It took Alabama a quarter to get rhythm offensively, then Kenyan Drake’s change-up running style and O.J. Howard’s speed gave the Tide a spark.
Alabama’s best drive came in the third quarter, going 79 yards in 14 plays after LSU tied the game at 17-17. The Tide did it by attacking LSU’s weakness, its run defense, and T.J. Yeldon’s touchdown run to cap it put Alabama up 24-17.
The Tide followed that up with a 10-play, 71-yard drive to go up 31-17 early in the fourth quarter, hitting LSU with more Yeldon.
Alabama had its struggles against a good quarterback in LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, showing that the Tide’s secondary remains a soft spot against a good quarterback.
Still, the Tide defense made arguably the biggest play of the game when Tana Patrick stripped LSU fullback J.C. Copeland at the goal line, after the Tigers had driven to what seemed a likely touchdown on their first possession.
Special teams produced one of Alabama’s biggest plays of the game, a fake punt in the third quarter.
Up man C.J. Mosley took the snap, turned left then handed to Jarrick Williams going the other way for 6 yards on fourth-and-one, and it kept the Tide’s go-ahead drive alive.
The one breakdown came on Odell Beckham’s 82-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter, but Alabama stopped LSU on downs.
The fake punt call and the decision to go at LSU’s run defense after the Tigers tied the game were keys.
For much of the first half, it seemed Alabama tried too hard to get explosive plays in the passing game. It worked for the Howard touchdown, but Alabama’s best play was to run at the nation’s No. 50 run defense.
Shades of the Tide’s SEC Championship Game victory over Georgia last season, it worked after LSU had tied the game on the second half’s first possession.
The bottom line is that Alabama did not play its best game against a good team and still came away with the victory in one of the few games on the schedule that the Tide could have lost.
In the end, LSU had a mediocre run defense to exploit, and Alabama exploited it. Also, Patrick spared the Tide an LSU touchdown early.
The concern comes from what LSU was able to do in the passing game, showing that the Tide’s secondary remains iffy. Should Alabama come up against, say, Florida State in the BCS final, this film should prove useful to the Seminoles.