Upon Further Review: LSU 46, Alabama 41

T.G. Paschal/BamaCentral
Christopher Walsh

When it comes to Alabama’s 46-41 loss to LSU on Saturday night, three things stood out after reviewing the game:

1] Considering the logistical nightmare of LSU visiting, College Gameday and SEC Nation both hosting their pregame shows, and the President of the United States dropping by Bryant-Denny Stadium, both university and Tuscaloosa officials deserve a ton of praise for how smoothly things went overall. Fans also took note of the strong suggestions to arrive early and did so, resulting in one of the best college football atmospheres you’ll ever see. Even the weather was just about perfect.

2] Nick Saban may have been understating it when calling Tua Tagovailoa a “warrior” for not only starting, but playing the entire game. The junior quarterback was rusty and took some really hard hits, plus appeared to aggravate his injury more than once.

Tagovailoa could barely walk after the game, yet still threw for 418 yards and four touchdowns just 20 days after having surgery to help his high-ankle sprain heal. He might not win the Heisman Trophy, but earned the respect of a lot of people both in and out of college football.

3] Time and time again Crimson Tide players signaled “That’s on me” after making a mistake, especially in the first half. That’s why even though there were numerous elements that contributed to the loss, like poor tackling and turnovers, it can’t be pinned to one play, one player or one unit. This was a complete team loss, the kind one rarely sees from a Saban-coached team.

The bottom line is that LSU wanted the win more, and did what it took to snap the eight-game losing streak against Alabama.

Play of the game: Jaylen Waddle’s 77-yard touchdown was even more remarkable that he initially took a nasty grab to the face mask (which wasn’t called), and spun away from his blockers who were setting up for a return to the right. He went left into open field and after turning the corner eventually had a caravan of blockers after they adjusted.

Player of the game: Junior running back Najee Harris had his best game yet in a Crimson Tide jersey, finishing with 146 rushing yards on 19 carries, and three receptions for 44 yards plus two total touchdowns.

Statistic of the game: LSU quarterback Joe Burrow completed 24 of 28 attempts on LSU’s scoring drives, or 86 percent. His biggest plays may have been with his feet, though, as the last two touchdowns were scored after he converted third downs with draws of 15 and 18 yards, respectively.

Here are 10 things you might not have noticed from the game:

1] A strong sign that Tagovailoa wasn’t near 100 percent was he kept overthrowing receivers, something he rarely does when healthy. He completed just 57.9 percent of his passes in the first half, and 52.5 percent overall – which included throwing away four balls and having three dropped. It’s the second worst percentage of his career as a starter, exceeded only by the SEC Championship Game against Georgia last season when suffered the first high-ankle sprain on his back foot.

2] The penalty that nullified the interception by cornerback Trevon Diggs was due to Alabama believing CBS was going to a commercial and the defense gathered on the sideline while LSU’s offense went out and lined up. In the confusion to rush everyone out, resulting in the penalty for having 12 players on the field, Burrow called for the snap.

3] Who was targeted: Diggs had a rough first half as he had seven passes thrown in his direction with the first three completed for gains of 33 (a pass he really couldn’t do anything about), 6, and 35 yards – when he slipped. However, LSU barely completed anything on him during the second half. We counted 12 passes either at the interior linebackers or the player designed to pick up the receiver out of the backfield. The Tigers also had success with bunch formations and routes designed to essentially set a pick.

4] Alabama fans had good reason to wonder about a couple of calls in the game. The most obvious one was when Thaddeus Moss stepped out of bounds and then back in before making a reception. The official from John McDaid’s crew ruled that Diggs had forced him out, which allowed the tight end to step back in bounds. Diggs hadn’t, but under the existing rules that part of the play couldn’t be reviewed. Also, it looked like Slade Bolden made the first down on his fourth-and-1 wildcat run. For some reason is was quickly reviewed.

5] Yards after the catch: Led by junior wide receiver DeVonta Smith with 89, we unofficially credited Alabama with 200. It’s the most since notching 209 at Texas A&M, and the fourth-highest total this season. Additionally, Harris has taken over the team lead in explosive plays (Saban defines them as a run of 13 or more yards, or a pass of 17-plus yards) with 24.

Henry Ruggs III and Devonta Smith celebrate a touchdown against LSU
"Because I'm happy ... Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do" T.G. Paschal/BamaCentral

6] When Alabama went for the onside kick, the players lining up to the right and going for the ball were junior wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, Waddle, Smith, junior wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, Diggs and junior running back Brian Robinson Jr.

7] With Miller Forristall (throat) out, offensive lineman Kendall Randolph was credited with a start as he lined up as a tight end on the first play. Alabama also used Chris Owens more as a tight end as well. Redshirt sophomore Major Tennison took over as the primary pass-receiving option and was also on a lot of special-team units, while freshman Jahleel Billingsley got a lot more playing time. Converted linebacker Cameron Latu was credited with his first official playing stat, but it wasn’t a reception. The redshirt freshman tight end made a tackle on special teams.

8] Alabama used 11 freshmen. With the defense coming out in a 2-4-5 formation it started four with defensive lineman DJ Dale, interior linebackers Shane Lee and Christian Harris and Jordan Battle at strong safety – all where LSU likes to attack, between the numbers. Walk-on Ty Perine, who had a fumble, punted. If that’s not enough to demonstrate how tough it is not to have a drop-off in some form with freshmen playing, consider that LSU star cornerback Derek Stingley was covering Smith most of the night when he had seven catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns.

9] We counted nine times an LSU player stayed down after a play was over, which was reflective of the hard-hitting nature of the game. Fans booed them because they thought the Tigers were embellishing to slow down the offense, and with eight of the nine on LSU’s defensive side it did sort of look that way to those not able to zero in on the hits. Even though they’ve done that before we’re giving the Tigers the benefit of doubt.

10] Waddle might have locked up All-American status as a punt returner. His 25.3 average is almost seven yards ahead of the next-best player, TCU’s Jalen Reagor (18.4), and 10-plus yards better than anyone else at the Bowl Subdivision level.