Alabama Football: Winners and Losers from the Tide's Week 10 Win over LSU
It took 10 weeks and a trip to face its recent nemesis to find out how top-ranked Alabama would react when pushed to the limit for 60 minutes.
It was far from pretty, but in the end, Nick Saban’s club used a touchdown in the last minute to pull off an improbable come-from-behind 21-17 victory over LSU.
Alabama’s win adds another chapter to what has become college football’s most relevant rivalry.
In many ways, LSU outplayed its rival at every single position.
But when it mattered most, every single unit on Alabama’s roster stepped up and delivered when it’s national title hopes were seemingly on life support.
Which segments and individuals fared on opposite ends of the spectrum against the Tigers?
Here are Alabama’s winners and losers from its victory over LSU.
Winner: Two-Minute Offense
Alabama’s offense struggled mightily against LSU’s stout defense for most of the evening.
The exception was its two drives at the end of both halves, which resulted in 14 points and ultimately decided the outcome of the game.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron was able to find a rhythm when the offense went uptempo.
Additionally, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was able to keep the Tigers defense on its heels when the Tide broke into its hurry-up attack.
Loser: Third-Down Offense
The biggest reason Alabama’s offense could not get on track was its inability to move the chains on third down.
Alabama converted only one of its nine third-down attempts throughout the game.
The Tide appeared to go away from the running game late, despite both Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon having some success on the ground against a tough defense.
That strategy played a small part in LSU’s defense being able to get the Tide backed up in third-and-long situations, which helped the home team get off the field and get the ball back to its surging offense.
Winner: Defensive Line
In a lot of ways, no unit personified Alabama’s resiliency like the defensive line.
LSU’s offense had its way at times with Alabama’s top-rated defense, with success in the trenches jumpstarting the Tigers' anemic attack.
However, the Tide’s three-man front stepped up repeatedly in the game’s most critical moments—with two crucial stops coming when LSU was deep in Tide territory in the fourth quarter when their backs were against the wall.
In a fitting conclusion for a game that embodied a pendulum of swinging emotions, senior defensive end Damion Square sacked Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger to end the game.
While the defensive line stood tall and delivered in big moments, Alabama’s secondary was surgically dismantled by Mettenberger, who entered the game completing less than 50 percent of his passes with just one touchdown and two interceptions in conference play.
Considering LSU's receivers dropped at least three passes, the damage could have been much worse.
LSU’s receivers were able to get free with very little resistance, and they continually won the battle against the Tide’s defensive backs on third down (more on that later).
The unit’s open-field tackling left a lot to be desired as well, and you can bet that won’t sit well with Saban during the team’s film sessions this week.
With a visit from an explosive Texas A&M club coming this weekend, the Tide have a lot of work to do in a short period of time to get those mistakes corrected.
Winner: Kevin Norwood
While true freshman Amari Cooper has been the Tide’s breakout star in the wide receiver unit, Cooper was held without a catch by the Tigers secondary.
Going into the team’s final drive, Alabama’s receivers had accounted for just seven receptions and 58 yards for the entire game.
As he did in last season’s BCS title game victory over the Tigers, junior Kevin Norwood came up huge with three receptions for 44 yards in Alabama’s decisive game-winning drive.
Norwood finished with five receptions for 62 yards, and more importantly, he stepped up and provided McCarron a sure-handed target when the offense needed it the most.
Loser: Rest of the Receiver Unit
As timely as Norwood’s presence was during the team’s final drive, it helped put a bow on the worst performance of the season for the receiver unit.
Cooper, whom McCarron overthrew on what would have been a sure touchdown pass in the first quarter, and Kenny Bell failed to record a reception against LSU.
In fact, Norwood and Christion Jones, who combined for nine receptions and 102 yards, were the only two Tide receivers to catch a pass that went for positive yardage.
If you take out a reception for Marvin Shinn that resulted in no gain, Norwood’s three receptions were the only three hauled in by the receiving corps in the second half.
With Cooper likely to command increased attention from opposing defenses moving forward, this unit will need to pick up its play considerably if the offense hopes to keep up the production it has enjoyed thus far this season.
Winner: Adrian Hubbard
Alabama’s defense had a night filled with frustration in trying to stop a LSU offense that appeared to come of age in the second half.
The biggest exception to its struggles was the breakout performance from linebacker Adrian Hubbard. He recorded a team-high 12 tackles and made his presence felt all over the field for the entire night.
Although Hubbard has been solid this season, his play against LSU is what most Tide supporters envisioned from a player who many pundits across the nation expected to become Alabama’s next star at linebacker.
After delivering an impressive effort on a big stage, Hubbard has a chance to build on it and become a force in this defense over the last month of the season.
Loser: Blitz Schemes, Third-Down Defense
As bad as Alabama’s offense was on third downs, its defense didn’t fare much better.
LSU was able to convert 10 of its 20 third-down attempts (including seven-of-nine in the second half), which helped it dominate the time of possession.
To the Tigers’ credit, Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart brought a variety of blitzes and mixed its coverages, but none of what they tried was able to rattle Mettenberger.
It is clear that Alabama’s defense has a lot of room for improvement if it hopes to continue on the path to another national title.
However, with a noted perfectionist like Saban running its ship, do not expect the Tide’s defensive struggles to become a trend.