Offense inconsistent in loss to LSU


Junior wide receiver Jerry Jeudy reaches to catch a pass against LSU. (CW / Joe Will Field)

The words “We have to be more crisp and more sound,” spoken by junior right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., accurately explain Alabama’s offensive output in the 46-41 loss to LSU on Saturday.

The loss centered around Alabama’s two turnovers, which LSU scored 14 points off of, and seven penalties that totaled 53 yards which stagnated an already struggling offense.

“I just don’t think we executed on all cylinders,” coach Nick Saban said. “We got a few penalties that put us behind the eight-ball and we have to have more balance and consistency on offense. We made a lot of big plays, which is great, but when you play a team like this who is a very good offensive team themselves, having the balance on offense, you can control the tempo of the game with your offense which is also important.”

Alabama’s inefficiency in controlling the tempo on offense coupled with LSU’s ability to take advantage of mistakes came to a head late in the second quarter.

With 26 seconds left before halftime, the offense jogged onto the field down 13 points after the Tigers had scored a field goal and a touchdown on their previous two drives.

Junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw a pass over the middle that was intended for junior wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who was running a slant route. The slant, which has worked like clockwork for Alabama this season, failed, as LSU junior middle linebacker Patrick Queen stepped in and intercepted the ball, taking it down to the Alabama 13-yard line.

One play later, Tigers junior running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire waltzed into the endzone untouched to give LSU a 20-point lead before halftime.

“Based on what happened, if I had a do-over and I knew what was going to happen, we would have kneeled on the ball,” Saban said. “… We had two timeouts. We were trying to throw a chunk play and maybe if you hit a big play — and we have a lot of capability to do that and we trusted [Tagovailoa] to make a good decision. They played zone, the guy got a jump on the ball and intercepted the ball.”

The interception proved to be the back-breaker despite Tagovailoa’s high numbers in his first game back from his ankle injury. Tagovailoa finished the game with 418 yards through the air along with four passing touchdowns, but his 52.5 completion percentage is the lowest total this season. Couple that with the quarterback’s 40 passing attempts and it is clear that the offense chose to play aggressively in order to keep up with LSU.

“[Tagovailoa] came out and competed,” junior wide receiver Henry Ruggs III said. “Of course he made mistakes but we made mistakes as an offense and we made mistakes as a team, so we just have to take advantage of the opportunities that we have and correct the mistakes.”

The mistakes seemed to be corrected when Alabama came out of the locker room. Back-to-back touchdown drives by Alabama brought the game to a six-point deficit as it relied on its running game. Of the team’s 123 total rushing yards, 99 came in the second half.

Junior running back Najee Harris, who found the end zone on both of the second-half drives, was the beneficiary of the Crimson Tide’s attempt to re-establish the run game. Harris finished the game with a career-high 146 rushing yards and one touchdown. Harris also became a viable option as a receiver, finishing with three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.

Along with the career-high rushing yards, Harris also attained his longest rush of the season with a 31-yard gain after the offense was pinned down at its own 5-yard line. That gave the offense the spark it needed, as Alabama found the end zone later in the drive.

“It set the tempo for the offense having them try and adjust and actually fit the box,” Wills said. “They fit the run which is something that we really try make a statement on.”

Alabama has been in this situation before. In 2017, a one-loss Crimson Tide team was able to sneak into the College Football Playoff without winning its conference championship. However, with three games left on the schedule, the focus for Alabama’s offense is to find some balance in an offense that took a while to get going against LSU.

“We came out really strong and then had those couple of turnovers and it kind of killed the vibe. People started putting their heads down,” Wills said. “We were in the locker room and we kind of picked it back up, but you can’t do that in a game like this. You gotta make sure you play the first, second, third and fourth.”