With about a minute to go, the Crimson Tide's 2012 season hung in the balance. Down 17-14 to the Bayou Bengals, the Tide needed to score to at least force overtime. In looking to make a safe call with a screen, what Alabama got was the perfect play against an LSU defense that was truly unfortunate.
That final play likely pushed A.J. McCarron even more into the spotlight, and T.J. Yeldon has now become firmly entrenched in Alabama lore in just his freshman year.
That's the play at full speed. However, as we like to do here at Your Best 11, we'll break it down just a bit more and determine why it was destined for success from the moment LSU's play call came in.
Look at the line of scrimmage: seven LSU bodies at the line, four guys in the secondary. Pre-snap, they all look to be coming while Alabama has six guys to block the possible seven pass-rushers.
As the rush comes, John Chavis' defense pulls one rusher, No. 57 Lamin Barrow. He drops into the hole to grab the hot route that should come with the LSU six-man pressure.
Except that hot route doesn't come. Chance Warmack and Anthony Steen have released, and they're looking to build a nice wall to protect Yeldon. The freshman has let his block go and floated outside to make himself a target for McCarron's screen pass. Those five LSU guys appear to be out of the play.
Warmack barely gets a touch on LSU's leading tackler, Kevin Minter. That star at the top? That's Barkevious Mingo. Follow him on this play; the kid really shows what effort is.
That light touch is enough, though, because Yeldon is already past Minter. He's also picked up a block from a wide receiver on a corner, so he's upfield and getting dangerously (for LSU) close to the end zone.
Enter Craig Loston, No. 5 in tackles for LSU. From five yards away, Yeldon gives the junior a stab outside before staying inside.
That move was enough to blow by Loston, and now it's a race to the end zone.
Thankfully, there is one more blocker downfield, a wide receiver, who gives Mingo enough of a shoulder to help Yeldon get into the end zone.
There's a lot going on, and we've shown the key elements to the play. Most notable is just how great of a call this was by Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Or, if you're an LSU fan, it shows just how unlucky you can be on defense.
Alabama's offensive line didn't make this play great. Hell, Warmack and Steen didn't actually block anyone once they worked to try to set up the screen. This play worked because of Nussmeier's call, the speed and explosiveness of Yeldon, a bad angle and technique by Loston and two wide receivers who did their job of blocking.
If you don't believe play-calling matters, this play should change your mind. It was a perfectly timed screen against an LSU team that was looking to stop the ball and force McCarron to get rid of it early. Against a darn near all-out blitz, the screen (if the quarterback can get it off) has the ability to go for a big chunk of yards. This play is a prime example of that.
This play saved the Crimson Tide's season. It put them up in a game that saw LSU look dominant for the bulk of the snaps. It solidified them, again, as the nation's best team.
This was a big moment for the entire Alabama football team, and if it hoists the trophy in Miami, many will point back to this play as being instrumental, a la Terrence Cody's blocked field goal in 2009.