Scooter Hobbs column: Defense lets Tigers down again

Published 8:17 pm Sunday, November 5, 2023

So let me see if I’ve got this straight.

Keep in mind I’m getting this information from social media, several divisions of which which basically exploded after another LSU defensive implosion Saturday night, even before LSU’s 42-28 loss to Alabama was complete.

The Tigers’ defense gave up another 507 yards of offense to an opponent, often looking helpless which forced exactly one punt (on the game’s first drive) while as the Tide was converting 11 of 14 third downs.

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Their best defense was to hope the Tide missed a field goal, for which Bama twice obliged them.

It was little help.

But, as I understand it — and, again, these are shaky, internet sources — LSU lost to Alabama because the dad-blasted referees didn’t call targeting on Bama’s Dallas Turner on a hit that knocked quarterback Jayden Daniels out of the game early in the fourth quarter.

Nice try for an excuse. But it doesn’t wash.

Maybe targeting should have been called. Probably should have. We’ve all seen lesser mahen where it was flagged.

But, really, what would that have changed?

The officials did call roughing that passer, which was 15 yards just like targeting would have been. So there’s that.

The only difference would have been that, with targeting, Turner would have been ejected for the remainder of the game (and the Tide would have had to get by without him for the first half of this week’s game at Kentucky).

The officials could have sentenced Turner to 5-10 years hard labor and it wasn’t going to bring Daniels back from the medical tent.

But Turner had already basically decided the game on the previous LSU series when he tipped a Daniels pass (perfectly legal, by the way), which set the Tide up in point-blank range (probably overkill ) for another easy touchdown. It put the Tide up two scores, 42-28 and put an end to the back-and-forth track meet that had been entertaining America for the first three quarters.

Had Daniels survived and stayed around to rally the Tigers back from a 14-point deficit, they might have handed him the Heisman Trophy right then and there.

He’d had several Heisman moments before doctors forced him to sit in the medical tent for the rest of the game.

But, at that point, even with Daniels’ magic, the Tigers’ would have been forced to somehow get a defensive stop to make up the deficit.

That wasn’t happening.

News flash: The refs didn’t cost LSU this game it was — stop me if you’ve heard this before — the Tigers’ awful defense and its inability to get off the field.

You could throw in the home crowd, which lured the Tigers into an epidemic of false starts and, even amidst more fireworks from their electric offense, there were more dropped passes than usual.

Didn’t help. But in the end, again, this one was at the feet of defense, which let down Daniels and spoiled what was, before he was sidelined, more Heisman-worthy magic.

In three LSU losses this season, Florida State converted 9 of 14 third downs, Ole Miss 9 of 16 before Bama went 11 of 14, which comes to three-game aggregate of 66 percent. Reference point: LSU’s offense came into the game leading the nation converting at 58 percent.

At least it was a little different this time.

If you’d told me in advance that LSU would hold to Alabama to a mere 219 yards passing, I’d have pegged the Tigers as the winner.

It wasn’t the familiar sight of opposing wide receivers running free and open.

Instead, Alabama just eliminated the middle man.

LSU couldn’t tackle the quarterback, Jalen Milroe, who in key moments just took off running for 155 yards and four touchdowns, usually with little in the way of Tigers in his same zip code.

Game plan or not, it was a sneaky move by Nick Saban.

Milroe is certainly athletic enough for it, but the Tide had seemingly been discouraging him from running, encouraging him to be more of a drop-back guy. In Bama’s three previous games, Milroe had run for 31, 19 and 3 yards.

So it was understandable if the Tigers and their patchwork secondary, bracing for another aerial onslaught, were caught off guard.

The most damning thing was the lack of adjustments, even at halftime.

Wouldn’t a football “spy” have been worth a shot? It didn’t appear that was ever happening.

If it was, the spy failed Espionage 101.

Which was a fitting grade for the defense.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at