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STEPHEN’S REPORT: Focusing on the Performance of the Players

Defense [B+] – In eight of nine games this season, Alabama’s defense has been stellar. Outside of Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide hasn’t allowed a team to reach 20 points. Against LSU, Alabama’s defense was resilient. They had the bend, but don’t break mentality on display. Despite giving up 17 points to the Tigers, the defense forced two critical turnovers that changed the momentum in the game.

Coming into the matchup against Alabama, LSU’s running back Jeremy Hill had 128 carries for 922 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Crimson Tide’s defense made him a non-factor in the game. Though he rushed for a touchdown in the second quarter, Alabama held him to 42 yards rushing and the Tigers as a whole to just 43 yards rushing. For a defense that has lacked a pass rush this season, the Crimson Tide did a wonderful job getting after Zach Mettenberger. Alabama had four sacks in the game including one from Adrian Hubbard.

Though CJ Mosley led the team in tackles with 12, the stars of the game defensively were Tana Patrick and Landon Collins. Patrick changed the momentum of the game and gave the Tide confidence when he stripped the ball away from J.C. Copeland in the redzone. For Collins, he was once again in the right place at the right time. He did a great job of recognizing that his teammate forced a fumble and he was able to recover and secure the football for Alabama.

Offensive Line [A+] – Despite not totaling 400+ yards of offense, Alabama completely imposed its will against LSU’s defense in the second half.  Behind the offensive line, the Tide totaled 372 yards of offense (193 yards rushing), 25 first downs and controlled the football for 33:51. Alabama ran eight more plays offensively than LSU (62-54) and averaged 6.0 yards per play versus the Tigers 5.3 yards per play.  As far as pass protecting goes, the offense line executed well. McCarron was only sacked once in the game.

Running Game [A+] – For Alabama to win this game, they would need a huge performance from TJ Yeldon. The Crimson Tide got it from him against LSU. Yeldon did a fantastic job of securing the football, following the offensive line, using his vision and refusing to allowing one person to bring him down. He had a monster game against the Tigers front line. As far as statistics go, Yeldon totaled 25 carries for 133 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. Though he didn’t cross the century mark in yards, Kenyan Drake still had a productive game. He had 10 carries for 65 yards (6.5 yards per carry). As a whole, Alabama running back core outgained LSU 193-43.

Receivers [A] – While LSU’s secondary was concerned with Amari Cooper, Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White, it was OJ Howard that slipped away. As long as Howard continues to grow and mature as a receiving tight end under Saban, he is going to be very special. Though he only had one reception, it was a 52-yard touchdown reception from McCarron that put Alabama in front 10-7 in the second quarter. Kevin Norwood once again proved to be the thorn in the flesh for the Tigers. He led the receiving core with four receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown. Cooper had another decent game receiving for the Tide. He had three receptions for 46 yards and even Jalston Fowler crashed the party with one reception for a touchdown.

AJ McCarron [A+]- With the loss that Marcus Mariota took against Stanford and the way McCarron performed against LSU, ESPN really needs to wake up and put McCarron into the Heisman conversation. The difference between McCarron this season against LSU from the 2011matchup is his confidence, leadership and poise has grown. He put on a virtuoso performance against the Tigers secondary. Once again, McCarron got the job done by spreading the ball around to a variety of receivers. He looked calm in pocket and scanned the field well. He didn’t turn the ball over and in the second meeting against LSU at home, McCarron didn’t the opportunities slip away. As for his numbers, McCarron went 14-20 (70 percent of passes completed) passing for 179 yards and three touchdowns.

Third down conversions, fourth down conversions and redzone scoring opportunities were key factors in this game. While both teams did well on third down (Alabama: 50 percent—LSU: 58.3 percent), LSU only scored twice in the redzone. Alabama capitalize on all four opportunities in the red area. Using trickery, the Crimson Tide converted on fourth down while LSU failed twice on fourth down.

For Zach Mettenberger, once again he played well enough to win, but LSU just couldn’t get the job done. For the Tigers to win this game they couldn’t turn the ball over and they had to slow down Alabama’s run game, neither of the two was accomplished. LSU struggled on the ground and outside of Jarvis Landry (five receptions for 90 yards); the receiving core wasn’t a factor.

For Alabama, they are now 9-0 (6-0 in conference) overall and remain as the No.1 team in the nation. The Boys in Vegas feel safe this week as the Tide rewarded by handily covering the 11-point spread and then some. The Crimson Tide will celebrate for now, but then get back to work as they get ready for Mississippi State.

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