The LSU Tigers didn’t beat Alabama, but they definitely put a scare into Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. Many people across the country will rightly and reasonably ask, “Where the heck did that come from?”
By Matt Zemek
What, indeed, enabled LSU to limit Alabama to six yards rushing? What gave LSU’s much-maligned defense such a shot in the arm and such a different personality and identity? Even though LSU’s offense fell short and scored just 14 points to waste that magnificent defensive performance, LSU showed the nation – and more importantly, itself – that it has talent and potential on the defensive side of the ball. The Tigers aren’t a bunch of chumps. They can play. They just had a lot of headaches and difficulties over the first two months of the season. Against Alabama, they took a big step forward. Now, can they translate that defensive evolution into wins over Arkansas and Texas A&M to finish the season and Ed Orgeron’s tenure in Baton Rouge? It will be fascinating to watch. Let’s look at this upcoming game against Arkansas:
1 – Continue to be unpredictable
We have to go back to Ed Orgeron’s extraordinary press conference leading up to the Alabama game, during LSU’s two-week break. Coach O admitted that in the process of self-scouting his LSU team, the Tigers had been in very predictable formations and alignments, especially on first down. Opponents were seeing the same looks and were able to make relevant pre-snap adjustments. Orgeron plainly said LSU needed to be a lot less predictable with its pre-snap looks and in disguising its defensive intentions. Clearly, the Tigers flummoxed Bryce Young and Alabama with their movements and formations. Alabama saw a lot of tendencies in film study but then encountered something completely different during the game. That was a huge part of why LSU contained Alabama’s offense so thoroughly and consistently. If the Tigers can continue to be unpredictable, and realize that Arkansas will closely study the Alabama game film for clues or hints, they can throw the Razorbacks a few curveballs.
2 – Continue to find a new identity up front on defense
LSU allowed six rushing yards to Alabama. As important as it was that the Tigers were unpredictable, they were also very strong and resolute on their defensive line. Clever disguises of defensive alignments were part of their defensive mastery, but teams have to possess formidable and gifted linemen in order to limit an opponent – be it Alabama or Georgia or Kansas – to six yards rushing. LSU received phenomenal physical efforts from its defensive front. That must continue against Arkansas.
3 – Get just enough from Max Johnson this time
Max Johnson has had a rough season, and he wasn’t able to do enough to beat Alabama and reward his defense for a magnificent performance. Johnson has to go back to the drawing board and find solutions which enable him and this offense to pick up their defense for a change. Much as LSU’s rushing effort was surprisingly great against Florida, LSU needs a passing performance which is surprisingly good here against Arkansas.