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The Good-The Bad-The Ugly From the LSU Game

Like the team itself, Amari Cooper had good, bad and ugly moments in this last game, but came out a winner.

The Good-The Bad-The Ugly From the LSU Game

By: Larry Burton

The Good –

First and foremost, it was a win for Alabama and as Nick Saban has reminded us all lately, a win is a win no matter how close. Secondly, aside from one touchdown drive, this defensive unit is coming of late season / playoff form.

We all knew coming in that for the most part, LSU would be a mostly a one dimensional offense. They would try and establish the run. LSU did try several passes down the field, but only completed a eight for the entire night. Any team that can average only completing two passes per quarter is in trouble and LSU was in trouble on offense for almost the entire night.

Tide defenders made one interception and only allowed 76 total yards of passing the entire game. That is outstanding. The run defense was a “bend but don’t break” affair. They did give up 183 rushing yards, but in the red zone where it mattered, they rose up.

On offense, there were little good parts to point to, for the most part Alabama’s offense was held in check by the Tiger defense much in the same way that Alabama’s defense held LSU’s offense in check. They too seemed to bend but not break.

During regulation, the offensive bright spot was Amari Cooper catching a big fourth down conversion and moments later turning a short pass into a dazzling run with a great stiff arm to go 23 yards to tie the game.

But the offense did have something good that was actually great. In the final 50 and some odd seconds with the game on the line, Blake Sims shrugged off his very mediocre night and led the Tide down the field with no time outs for a game tying field goal. In that drive both the throws and catches were outstanding and the poise and determination was unbelievable.

Once in overtime, despite penalties that could have derailed a scoring opportunity, a combination of determined running and precise passing got the Tide the lead and the eventual win after four straight incomplete passes from the Tiger’s on their try to tie in overtime.

Lastly, let’s not forget that like Sims, a man who shrugged off the disappointing play from most of the game to shine at the end, so did kicker Adam Griffith, who after missing one field goal, came back to make one in regulation and then make a very tense and pressure filled kick to get the Tide into overtime with just seconds remaining.

The biggest and most important good thing is that Alabama survived what may end up being their toughest game for the remainder of the year. That is in no way making light of still having the nation’s number one team ahead on the schedule next week, but it will be in the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny stadium where the Tide is a totally different animal, at least so far this season. The same goes for Auburn who while still being a dangerous team, lost to a team that Alabama defeated 59-0.

And before we leave the good category, let’s give a nod to T.J. Yeldon, who despite a fumble that could have cost Alabama the game in the closing minutes by giving LSU a go ahead field goal, his play, while not being in 100% physically, was good as was the play of Cam Robinson, another dinged up player who played through an injury to help the Tide.

The Bad –

It wasn’t hard to find the bad in the game. With the spotlight firmly on Amari Cooper, not only as the Tides’ game breaker, but as a Heisman hopeful and someone who was poised to break the Alabama record as the leading all time receiver, he had some bad moments. Maybe that spotlight was a bit too bright as it proved to be a game that had few the expected highs, but many uncharacteristic drops on throws that were very catchable.

Though he did many things very well and helped the Tide win the game, the drops in such a bright light as this prime time was cast in may have hurt his Heisman chances more than the rest of the game helped. If you’re going to wear Superman’s cape, you better not make many noticeable mistakes and he did just that.

Likewise, Sims seemed to struggle for most of the game and didn’t shine until the last minute of the game. He ended the night far under 50% in passing and averaged just 4.5 yards a completion. He came into the night as one of just a few  quarterbacks with passing rating of 160 or more, a list that includes guys such as Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, who may be Heisman finalists. But in this game, his quarterback pass rating was just 98.12, his worst performance of the season by a large margin. He also had season lows for completion percentage and yards per completion. It was top to bottom his worst game as a quarterback statistically while in the last minutes, being his most defining moment.

Sims has been bailed out all season long by outstanding receivers who make unbelievable yards after catch game after game. Opponents know that while Sims may have a 300 yard passing day, 200+ of those are run after catch with Sims rarely completing a ball more than six yards past the line of scrimmage.

LSU’s defensive coordinator John Chavis knew this and shut down the yards after catch for much of the day by tight coverage near the line of scrimmage and for 59 of the 60 minutes in this game, Sims did not complete one ball more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. That usually loses games and certainly will against a team like Mississippi State, who averages over 39 points a game. Even with Alabama’s defense, they can’t expect to win that game by scoring less than 20 points.

So whether it’s fair to but Sims in the good and bad categories, it may not be fair, but it’s very accurate. There was the yawnable so so Sims of regulation that could have doomed Alabama with his play, bouncing more “could have been” interceptions of the chests of defenders who luckily for Sims and Alabama seem unable to catch them all season long. Then there was fire breathing, field general Sims that lasted for just a couple of minutes at the end of the game.

It you’re going to take the glory of a magnificent finish, and it truly was, then you also have to swallow the pill of a bad game before that.

The Ugly –

Penalties raised their ugly head on offense and could have been a reason for the Tide to lose the game. Cam Robinson’s holding call for holding could have stopped a second quarter drive, but a brilliant 18 run by T.J. Yeldon on third down bailed him out of that one. And in overtime when it mattered most, Leon Brown was caught not once, but twice with flags. The first was a very silly personal foul penalty that took the ball from the one yard line back out to the 15 and the second was just five plays later when he was hit with a false start penalty that took the ball from the goal line once again and put it back out on the six.

Fortunately, like Robinson, he was bailed out those mistakes.

However the ugliest moment of the night was during a Nick Saban interview when the student section of LSU started a very loud “[email protected]#$ You Saban” chant that was clearly heard on television. For a game that was so hard fought between two very classy teams and coaches, it was an appalling tasteless and ugly incident.

That was an ugly incident that not only makes LSU look totally classless, but sheds a bad light on the entire SEC.

Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter

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