Alabama methodically exacted its revenge on LSU at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Monday night, as the Crimson Tide beat the Tigers 21-0 in their much-anticipated rematch to capture the BCS national championship and give the SEC its sixth consecutive title.
Nick Saban won his third national championship because of his team's suffocating defense, Jeremy Shelley's five field goals and the play of AJ McCarron, the sophomore who looked nothing like the quarterback who was overwhelmed in the Nov. 5 matchup between the two teams.
Let's take a look back at this game, which wasn't really as close as the final score indicates.
Alabama wanted quarterback AJ McCarron to play carefree and with more emotion, and we knew that coordinator Jim McElwain would open things up offensively. But never did I think that the Crimson Tide would throw on seemingly every down as they steadily built their lead, field goal by field goal. McElwain, who will move on to become the head coach at Colorado State, used a variety of formations and personnel groupings to throw off John Chavis and the LSU defense. The use of play-action was perhaps the most important aspect of this offense, as it helped slow the LSU rush and gave the Tide receivers a little more room to work with against the talented Tigers secondary.
In the first half, McElwain called for play-action passes on sixteen of the team's eighteen snaps on first down. LSU's defense just didn't seem to know what was coming from play to play, whether McCarron was finding tight end Brad Smelley and Darius Hanks underneath or seldom-used receiver Kevin Norwood deep. There were also a good number of quick throws for the signal-caller, who threw for 234 yards, to avoid the LSU rush. A brilliant game plan, and one that was unexpected, at least to the extent of how heavy the pass-run ratio went in the first half. In the second half, running back Eddie Lacy provided a spark on the ground and Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson scored the game's lone touchdown.
Ineptitude of LSU's offense
ICONJordan Jefferson and the LSU offense never could get anything going against Alabama.
Jarrett Lee never saw the field as I thought he would leading up to this game, so Jordan Jefferson needed to be efficient both running the team's option game and making vertical throws when necessary. He didn't need to be great throwing the football, but he needed to make the plays when they were there. And he didn't get the job done.
LSU fans booed Jefferson in the second half (hoping for Lee to run out onto the field) because he never looked ready to play from the get-go. He too often looked hesitant and not confident, dropping two snaps before recovering the fumbles early in the game, and even some of his decisions on the option runs were head-scratchers. In asserting its dominance in the first half, Alabama held LSU to 43 total yards, one first down and 0-for-5 on third down. The offense never helped out its teammates on the other side of the ball, and only in the second half was Jefferson moved around out of the pocket so he could create with his feet. But it was too late, and he missed a few throws in the second half when he had open receivers, keeping the offense stagnant. He passed for just 53 yards and an interception and ran for only 15 more on the ground. Talented receiver Reuben Randle was a non-factor, and the deep backfield never provided any sort of a rushing attack, getting held to a season-low 39 yards rushing as the Tide's defensive line and linebacker corps, led by Courtney Upshaw, dominated the LSU offensive line. And give credit to the Alabama defense against the option, as its cornerbacks held up against the LSU receivers very well to not give the running backs much of a chance.
LSU's defense stepped up time and again when Alabama was on the move deep inside of enemy territory. Holding the Tide consistently to field goals could have been the difference. The problem for the Tigers is that they wasted the effort because they weren't able to get anything going offensively at any point, and it cost them a 14-0 mark and a national championship.
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