LSU keeps ball longer, but can’t capitalize on improvement
On the day that everybody got an extra hour to work with, LSU was reminded that it’s not how much time you have, but what you do with your time.
Twice in October, the Tigers had seen how valuable time of possession can be. They had seen Florida hold the ball for more than 37 minutes and wear down their defense in a 14-6 Gators victory on Oct. 6.
A week later, they practically reversed those numbers and put their nearly 37 minutes of possession time to good use in a 23-21 victory against South Carolina.
But on the first Saturday in November, as daylight saving time was coming to an end, No. 5 LSU failed to put its time to good enough use in a 21-17 loss to No. 1 Alabama in Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers, who infamously entered Crimson Tide territory just once in a 21-0 loss in the BCS Championship game in January, possessed the ball in Alabama territory nine different times Saturday, not counting the one snap they ran from the Tide 49 at the end of the second quarter after Chase Clement had returned a squib kickoff there.
Three of those possessions yielded LSU’s 17 points, but the other six possessions yielded zero points.
“We left a lot of offense on the table and had a lot of drives we didn’t finish,” quarterback Zach Mettenberger lamented.
On the first possession of the game, the Tigers reached the Bama 46, but stalled.
Their second possession yielded a 38-yard field goal by Drew Alleman and a 3-0 lead.
The third possession briefly reached the Bama 47 before stalling.
After the Tide took a 7-3 lead it gave LSU a prime scoring opportunity when Cyrus Jones fumbled a Brad Wing punt and Jerqwinick Sandolph recovered the ball for the Tigers at the Bama 32.
Jeremy Hill immediately ran the ball to the 13, but a personal foul penalty on fullback J.C. Copeland pushed it back to the 28 and stunted the Tigers’ momentum. On fourth-and-12, LSU lined up as though it was going to try a 47-yard field goal. Instead, Wing passed the ball from his holder’s position to Alleman, but Bama wasn’t fooled and dropped Alleman for a 2-yard loss.
The Tigers’ next drive into Tide territory ended with Alleman falling short on a 54-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter.
Late in the third quarter, Hill’s 1-yard touchdown run cut Bama’s lead to 14-10.
The next possession yielded a 14-yard touchdown pass from Mettenberger to Jarvis Landry that gave LSU a 17-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers drove into Bama territory two more times without scoring, as Spencer Ware was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the 24, and Alleman was wide left on a 45-yard field goal after thee runs forced the Tide to use its remaining timeouts, but didn’t yield a first down that could have ended the game.
The end of that possession gave the Tide the ball with enough time to drive for the game-winning touchdown.
“We wanted to close off that last drive,” tackle Josh Dworaczyk said.
“It’s still killing me that we didn’t finish that last drive getting the first down when we needed it. To give the ball back to Alabama’s offense with the things that they were capable of doing on that last drive, I think those are the kind of things they’ve been doing all year long.”
In the end, LSU possessed the ball for a remarkable 39 minutes and 15 seconds against the No. 1 defense in the country. They gained 435 yards and 22 first downs to minimize the opportunities for the Tide’s balanced, efficient offense.
“It was little small things that add up,” defensive end Sam Montgomery said. “But you have to take advantage of your opportunities.”
That’s what Bama did, as AJ McCarron needed just 57 seconds to march 63 yards to a touchdown at the end of the first half, and just 43 seconds to march 72 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 51 seconds remaining.
“We’ve never really had to use two-minute (offense),” Tide coach Nick Saban said, “but we scored two touchdowns in two-minute. That last drive was something that I’ll never forget.”
Neither will the Tigers, because it illustrated that even though they had more time to work with, the Tide did more with the time it had.
“It’s just tough,” Hill said. “If we could have put the ball in the end zone one more time, we could have helped our defense out.”
Copeland also lamented the inability to get that third TD.
“We felt like we had (the victory),” he said. “We just needed to get one more touchdown. We put our defense in some tough situations with short fields, but they played great all night. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.”
Ted Lewis contributed
to this report.