When tasked with dethroning the No. 1 team in the country, there are only a handful of opportunities when an underdog team can flip momentum. Capitalizing on these moments is critical to pulling off the upset.
Despite several chances, LSU failed to do so — not even once — on Saturday. These repeated failures led to a bitter 10-0 defeat — the sixth consecutive at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Tigers wasted no time in bungling these opportunities. LSU’s defense opened the game by recording a sack on the first play from scrimmage, then intercepting quarterback Jalen Hurts two plays later.
Taking over at the Alabama 33-yard line, the Tigers could not have asked for a better start. With three uninspiring plays — a short completion, incomplete pass and a sack — followed by a missed 49-yard field goal attempt, they allowed a tone-setting sequence to go to waste.
“Wish we could have scored. Our guys were ready, man. You should have heard these guys,” LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron said regarding his team’s early missed opportunity.
“I thought defensively, Dave Aranda, had a tremendous plan, to cause a turnover like that and get after it to at least get a field goal and convert and give us some momentum; going into a very tough game, gave the guys some confidence. But we just couldn’t get anything going on offense.”
This theme of offensive futility continued throughout the evening. LSU compiled just 125 total yards on the evening, which fell nearly 200 yards short of Alabama’s offensive output. For the second consecutive year, Leonard Fournette was stifled by the Crimson Tide defense. The junior running back, who entered the contest rushing for an average of 167.5 yards per game, was held to just 35 yards on 18 carries. An abysmal performance in the passing game only made matters worse, as the promising aerial attack of the past three games dissipated in the biggest game of the year.
Still, the Tigers arrived at the final minute of the first half in position to register the first points of the game. Yet again, they came up short.
With 1:10 remaining in the second quarter, LSU took possession at the Alabama 47. The Tigers were scared to take a chance, even if it meant moving just another 15 yards to move into manageable field goal position. The first-down call was an inside handoff to Fournette for two yards, followed by a short crossing route to Travin Dural. These two plays resulted in five yards, while a mind-boggling 62 seconds ticked off the clock. With eight seconds on the clock and facing a fourth down outside of placekicker Colby Delahoussaye’s range, LSU was left with no choice but to have quarterback Danny Etling chuck a Hail Mary attempt to the end zone, which fell incomplete.
The Tigers received the ball to begin the second half, and it was as though the failures of their previous drive sparked an inevitable downturn. Etling was crushed by multiple Alabama defenders for a six-yard loss to start the third quarter, setting the tone for a final 30 minutes that trended entirely in the Crimson Tide’s favor — save for a gutsy LSU goal line stand that, unsurprisingly, was deemed useless by offensive shortcomings.
Were other factors in play? Absolutely. Alabama boasts possibly the best defense of Nick Saban’s illustrious tenure, and will probably roll into the College Football Playoff undefeated. The Crimson Tide are simply that good this year. There were also questionable calls that left LSU fans incensed, primarily a blatant missed hold on the lone touchdown of the game, a 21-yard run by Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Ultimately, though, in a game where points were at a premium, LSU’s failure to capitalize on first-half chances paved the way for another letdown against its division rival.