Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron looks to the Alabama bench after throwing the winning touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to defeat LSU 21-17 on Nov. 3. Joining McCarron are, running back Eddie Lacy and defensive lineman Quinton Dial. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 07, 2012 6:03 PM
Technically, on film, Alabama’s game-winning drive wasn’t much different than the final minutes of LSU’s previous two games.
It just hurt a lot more.
But it also may have pointed out the one flaw in the nation’s third-ranked defense.
Two of Alabama’s three touchdowns came in the final minute of the halves. Otherwise, as defensive end Keke Mingo said, “we felt like we dominated.”
“Except for two drives,” head coach Les Miles said, “that defense was just tremendous.”
But there were similar moments in hard-fought victories over South Carolina and Texas A&M, both of which would have been a lot more comfortable for the Tigers at the end without late scoring drives against the defense.
Both came following long scoring runs by freshman Jeremy Hill that had apparently put the games away in LSU’s favor.
Hill’s late 50-yard scoring run against the Gamecocks put LSU up 23-14; his 47-yarder put the Tigers up 24-12 on the Aggies.
Neither opponent had done much offensively in the second halves of those games, but promptly responded with long scoring drives.
LSU hung on both times, but had to recover onside kicks to keep the outcomes from getting a lot more interesting.
Saturday, in the biggest game of the year, the Tigers weren’t so fortunate as Alabama, which had not gained a single yard passing in the second half, promptly completed 4 of 5 pass attempts and drove 72 yards in five plays, needing only 43 seconds for the game-winning touchdown.
All told the Tigers have given up touchdowns in the final two minutes in four of the last five halves they’ve played.
Miles isn’t sure it’s a trend. He pointed out that multiple penalties were the big culprits in the previous two games.
Alabama’s touchdown drive at the end of the first half was also nudged along by a pass interference call.
But fans and media have, of course, blamed the “prevent” defense for the killer drive that allowed the No. 1-ranked Tide to escape with the victory.
It wasn’t a total prevent. But the Tigers did play softer and deeper with the safeties and got burned on the only play of the final series where they blitzed (mistakenly) when T.J. Yeldon took a screen pass 28 yards for the winning score.
Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron completed passes of 18, 15 and 11 yards to set up the touchdown.
“We went back and looked at every call from the last drive of the game,” Miles said. “I don’t think we would have changed a one of them. I don’t think Chief (defensive coordinator John Chavis) would have changed one.
“It gave us every opportunity to compete, and we liked what we did. We needed to execute.”
The Tigers had decent coverage on the plays and were hurt more by the extra yards after the catch.
“He hit a pretty well covered tight end where, frankly, we could have made a better play on the ball,” Miles said. “He hit a (pass) underneath. We would’ve like to gotten him (down) before the first down. Then our drop could’ve put us in better position.”
Miles wouldn’t name any names, but it appears that, although LSU had a blitz called on the touchdown play, the defense audibled out of it when it saw Alabama’s formation.
Freshman cornerback Jason Mills didn’t get the memo on the audible and went with the original plan to blitz when he should have been covering Yeldon.
“I would have liked to have seen us play the coverage that was called,” Miles said of the touchdown. “Have their screen pass be a tough place to throw it.
“Maybe he has to throw that one away, then we’ll see how they fare on third-and-10.
“He’s a young player,” Miles said. “We’re going to coach him.”