Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Sputtering offense ends LSU's title hopes
By Edward Aschoff
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson was held to 53 yards passing and 15 yards rushing against Alabama.
NEW ORLEANS -- The ride is over.
The emotional roller coaster that was LSU’s season ended tragically inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The team that had shaken off a plethora of distractions and back-to-back games with double-digit, first-half deficits never made its way out of the French Quarter as No. 1 LSU (13-1, 8-0) fell to second-ranked Alabama (12-1, 7-1) 21-0 in Monday’s Allstate BCS National Championship Game.
For once, there was no spark for the Bayou Bengals. The team that had rolled over each and every opponent it faced this season -- and seemed on its way to a historic finish -- fell flat when it mattered the most.
“You have to play through adversity,” LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. “That’s what our coaches teach us.
“[Alabama] made all the big plays and made all the tough plays tonight, and [I] tip my hat off to them for making all the big plays and winning tonight.”
The defense had more bend on Monday than it had been accustomed to, allowing nearly 400 yards, five field goals and a late-game touchdown. Still, for staying on the field for 35 minutes that’s pretty good.
For everything the defense did for the offense, it got nothing in return. It got no adjustments, no originality. What it did get was five first downs, 92 total yards, 2.1 yards per play and zero points.
It got an offense that crossed into Alabama territory just once … and that came in the fourth quarter.
Followed by criticism throughout the season, LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson couldn’t get his offense moving. He couldn’t run and his arm didn’t help. The vertical passing game LSU promised wasn’t there because Jefferson admitted to holding onto the ball too long on designed deep passes because he wasn’t confident in where Alabama’s defenders were.
Some of his passes ranged from erratic to short. He was sacked four times and heard boos late in the first half and throughout the second when he took snaps instead of demoted quarterback Jarrett Lee.
Jefferson threw for 53 yards and an interception, and was beautifully contained by Alabama’s defense, which allowed him to rush for only 15 yards on 14 carries.
“I was seeing things clearly,” Jefferson said. “Making decisions with the ball wasn’t an issue.”
Jefferson turned the ball over twice, but it was his ill-advised flip-pass to an unsuspecting Spencer Ware that was devastating. Jefferson thought Ware was ready for the pass, but Ware had turned up field to block before Jefferson released the ball, which was intercepted.
“Other than that, I made great decisions with the ball,” Jefferson said. “Offensively, we just fell short.”
Though there was no sign of Lee. He just stood on the sidelines, tossing the ball occasionally to keep his arm warm.
“It’s disappointing,” Lee said. “I would have liked to have gotten some snaps, but it is what it is. Didn’t get any snaps, so you gotta move on past that.”
LSU coach Les Miles' only explanation for not playing Lee was that with Lee’s lack of mobility he didn’t feel as though he could sustain Alabama’s pass rush.
Even with as poorly as Jefferson played, the pounding, wear-‘em-down running game that moved this offense never arrived. The Tigers got 12 carries from their running backs. (Leading rusher Michael Ford got four carries but managed only 1 yard.)
Offensive lineman Will Blackwell said the plan was to run the ball up the middle, but that never materialized so the staff directed runs to outside. Even after those didn't work, adjustments weren't made.
“I feel like we got away from our game plan a little bit,” Blackwell said. “We planned on running it inside and pounding them to maybe get the edge.
“We fell away from that and I don’t know what the reason for that is. Our game plan just fell apart.
“We got away from the things we’ve been doing all season, and whenever you do that in a championship game it usually doesn’t work out for you very well.”
LSU finally succumbed to all the adversity. For a team that fed off the negativity, the Tigers weren’t ready for Alabama. There was no game-changing play from the Honey Badger, the defense didn’t force any turnovers, there was no emotion in the second half and the offense never showed up.
For the defense, Monday must have hurt the most. They hunkered down near their own end zone and played well enough to win.
In the end, LSU’s defense just couldn’t play both ways for the Tigers.
“It was very disappointing,” linebacker Ryan Baker said. “We were clawing and fighting out there and we were just sitting back watching them go three-and-out.”