There is no shame in losing to a worthy opponent and the LSU Tigers were certainly worthy on Saturday.
But losing still hurts and when the stakes are high the what-might-have-beens that follow are especially crushing.
When this Alabama football team looks back at this game, they’ll see plenty of those: missed field goals, a blocked field goal, special teams snafus, silly penalties, stumbles and bumbles and the list goes on.
Before the game, if you had told me that Bama would have a field goal blocked, miss four field goals, throw two interceptions, give up a 70+ yard punt, plus have injuries to Barrett Jones, Marquis Maze and Dre Kirkpatrick, well, I would have expected a beat down.
Likewise, if you had told me that Jarrett Lee would throw two interceptions and that Trent Richardson would have 169 total yards I would have bet the house on a Bama win.
Well, those things all happened and they didn’t boil down to a blow out for either side, just a hard fought football game won by LSU.
Here are some random thoughts on the game:
** The game definitely had a championship feel to it. Lively tailgating, more media trucks than you could shake a stick at, sold out game programs plus a load of celebrities confirmed this was a big deal.
** Everyone in the stadium had to know that two missed field goals in the first quarter would haunt the Tide and it did. It wasn’t just missing two field goals, though. LSU dodged a huge bullet and was lucky to not be down 14-0. The Tide moved the ball well in the first half – pretty much to the point where I thought we would dominate the second half. But three bad plays on first downs – Richardson loses five yards on a first down rush on during the first drive, a substitution penalty on the second drive, a Marquis Maze stumble and loss of six yards on the third drive either make us attempt a longer field goal or perhaps even cost us a shot a touchdown.
** Les Miles worked more clock magic at the end of the first half.
** The Morris Claiborne interception in the third quarter was a huge deal in more ways than one. Obviously, the interception led to the tying field goal, but Alabama had some momentum – and the lead. Maybe we wouldn’t have scored if we kept the ball, but I don’t think LSU would have scored again, either.
** The Marquis Maze pass is discussed here. If the play works, the Tide wins and today we’re talking about what a genius Jim McElwain is. It didn’t so I’m left wondering what would have happened if we gave the ball to Trent on first down. Really, I felt that way for most of the night and especially in the second half. At some point I was expecting Richardson to take over, but it never happened.
** So I guess that leaves me a little unhappy with the play calling, but then I remember that we were playing LSU. On the first two drives (where field goals were attempted), they made big stops on Richardson (-5 yards) and Eddie Lacy (-6 yards) that helped to force the field goal tries.
** We miss Julio Jones. We’ve got big play capability at running back, but the lack of production and big plays we worried about from our wide receivers is real.
** Reuben Randle was shut down by the Bama defense. Randle was held to two catches for 19 yards despite being the Tigers home run threat. When Dre Kirkpatrick left the game, I thought for sure Miles would test Dee Milliner with Randle, but it never happened. In fact, throughout the game it appeared that LSU played four or five wideouts and rotated them on a regular basis, leaving Randle out of the game at times. (I could be wrong about that, though.)
** So did Nick Saban get out-coached? Well, his team got beat, I know that. The defensive game plan was excellent, as per usual. The offensive plan probably wasn’t as bad as it appeared because of execution. Again, if a Maze completes the pass to Williams or McCarron connects with Richardson on the wheel route in overtime, we’re singing a different song. But since those things didn’t happen, we’re left with not enough Richardson and too many penalties.
Again, there’s no shame in losing to LSU, but this one stings, no doubt about it.