Separation Saturday Not Kind To Major Unbeatens
By John Ventola
Domination. Pure and simple. What I had personally hyped as a battle between two “rock’em sock’em” Deep South football powers, turned into a lopsided Alabama victory that puts the Tide in control of its own destiny for another CFP semifinal spot this season, their top runner in Heisman Trophy talks, and Leonard Fournette looking for somewhere to run.
Once again Nick Saban used extra time to put in a game plan that not only slowed down what had been a potent LSU offense, he and his defensive coordinator Kirby
Smart devised a scheme to stop leading Heisman Trophy candidate Fournette in his tracks. Alabama’s 30-16 victory over the Tigers actually was not as close as the final score indicated.
Once again Les Miles used extra time to not properly prepare a game plan to deal with Saban’s strategy, and Bama’s athletes. Although the Tigers did manage to score two touchdowns in the contest and push into a 10-10 tie with 21 seconds left in the first half, LSU was dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage. There were glimpses of their own athleticism, but it was clear Miles and his coaching staff did a horrendous job of taking advantage of the skill sets at their disposal.
In a pre-game blog about the LSU-Alabama series, this blogger pointed out how long-time Tiger Coach Charley McClendon was able to win only two of sixteen games (in 1969 and 1970) against his old coach and mentor Paul “Bear” Bryant. While the Miles-Saban head to head comparison does not involve a coach/former player situation, it does present the more controversial former coach/successor scenario. Saban has now
won the last five meetings between the two teams, winning three of them by double digits, and calmly making final minute play calls and decisions to capture the other two games.
In fact, since Saban returned to the college game after his two-year stint with the Miami Dolphins, he has established Alabama as the best program in the country. Miles can thank Eric Reid for wrestling the ball away from a Bama receiver in the end zone in 2011 or his 3-7 head-to-head record against Saban would be worse. Miles national championship unit of 2007 only beat Bama by seven points, and Saban entered that game playing without his own recruits.
This blog is not meant to present a picture of a life-long LSU fan and Tiger alumnus jumping off the 2015 purple and gold bandwagon. To the contrary, I am just trying to point out that Miles is paid quite well and he annually brings at least one team a year into a game totally unprepared. He is my school’s head coach, but I watch him like I watch any other collegiate coach.
I think Les Miles is a fine man. His athletes seem to love him. He is compassionate, showing that recently when he made friends with a dying Alabama youth who professed to be an LSU fan. I do not dislike the man, I just feel his quirkiness and his Mad Hatter routine are wearing a little thin. Fine man, mediocre football coach—particularly when he goes against the best in the business.
Les Miles wins highly competitive football games because he can recruit. Recruiting,
and the number of highly skilled athletes he brings to campus, shows up in his overall won-loss record, and the large number of former Tiger players now plying their trade in professional football. Talent wins games, but when the talent level is even, or close to even, coaching makes the difference between winning and losing. Saban wins that confrontation hands down.
I attended a game-watch party in Metairie last night and while watching Tide domination unfold I had flashbacks to January 9, 2012, the BCS rematch blowout by Alabama. After losing 9-6 in a field goal battle in Tuscaloosa, Saban reversed every tendency he showed in the first game, often passing on first down. His strategy and the total ineptness of Tiger quarterback Jordan Jefferson resulted in the 21-0 blowout, probably the most noncompetitive national championship game in history.
Miles hardheadedness that night to not put in Jarrett Lee, and his inability to make in-game adjustments were important to the outcome. The inability clearly showed up again last night as players on the field, and the coaching staff on the sideline, looked puzzled and frantic as they let the play clock run down twice. Talent (a long sideline pass) got the Tigers out of that particular jam, but the tone had been set.
The hardheadedness, well, that showed itself also. With Alabama’s defensive front clearly pushing LSU’s O-Line backwards on every snap, why would Miles continue to
hand the ball off to Fournette on tackle-to-tackle carries? Nine yards on nine carries in the first half, nineteen carries for 31 yards for the game. Fournette, who came into the game averaging 193 rushing yards a game, was bottled up in the backfield except for an 18-yard run late in the game. He was hit as soon as he got the ball on most carries, never able to get his feet and powerful legs going forward.
Last night, as I watched Fournette sitting helplessly on the bench as Alabama controlled the ball, I thought what a shame for the young man. Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had no answers, no way of letting probably the finest athlete to wear the Tiger colors showcase his awesome talent. No imagination on how to get him into space where he could use his maneuverability and speed. Sad!
Derrick Henry carried the ball 38 times for 210 yards. After a somewhat slow start, he continually used his speed and devastating stiff arm to run around and away from defenders. Sloppy tackling did not help, and except for a two-play sack fest by lineman Christian LaCouture, Tiger defenders were left reaching for Henry and his backup Kenyan Drake. LSU ran for 54 yards compared to Alabama’s 250 yards rushing.
If Fournette had been given the gaps and running space that Henry enjoyed, he would have easily had over 200 yards himself. With seven guys playing in the box,
quarterback Brandon Harris was only able to complete six passes to try and loosen up the defense. His first interception of the season, thrown on the first offensive play of the second half, and a last second first half 55-yard field goal crushed any confidence the Tigers gained by tying the game.
Anytime a team doubles the opponent’s time of possession it is a sign of domination. Alabama did just that. It was hard to watch, tougher to understand why LSU’s coaches could not make the necessary adjustments.
What now? Last season Miles brought a terribly prepared football team to Arkansas after losing an overtime heartbreaker to Bama (yeah, Saban’s coaching was the difference). Result, a 17-0 Razorbacks victory. Arkansas gave up 52 points Saturday, but still beat Ole Miss.
One would think Fournette will be able to return to form against the porous Hog defense. After all, he ran for over 100 yards in nine straight games before being shackled by the Saban-Smart scheme.
However, with the Mad Hatter pacing the sidelines, who knows!Thanks For Visiting JV Sport Shots .Com’s Website And Viewing Our Latest Blog(s) / Page(s). We Would Really Appreciate It If You Would Leave Us A Comment Or Remark Below. This Helps Us Provide Great Sports Content; You Would Like To See In Future Posts.
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