve been an interception or at least a broken up pass.

Not sure why Eugene got the bulk of the time ahead of Chris Hawkins. He’s certainly athletic enough and talented, but right now he still gets caught looking in the backfield and sitting down on short routes. He was beaten on a few more plays, but Greg McElroy was unable to find his target.

Hawkins is much more fundamentally sound at this point, though he doesn’t have the athletic ability that Eugene has.

Grade C+

Special Teams

It was an outstanding game by LSU punters Derek Helton and Josh Jasper. I’ve given the punt team plenty of grief this year, and credit is due. In the biggest game of the year, LSU’s punt squad performed flawlessly.

Helton had six punts for a 47 yard average. His long punt of the day was 51 yards and he had great hang time all afternoon. Considering he was out last week with an injury, this young man came back strong.

Josh Jasper is the pooch punt specialist and he also was able to land two punts inside the Alabama 1 yard line. There is no question that the punt team kept LSU in this football game.

LSU even contained Javier Arenas minus a 40-yard kickoff return that led to the Crimson Tide’s only score of the first half – a Leigh Tiffin field goal.

Grade A+

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