Videos by OutKick
Alabama not physical enough?
Coach Nick Saban slipping? You know, he’s 70 now.
That is a sampling of the diatribe by Crimson Tide fans after their team (8-1, 5-1 SEC) nearly lost a second game by the first Saturday in November for the first time since 2010 on Saturday. But in the end, Alabama held off 28-point underdog LSU (4-5, 2-4 SEC) for a 20-14 victory.
Welcome, Tide fans, to the rest of the world, and maybe the rest of your life … at least this season.
Alabama, which hosts 1-8 and 51-point FanDuel underdog New Mexico State at 11 a.m. Saturday on the SEC Network, did not look like the No. 2 team in the nation, though they are, according to the latest College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday.
Alabama, which won national championships last season and in 2009, ’11, ’12, ’15, and ’17 under coach Nick Saban, somehow let an injury-plagued LSU defense with a lame duck coach hold it to six net rushing yards on 26 carries.
Let’s repeat that. SIX NET RUSHING YARDS. The Crimson Tide had not rushed for so few yards since a 9-0 loss to Penn State on Oct. 27, 1990, when it fell to 3-4 on the season in the first year of coach Gene Stallings. That team finished 7-5.
Alabama came into the LSU game averaging 171 yards rushing a game, and a healthier Tigers defense allowed 330 rushing yards to Kentucky just a month ago right before LSU coach Ed Orgeron was fired, effective at the end of the season.
Not a good showing for first-year Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, whose unit was shut out over the final 27 minutes of the game and averaged 0.2 yards a rush against the nation’s No. 84 rush defense with 166 yards given up a game.
“It didn’t look like an Alabama team out there in some phases of our team,” Saban said bluntly on Monday after he had time to watch the film. “We struggled to run the ball, and we didn’t pass protect very well.”
Quarterback Bryce Young did complete 24 of 37 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns around four sacks as the Tigers pressured Alabama as well as Texas A&M did in a 41-38 win on Oct. 9.
“We didn’t protect,” Saban said. “They did some things a little differently than what we had prepared for.”
Hmm, sounds like possible staff changes.
“We have to do a better job of adjusting in game, so that we have a chance to protect,” Saban went on. “Schematically, we’re going to have to work on being able to handle those things better because people copycat.”
Yes, LSU copied the Aggies’ defense.
“If you’ve had something that’s been an issue for you in the past, you’re probably going to see it again,” Saban said.
No. 25 Arkansas (6-3, 2-3 SEC) will be watching Alabama game film against A&M and LSU before it visits the Tide on Nov. 20 (2:30 p.m., CBS). So will No. 17 Auburn (6-3, 3-2), which hosts Alabama on Nov. 27. If the Tide drops either of those games, and No. 11 Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2 SEC) wins out, the Aggies will play in their first SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4 as they have the tiebreaker with their win over Alabama.
Alabama also suffered on third down against LSU with a season-low 4-of-13 conversions for 30 percent. The sliding Tide came in No. 1 in the nation on third down at 58 percent.
Even against A&M, Alabama was 9 of 18 on third down.
“Third down is something that has been really good for us all year long, and I think we’re all responsible for that,” Saban lamented. “It starts with me. We need to get those things fixed. Every coach, including myself, needs to put our players in position where they have confidence that if they do their job, things are going to work and we’ll have a chance to be successful. We all need to try to get it right, and we can’t tolerate any less than that.”
Are you listening, assistant coaches?
LSU had numerous opportunities to win as it was in Alabama territory three times in the fourth quarter. A field goal instead of a fourth-and-goal attempt that failed from Alabama’s 7-yard line midway through the final period could have set the Tigers up to tie the game later.
“We need to do things better on a more consistent basis and not put ourselves in the positions that we found ourselves last week,” Saban said.
Alabama’s offensive line did lose junior starting center Darrian Dalcourt to an ankle injury in the second quarter. Senior Chris Owens moved over from right tackle to center with sophomore Damieon George Jr. entering the game at right tackle.
“Darrian going out certainly didn’t help the issue any,” Saban said. “Chris hadn’t played center for a while. We had a couple of snap issues, and a couple of times he probably could have executed things a little better. He did a good job, relative to the reps he had. We need to be more prepared if something like that happens. But there’s no excuse.”
Dalcourt is day-to-day with a lateral ankle sprain. “I don’t know what his status will be for this game,” Saban said.