Les Miles or Ed Orgeron, it’s of no matter.
The LSU football team still can’t solve the riddle that is the Alabama defense.
The Tigers fought hard on Saturday against the Tide – competing favorably for three quarters of scoreless football before a raucous crowd in Tiger Stadium.
But in the fourth, Alabama got just enough offense to seal the deal – first a touchdown and then a field goal. Those points were all the team needed in a 10-0 victory.
The victory keeps Alabama unblemished on the season – still the No. 1 team in the country.
The loss is LSU’s first under Orgeron – a heartbreaker considering that the Tigers had chances throughout the game, but just couldn’t execute against that fierce Alabama front.
The Tigers generated just 125 yards of offense and six first downs in the loss.
“We left a lot on the table tonight,” Orgeron said. “We didn’t execute. If we would have executed a little bit better, I think the result could have been different.”
The ending was bad.
But for three quarters, the Tigers gave Alabama all it could handle.
On the first drive of the game, the Tigers made their presence known, intercepting a pass from quarterback Jalen Hurts and taking possession with great field position inside Crimson Tide territory.
But Alabama never wavered. The Tide forced LSU to try a long field goal, then blocked it, sending the game into a scoreless frenzy that lasted into the fourth quarter.
But LSU didn’t give up much ground, either.
The Tigers defense was as good as it’s been all year, limiting Alabama to next to nothing throughout the game, pushing the team into unfavorable down and distance situations, which often led to punts.
Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts completed just 10-of-19 passes for 107 yards and an interception in the game. He also turned over the ball on a fumble, which LSU also couldn’t convert into points.
“You have to give LSU credit,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They did some things that had us off balance. We knew coming in that they’d compete and play a tough, physical game, and early on, we really had problems setting ourselves up in favorable down and distance situations to give ourselves a chance to be where we needed to be in the game.”
The game went to halftime in a scoreless tie with neither team able to push the ball inside the other’s 20-yard-line in the opening half.
But in the second half, Alabama started to break through – even if LSU was often right there to challenge their successes.
Early in the third quarter, the Tide drove the ball down to the LSU 1-yard-line. Instead of kicking a field goal, Saban and his staff opted to try for a touchdown – a play that LSU bottled up and threw back for a 2-yard loss.
But, as was the story of the game, the Tigers couldn’t turn it into anything substantial, never mustering a prosperous drive.
The Crimson Tide stopped the LSU running game completely, holding junior Leonard Fournette to just 35 yards on 17 carries.
Quarterback Danny Etling wasn’t much of a help, either. He completed just 11-of-24 passes for 92 yards, which taking countless sacks.
“Danny didn’t play well tonight,” Orgeron said. “He knows it, too. But, you win as a team, and you lose as a team. … We stand behind our quarterback.”
In the fourth quarter, Alabama broke through on a 12-play, 90-yard touchdown drive capped by a 21-yard touchdown run by Hurts and aided by a questionable 15-yard penalty for a late hit.
After another fruitless LSU drive, Alabama then won it, draining the clock down by almost 10 minutes before finishing the deal on a 25-yard field goal from Adam Griffith, which pushed the game to its final margin.
Orgeron said he applauds Alabama’s dominance, but said LSU didn’t play as well as it could have, which is something the team now has to live with.
He said the focus for LSU now is to find a way to win-out, despite a murderer’s row schedule that pits the team against Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M – all in a span of 19 days.
“We have a good football team,” Orgeron said. “We want to finish the season strong.”
Photo: LSU vs. Southern Miss by Sean Gasser.