The last time the number one team in the country played the number two team in the country during regular season play was in 2006, and it happened twice in that season. Top team Ohio State defeated number two Texas and then went on to defeat later ranked number two Michigan.
Before 2006 though, one would have to go back ten years to 1996 to find the top two teams duke it out in regular season play. This is something that does not happen very often, so naturally the expectations were high with the matchup between top ranked LSU and Alabama.
The 9-6 final, is the lowest combined point total in a game between the country’s top two teams where there was a decided victor in the history of the AP Poll. The only game to have a lower point total had no winner, and it was a 0-0 tie in 1946 between Army and Notre Dame
To expect a high scoring affair between these two teams though would be naïve. On paper, this was a no brainer defensive bout for the ages. But I do not think anybody expected the kind of game we saw on Saturday. There was much speed and talent on offense. Someone was going to make a huge play, and we kept waiting and waiting, but it never came. It was not that the offenses were dysfunctional either, but the defenses just buckled down when they had to.
Watching the game, I felt like I was suddenly catapulted into the Bear Bryant days of power, hard nose football where neither team could score.
Alabama’s offense is centered around top tier running back Trent Richardson grinding down SEC defenses that normally have more speed than size. LSU has a more powerful defense and front seven than most teams in the conference, so to no surprise to me. Richardson was held to 89 yards on 23 carries, and most of those yards coming from two or three carries.
LSU’s defense stacked the box and made Alabama sophomore quarterback A.J. McCarron throw the football, which he was able find open receivers, but was never able to put a complete drive together. As the game rolled on, the frustration grew for McCarron and his efficiency decreased heavily in the second half.
This might not necessarily have been a problem for the Tide if they had a field goal kicker. We see it more and more these days. Teams don’t just have one kicker, but they have a long distance kicker and a short distance kicker. How can arguably the best team in the country not have one go to ice-blooded kicker?
In my mind, Alabama had the momentum throughout the majority of this game. LSU quarterback Jerrett Lee looked lost in the pocket and although Jordan Jefferson brought more intensity to the offense and moved the ball more effectively than Lee, he took a beating while doing so.
Alabama wideouts were finding seems in the defense that was constantly packed in to stop Richardson and Alabama’s defense made a huge goal line stop to end the first half. So although they had already missed three field goals at halftime, momentum was with the Tide, but you just got the feeling that those missed field were going to cost them.
Missing field goals in a close game is like walking the lead-off man in the ninth inning of a baseball game, and it will always come back to haunt you. But until late in the third quarter, the Crimson Tide got away with it.
I’m going to stand up for kicker Cade Foster here because Alabama was going to win this football game until they called a trick play in which wide receiver Marquis Maze threw a deep, lobbed pass to the front of the end zone from 28 yards out. The ball was under thrown and ripped from the receiver’s hands by LSU’s Eric Reid.
What was with that play call? It was first down on LSU’s 28 and a trick play pass to the end zone is called, on first down. LSU was not going to score on the Alabama defense, why call such a risky play? If there was ever a time for conventional play calling, it was then.
The ensuing drive was just about the best 3-and-out LSU has ever had, because the ensuing punt went about 80 yards and would shift all the momentum to the Tigers for overtime.
After the interception on the trick play, Alabama was deflated. Had the pass been completed, they would have been on the goal line with 3 chances for Richardson to put it in the end zone. The rest of the game would kind of go by the book of how overtime games go in college football. The team with momentum going into overtime wins, in this case LSU’s defense gave them the momentum going into overtime.
After one of the ugliest field goal attempts I have ever seen, LSU was handed the ball only needing a field goal to take the game, and unlike Alabama, they got the job done. So maybe the ending was slightly melodramatic but the game as a whole was something that has not been seen in sometime in college football.