Sunday, November 10, 2013
Yeldon leads Alabama fight against LSU
By Alex Scarborough
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- T.J. Yeldon doesn't have to raise his voice. There's a perpetually serious look about him during games, a rage that smolders from behind his face mask. His is a silent sense of purpose, a will that rarely bubbles into words. The throat-slashing gesture he used against Texas A&M earlier in the season underscores his quiet intensity.
Alabama's starting running back didn't make a sound after stomping on the throat of LSU on Saturday night. He didn't speak with the media after running for 133 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-17 victory that kept the top-ranked Crimson Tide undefeated and on track for a berth in the BCS title game. And why should he? His play did all the talking -- his ability to read blocks, stop on a dime and change direction. He took the offense on his back when it mattered most.
T.J. Yeldon ran through the LSU defense with ease, enabling Alabama to control the ball and the game.
"He doesn't say a word," said UA right tackle Austin Shepherd of Yeldon. "I try to talk to him, and he won't."
It's not meant to be callous or self-centered, Shepherd explained, it's just Yeldon's way.
"He's just focused on the game," Shepherd said. "I think that he's just focused on what he needs to do.
"That dude's awesome. I love blocking for him. He sees and makes cuts that are unbelievable. He makes us look good and makes our job easy."
When Yeldon got locked in against LSU, everything came together for Alabama. The Tide offense had been up and down in the first half, troubled by inconsistent execution up front and a passing game that left something to be desired. But when Alabama made a concerted effort to feed Yeldon the ball and dominate the line of scrimmage, the entire tenor of the game changed. Alabama got back to smash-mouth football, and all hope of an LSU upset vanished. Yeldon, who ran for 104 yards in the second half alone, carried the ball six times during a 10-play, 71-yard drive that took 4 minutes, 44 seconds off the clock and put Alabama up by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
"That's the best thing about him: We can just keep smashing the ball," Shepherd said.
AJ McCarron, Alabama's veteran quarterback, said Yeldon's ability to move the chains was instrumental in keeping LSU's defense off balance. The safeties crept toward the line of scrimmage to stop the run, and McCarron made them pay with the pass, completing 5 of 7 attempts in the second half.
Alabama scored 21 second-half points to LSU's 3.
"Any time you have balance it dictates what we want to do and puts the defense in a bind," McCarron explained.
"It seemed they went around the end, and they seemed to go inside, too," LSU coach Les Miles said. "T.J. had guys that were unblocked right at the point of attack and made them miss and would go get yards. The drive on some of those runs were pretty special."
In a game that was characterized by its physicality, Alabama came out the victor. LSU, try as it might, didn't have enough bullets to stay in the fight.
Alabama's defense manned up, and the offense was as bruising as ever. Yeldon benefited from a line that shared his same will to dominate. Its performance was eerily reminiscent of the play of last year's group that took control against Georgia in the SEC championship game and later sent three players to the NFL in April.
Shepherd said the goal was to punish LSU up front, and he felt that goal was accomplished.
"It's the line of scrimmage," he said. "It's who controls that that it's going to come down to."
Alabama's offensive line pushed the pile, and Yeldon took full advantage. Together they demoralized LSU, though it was Shepherd who had to speak up for a noticeably absent Yeldon after the game.
He might not say much, but Yeldon's actions were powerful Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. He proved to be the perfect battering ram to accomplish Alabama's goal: Silent, yet brutally effective.