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In defense-dominated game, LSU deserved a better fate

Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire

(No) fun with numbers, LSU-style:

Six first downs.

Eight punts.

Zero points.

It was never going to add up for the LSU Tigers. They couldn’t take advantage of a few breaks. They couldn’t run. They couldn’t pass. They had no realistic hope of scoring.

Of course, LSU’s 10-0 home defeat against top-ranked Alabama on Saturday night was a doctoral thesis on defense. It further advanced the theory that Alabama’s defensive squad might be among the best we’ve seen in recent times.

It didn’t change very much for LSU. The Tigers gained all of 125 total yards, and I’m guessing that most teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision would’ve struggled to get into triple-digit yardage totals against the Crimson Tide (9-0).

Alabama’s defense is flirting with immortality, no doubt. It deserves praise and all of the credit.

The real shame of it all?

Nobody will talk about LSU’s defense, which was agile, aggressive, well-prepared and basically played Alabama off its cleats.

The Crimson Tide gained just 323 yards, an amazing work night for LSU’s defense, under pressure all game because its offense couldn’t produce any field position or breathing room.

“I thought we played our butt off on defense, but we lose as a team,’’ LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron said.

That’s a coach protecting his players.

As Orgeron likes to say after watching the film, “It’s ‘To Tell The Truth Monday.’ ‘’ Hey, let’s tell the truth right now.

The Tigers (5-3) could’ve played the equivalent of 10 games on Saturday night and they probably wouldn’t have scored. That’s mostly the work of Alabama’s defense, but it’s also a reflection of LSU’s poor execution on offense.

The game couldn’t have started more perfectly for the Tigers.

On the third play from scrimmage, Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts was intercepted by LSU’s Jamal Adams at the Crimson Tide 33-yard line. Three plays went nowhere.

Colby Delahoussaye’s 49-yard field-goal attempt was partially blocked at the line by Alabama’s Ronnie Harrison and it fluttered harmlessly to the turf, well short of the goalpost.

And that was that.

LSU’s defense, filled with steam, kept it a scoreless game through three quarters and that was something special in itself. With no offensive support, though, that couldn’t last. Alabama kept chipping away, scoring 10 fourth-quarter points and doing the bare minimum to get a victory.

Tigers running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 35 yards, which was actually an improvement from last season (when the Crimson Tide limited him to 31 yards).
The larger issue was LSU’s chronic inability to mount a passing game. Tigers quarterback Danny Etling was always on the move, trying to escape pressure, and he never got his feet set. It was an exercise in futility. So Alabama could load up to stop Fournette. Its pressure made life miserable for Etling.

“Danny didn’t play well,’’ Orgeron said. “And he knows it.’’

Once Alabama scored on Hurts’ fourth-quarter run, the Crimson Tide’s 7-0 lead felt like a 30-point advantage.

“We just didn’t execute,’’ Orgeron said. “I think we had some guys open and we couldn’t get the ball to them. Obviously, there was some pressure (from Alabama’s defense).

“We struggled to run the ball. We struggled to pass protect. We struggled.’’

LSU’s offense had no real chance against Alabama’s defense. That was the bottom line.

LSU’s defense deserved a better fate, too.

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