LSU freshman tracker: Week 11

November, 9, 2014
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Several LSU true freshmen played key roles in the Tigers’ 20-13 overtime loss to Alabama on Saturday.

Here is a recap of their performances against the Crimson Tide:

S Jamal Adams

What he did: With LSU opening in a nickel defense, Adams earned his first career start. He had a relatively quiet night, finishing with two tackles.

What it means: Regardless, Adams is already one of LSU’s most valuable special-teams players and is quickly developing into a defensive star. He was already playing a bigger role on defense prior to cornerback Rashard Robinson’s indefinite suspension, which LSU announced prior to kickoff. If Robinson remains sidelined, that might mean even more playing time for Adams.

WR Malachi Dupre

What he did: Dupre ended a two-game drought without a catch by hauling in a one-handed touchdown catch in the first quarter. The 14-yard grab was Dupre’s only catch of the night, although he was also the intended receiver on Anthony Jennings’ fourth-down incomplete pass in overtime.

What it means: The touchdown catch was one of LSU’s top offensive highlights, but Dupre and fellow freshman Trey Quinn also had some crucial drops on third down. Those missed opportunities came back to bite the Tigers when Alabama rallied to tie and then win in overtime.

RB Leonard Fournette

What he did: Fournette came off the bench for the first time in four games, but still finished as the Tigers’ leading rusher. He ran 21 times for 79 tough yards and also returned a pair of kickoffs for a total of 45 yards.

What it means: Fournette is up to 736 rushing yards for the season, so he should have an opportunity to crack the 1,000-yard mark as a true freshman. He has been the Tigers’ leading rusher in eight of the past nine games and has clearly established himself as the top option in the backfield.

DT Davon Godchaux

What he did: Godchaux started at defensive tackle for the sixth straight game and finished with three tackles and half a tackle for loss.

What it means: He was particularly effective in LSU’s dominant third quarter, when he and Kwon Alexander once combined to stop T.J. Yeldon for a short gain and later when he and Danielle Hunter stopped Yeldon for a 2-yard loss later in the quarter. On the same series, Godchaux pressured Alabama quarterback Blake Sims into an incomplete pass.

RB Darrel Williams
What he did:
With Kenny Hilliard sidelined by a shoulder injury, Williams emerged as a third option out of the backfield during the second half. He ran five times for 14 yards and also caught a pass for an 8-yard gain.

What it means: Williams doesn’t get a ton of touches, but he frequently makes good things happen when the Tigers put the ball in his hands. He spelled Fournette and Terrence Magee nicely in the second half and kept a fourth-quarter drive alive by converting a third-and-short with a 5-yard run.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- As Nick Saban walked into a small, crowded media room tucked away inside the depths of Tiger Stadium, he weaved around a throng of cameramen to find his wife, Terry.

The two embraced and shared a short kiss of both happiness and relief following No. 5 Alabama’s exhausting 20-13 win overtime win over No. 16 LSU.

“That was hard,” Saban said as he walked away from his wife.

You bet it was.

It was incredibly hard for two sledgehammers that bashed each other’s brains in for nearly four hours on a brisk night under the lights in Death Valley. In front of a raucous crowd of 102,321, the Crimson Tide came from the brink of possible SEC and playoff elimination to drowning out college football’s most famous four notes with a deafening “Roll Tide.”

[+] EnlargeAlabama, LSU
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsNo. 16 LSU crunched No. 5 Alabama at every turn, but the Crimson Tide toughed it out and got a big win for their SEC and playoff hopes.
In a season in which everything a team does is meticulously dissected and criticized because of the new College Football Playoff, Alabama hasn't been dominant, but this win proved how resilient it is and how hard it's going to be to beat the Tide going forward.

“It was tough down there, and I’m really, really proud of our players for finishing the game the way they did,” said Saban, whose Tide improved to 8-1 and 5-1 in SEC play. “Great win. Great win for Alabama, and I’m really proud of our players.”

With the college football season in its final weeks, this was another one of the SEC West’s defacto play-in games for both a trip to Atlanta and the College Football Playoff. With the sport’s best division devouring itself in this bloody month of November, Alabama couldn’t risk being yet another victim.

The Crimson Tide nearly succumbed to the fates of Auburn and Ole Miss before it with a last-minute fumble inside its own 6-yard line by T.J. Yeldon with the game tied 10-10. Shortly after, Saban rallied his players and told them this was where his team showed how to win a game.

Alabama forced a field goal, then drove 55 yards in 50 seconds -- with no timeouts -- to tie it at 13-13 before Blake Sims threw a beautiful, back-shoulder touchdown pass to DeAndrew White for the eventual game-winner in overtime.

Players and coaches celebrated like children after LSU’s offense went four-and-out. Sims, who couldn’t get out of his own way for the better part of the game, sprinted toward Alabama’s band and the team’s section of fans as if he were going to leap into the stands. Players jumped in each other’s arms and hugged a few lingering fans in the back of the very end zone, where Alabama crushed LSU’s upset hopes. Offensive lineman Leon Brown strutted toward the party with his hands raised and tongue out.

Saban even smiled as he jogged off the field, thumbs up, radiating toward the crimson faithful who made the trip.

“When Coach Saban’s smiling, you know that we did a good job,” Sims said.

No other rivalry game hits like this one or causes so much pain and anguish for the loser. In the ultimate play-in game, Alabama ground out an old-school slugfest to stay in control of its own destiny and show the country it’s very much a real threat to be one of the last four teams standing when the playoff rolls around.

There was even another Alabama missed field goal in a game that perfectly summed up this hellacious rivalry.

“That’s a tough, physical game,” Saban said. “That’s old-fashioned ball. That’s the kind of football that, when I played, we played. Nothing spread about that.”

There’s nothing soft about this Alabama team. It isn’t the team that won games by halftime in previous years, but it’s tough and wears down opponents. There were 85 rushing plays in this game and hardly a passing game to save anyone’s life, but Alabama never stopped chugging.

It wore down an equally tenacious LSU team and made critical plays in critical moments while stopping LSU in even bigger moments.

This wasn’t sexy by any means, but it was the kind of game these two teams thrive in and play better than anyone.

We’ve quietly wondered if this Alabama team is elite or even great. Honestly, we still don’t know because of its inconsistencies. But it’s winning, and I’m sure there are a lot of teams outside the SEC that wouldn’t want to see the Tide in January with the national championship on the line.

Alabama didn’t earn style points Saturday night. It earned respect.

“You’re not going to be able to blow everybody out by 45 points every game,” center Ryan Kelly said. “You look at playing in Baton Rouge at night time, we knew it was going to be a hard game. We anticipated a four-quarter fight, and that’s what we got.

“This is the SEC. This is football to me. ... This is the only football I’ve ever known. You know in the SEC that this is what you’re going to get.”

With Mississippi State and Auburn looming, there’s no question Alabama has to get better, but Saban and his players know that. But a win like this can do wonders for a team’s confidence and serve as a turning point with so much left to still play for.

“It’s always good when you go in a hostile environment in the SEC and you make a statement win,” defensive end Jonathan Allen said. “I feel like games like this will keep your hope high. When you’re in a tough situation, you think back to games like this.”

Alabama quarterback Blake Sims came up with the big plays when his team needed them most and pushed the Crimson Tide into overtime before getting the win over LSU.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 11

November, 9, 2014
Another eventful Saturday in the SEC. Here’s what we learned:

Bama is still alive but needs work: It wasn’t pretty, but Alabama’s playoff hopes are still intact after the Crimson Tide survived a thriller in Death Valley 20-13 in overtime. Despite a critical T.J. Yeldon fumble in the final minutes of regulation, the Tide were able to hold LSU to a field goal then benefited from a special-teams miscue as Trent Domingue booted the ensuing kickoff out of bounds. Blake Sims came up big by directing a game-tying drive then threw a picturesque pass to DeAndrew White for the game-winning touchdown in overtime. With No. 3 Auburn losing on Saturday, Alabama looks poised to move into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, and with No. 1 Mississippi State coming to town next week and the Iron Bowl in three weeks, the Crimson Tide control their own destiny. One thing is clear though: They can’t make the mistakes they did Saturday if they’re going to win out. Sims has to be better in the earlier portions of the game (he missed some open receivers), they can’t drop the football (Amari Cooper had one in crunch time) and surviving a late turnover like the one they had Saturday is hard to replicate against elite teams. They were fortunate to win Saturday; now they must turn the page and improve before the Bulldogs come to Tuscaloosa.

[+] EnlargeKyle Allen
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesTexas A&M's Kyle Allen helped diminish Auburn's playoff hopes with a four-touchdown effort.
Auburn’s playoff hopes are likely done: There are a lot of quality one-loss teams remaining in the field; a second loss is a killer for Auburn -- especially coming at home to an unranked team that hadn’t played well since September. For a little bit, it looked like the Tigers would pull off some of the late-game magic that has become a signature trait of theirs in the Gus Malzahn era, but two late fourth-quarter fumbles squashed their hopes and left them with a 41-38 loss. “It hurts,” Malzahn said. “It hurts our team. We have goals and dreams, and we did not get it done tonight.” The turnovers on offense late were one factor, but there were others: the first-half defense was poor and the secondary was torched in the first two quarters. On special teams, an Auburn field goal attempt was blocked and returned for a touchdown to end the first half. The Tigers were sloppy quite a bit on Saturday and they paid for it in the end. Now the Tigers must turn around and head to Georgia next week and close out at Alabama in three weeks, so the road remains tough down the stretch.

No hangover for Georgia: If you thought the Bulldogs were going to let the upset loss to Florida affect them moving forward, think again. Mark Richt’s crew responded emphatically, jumping out to a quick three-touchdown lead in Lexington and rolling to a 63-31 win over Kentucky. Georgia had success in all three phases, rolling up 559 offensive yards, holding Kentucky to 139 passing yards on 16 of 31 attempts and scored two special-teams touchdowns -- a kickoff return (90 yards) and punt return (59 yards) for scores by Isaiah McKenzie. Nick Chubb had another great performance at running back (13 carries, 170 yards) and Hutson Mason threw for four scores. The Bulldogs still need help from Missouri in the form of a loss, but they’re still very much alive in the SEC East.

Treon Harris can throw it around: Last week, the Florida quarterback attempted only six passes versus Georgia but on Saturday, the Gators trusted their true freshman more and Harris delivered, completing 13 of 21 passes for 215 yards. There were no touchdown passes, but more importantly, no interceptions and Harris was accurate and showed off his deep ball with this 59-yard beauty to Quinton Dunbar. Harris did solid work on the ground, too, rushing for 49 yards and two touchdowns in Florida’s 34-10 win over Vanderbilt. The Gators need to continue to win and need help from others, but they still have a pulse in the SEC East race.

Kevin Sumlin can still pull a rabbit out of his visor: Texas A&M was a 23-point underdog going into Jordan-Hare Stadium, lost its past three SEC games, had a true freshman quarterback, a beat up offensive line and a defense with a lot of youngsters starting. All the Aggies did was jump out to a 35-17 halftime lead and hang on for dear life to upset the No. 3 team in the nation in its own house. Sumlin’s Aggies pulled off a similar stunt almost two years to the day when they went into Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and took down the No. 1 Crimson Tide 29-24 behind freshman quarterback and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Is Kyle Allen (four touchdown passes) the next star quarterback in Aggieland? It’s too early to say but he had a memorable performance on Saturday at Auburn and he gives the seemingly left-for-dead Aggies some reason for optimism in the final weeks of the regular season. Sure, Auburn made a lot of mistakes, but Texas A&M played better than it had in more than a month, showing flashes of the team that started 5-0 this season.

Saturday's top plays in the SEC

November, 9, 2014


Look back at an exciting week 11 in the Southeastern Conference.

Nick Saban singled out his defense as the biggest key to Alabama's escape from LSU.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Alabama found another way to break LSU fans’ hearts.

The Crimson Tide kicked a game-tying field goal with three seconds left in regulation, then beat the Tigers 20-13 in overtime on DeAndrew White's 6-yard touchdown catch.

After beating LSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC) for the fourth straight time, No. 5 Alabama (8-1, 5-1) seems likely to jump into the top four in the next College Football Playoff rankings.

Let’s recap how the Tide rallied for a key SEC West victory.

How the game was won: LSU’s defense dominated the second half, but Alabama managed to drive 55 yards in the final minute of regulation and force overtime with Adam Griffith's 27-yard field goal. After White’s OT touchdown, Cyrus Jones broke up Anthony Jennings' fourth-down pass to Malachi Dupre in the end zone to secure the win.

Game ball goes to: Blake Sims. Alabama’s quarterback couldn’t get anything done for much of the second half, but Sims (20-for-45, 209 yards, 2 TDs) coolly led the Tide downfield after LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye's 39-yard field goal put the Tigers up 13-10 with 50 seconds to play. After forcing overtime, Sims hit White with what turned out to be the game-winning pass.

What it means: Alabama is alive and well in the playoff and division races. The Crimson Tide can jump into the driver’s seat in the SEC West by beating top-ranked Mississippi State on Saturday in Tuscaloosa. LSU had a chance to re-enter the division and playoff pictures but likely drops out of contention for both with its third conference loss.

Playoff implication: Thanks to Auburn’s loss to Texas A&M, Alabama will probably enter the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings this week. Meanwhile, any talk of LSU becoming a playoff dark horse ended with Saturday’s loss.

What’s next: Alabama will host No. 1 Mississippi State on Saturday. LSU will play at Arkansas next Saturday night.

No. 5 Alabama rallies to escape No. 16 LSU with OT win

November, 9, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Blake Sims drove Alabama 55 yards in the final 50 seconds of regulation for a tying field goal, and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to DeAndrew White in overtime to lift Alabama (No. 5 CFP, No. 4 AP) to a 20-13 victory over LSU (No. 16, CFP, No. 14 AP) on Saturday night.

With the victory and Auburn's upset loss to Texas A&M earlier in the day, Alabama (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) is alone in second place in the SEC West Division with a game against first-place Mississippi State still on its schedule.

Amari Cooper had eight catches for 83 yards and a 23-yard touchdown while setting Alabama career and single-season records for yards receiving, as well as the school's single-season mark for catches with 79.

T.J. Yeldon's fumble deep in Alabama territory set up Colby Delahoussaye's 39-yard field goal that gave LSU (7-3, 3-3) a 13-10 lead with 50 seconds left.

(Read full post)

LSU suspends Rashard Robinson

November, 8, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU sophomore cornerback Rashard Robinson has been suspended indefinitely and missed Saturday night's 20-13 loss to fifth-ranked Alabama, coach Les Miles announced. 

Robinson is being suspended for a violation of team rules, the school said in a statement.

Robinson has started the past six games for No. 16 LSU. This season he has been credited with 17 tackles, including one tackle for a loss, and one pass breakup.

He has been sharing time at cornerback with Jalen Collins. Both Alabama and LSU are on three-game winning streaks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(Read full post)


LSU Tiger Defensive End Danielle Hunter is Tim Tebow's FREAK OF THE WEEK

LSU's Mike the Tiger

November, 8, 2014


Kaylee Hartung and Marcus Spears visit LSU's mascot

UA jersey tour: ESPN 300 LB Leo Lewis 

November, 7, 2014
ESPN 300 inside linebacker Leo Lewis was presented with his Under Armour All-America Game jersey Friday afternoon in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance. The ceremony took place in front of family, friends, teammates, classmates and school faculty on the campus of Brookhaven High in Brookhaven, Mississippi.

A dream of playing in the Under Armour All-America Game has now become reality for the hard-hitting linebacker.

“It’s a blessing,” Lewis said. “Beyond a blessing. To be in this game with the best players in the country and test myself against the best players in the country is a blessing. To be able to go represent my coaches and school is a great feeling,”

LSU-Alabama recruiting battles 

November, 7, 2014
Every year the Alabama-LSU game is one of most highly anticipated games of the year. The two teams, for the most part, have been the most dominant teams in the SEC West. With Auburn’s success the past two years and the emergence of Ole Miss and Mississippi State, the competitive division is arguably the toughest in college football. The competition also carries over to recruiting. Over the past several years LSU and Alabama have had some great recruiting battles, none better than last year when the two schools went head-to-head for several prospects. Here’s a closer look at some of the top recent recruiting battles between the two schools.

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With No. 5 Alabama (7-1, 4-1) preparing to visit No. 16 LSU (7-2, 3-2), LSU writer David Ching and Alabama writer Alex Scarborough take a look at some key factors in Saturday’s game.

LSU stats to watch

506 rushing yards by QBs: Only five FBS teams have surrendered more rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks than LSU. That is not a particularly encouraging sign against Alabama and Blake Sims.

The converted running back has performed well in his first season as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback, but he still possesses the ability to break long runs. Sims accelerated for a 28-yard touchdown run in Alabama’s last game against Tennessee and broke a 43-yard touchdown run the previous week against Texas A&M.

LSU has done a better job defending the quarterback run since Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, New Mexico State’s Andrew Allen and Auburn’s Nick Marshall all broke the 100-yard mark in consecutive weeks against the Tigers. If the Tigers can limit Sims’ running opportunities, they will likely give themselves a much better chance of slowing down Alabama’s offense.

50 rushing attempts: Les Miles insists the Tigers want to be balanced on offense, but the numbers prove otherwise. LSU is unquestionably a run-first offense, having kept the ball on the ground 69.4 percent of the time this season.

LSU’s rushing totals will almost certainly indicate whether the Tigers are competitive in this game. During their three-game winning streak, the Tigers ran at least 50 times for at least 195 yards in each game. They’re coming off a win over Ole Miss where they ran 55 times for 264 yards -- and that’s the blueprint for success for LSU.

If they eclipse the 50-carry, 200-yard mark on the ground, things will be going according to plan for the Tigers. If they fall behind like they did against Mississippi State and Auburn -- when they ran 35 and 36 times, respectively -- they’ll have to pass more often. The next time they win by leaning heavily on the pass will be the first time they’ve done so in 2014.

Alabama stats to watch

49 percent: Can Sims spread the ball around? That’s the chief question facing Alabama.

So far, Amari Cooper has been responsible for a whopping 49 percent of the Crimson Tide’s total receiving yards this season, which happens to be the highest percentage in all of college football.

While he’s explosive, leading the country in receptions of 20-plus yards, there has to be more to the passing game than him. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis will do everything he can to make sure Cooper doesn’t beat him. That means Sims getting guys such as Christion Jones, DeAndrew White and O.J. Howard involved. If he can’t make the offense more dynamic, LSU will make him pay.

2.71 yards per carry: With space eaters A'Shawn Robinson and Brandon Ivory on the defensive line and big-bodied Trey DePriest and Reggie Ragland at linebacker, Alabama is built to stop the run. In fact, the defense ranks first in the SEC and fifth nationally in yards per rush allowed (2.71).

To take it one step further, Alabama has allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns (two) in the country. Against an Arkansas rushing offense that’s similar to LSU’s, the Crimson Tide held Jonathan Williams to less than 100 yards and Alex Collins to a grand total of 13 yards on six carries.

While LSU’s offensive line is arguably better than Arkansas’, that’s a sign Alabama’s defense will be able to handle Leonard Fournette and Tiger rushing attack

[+] EnlargeOJ Howard
RVR Photos/USA TODAY SportsGetting production from players such as sophomore tight end O.J. Howard will prevent LSU from keying completely on star Alabama WR Amari Cooper.
Why LSU pulls the upset

David Ching: The Tigers’ 10-7 win over Ole Miss essentially provided the blueprint for how LSU can win this game: Keep the chains moving with a power running game, play tough defense, avoid major mistakes. That last part was nearly the Tigers’ undoing -- they turned it over four times and missed a short field goal, which was the only reason the score was so close -- and they probably can’t beat Alabama with a minus-three turnover margin. But if that trademark Les Miles game plan is working on Saturday night, this is a game that the Tigers can win.

Alex Scarborough: There’s something about Death Valley at night. Since 2010, LSU is 21-2 in home games that start at 4 p.m. or later. The crowd starts rocking. Sometimes the fog rolls in. The environment plays tricks on you, and I think Alabama will succumb to the pressure. The offensive line will commit a few ill-timed penalties and Sims, who was avoided a number of interceptions thanks to some stone-handed DBs, will finally face a secondary that can take advantage of his mistakes. LSU gets a few key turnovers, controls the tempo on offense with its running game and pulls off the second straight upset at home.

Why LSU’s upset falls short

David Ching: If the Tigers fall behind early or struggle to move the ball on the ground, they are not efficient enough in the passing game to hang with Alabama. Anthony Jennings and Travin Dural have combined for some huge pass plays, but Dural’s position mates haven’t accounted for much production this season.

Alex Scarborough: Unfortunately for pundits, there’s no near-INT statistic. The fact of the matter is Sims has thrown only three picks all season, so while he may have been lucky with some poorly thrown passes in previous games, you can’t assume his luck will change. Actually, the numbers indicate that LSU is more likely to throw an interception than Alabama. The Tide rank eighth nationally in interceptions per pass attempt (1.2 percent) compared to LSU’s standing of 99th (3.6 percent). But to make your head totally spin, consider this: Despite a relatively high percentage of interceptions thrown, LSU is plus-4 in turnover margin while Alabama is minus-2.

LSU offensive X-factor: Anthony Jennings. LSU’s quarterback hasn’t completed better than 50 percent of his passes against any Power 5 defense. If the Tigers run the ball better than anyone else has against Alabama’s defense, maybe they won’t need much from Jennings. But our bet is they’ll need him to make a few big throws -- and avoid any crippling mistakes.

LSU defensive X-factor: Kendell Beckwith. It’s no coincidence that LSU’s defensive turnaround started with Beckwith’s introduction to the starting lineup. The sophomore middle linebacker seems to be getting more comfortable in his new role and will be a central figure in the Tigers’ efforts to slow down Alabama’s running game.

Alabama offensive X-factor: O.J. Howard. No defensive coordinator wants to look over and see Cooper on the other side of the field. But there’s another player on Alabama’s roster who can give opposing coaches fits: Howard. An athletic tight end who can run after the catch, Howard’s a matchup nightmare. He has only six receptions, but he made the play of the game last year against LSU with a 52-yard touchdown catch.

Alabama defensive X-factor: Brandon Ivory. What Ivory does best doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. In fact, he has only three tackles and has started just two games this season. But that’s because he’s a throwback in today’s game: A true nose guard who sits in the middle of the defensive line and eats up blockers. If he can help take away LSU’s power rushing game between the tackles, Alabama’s defense will be in great shape.


Ranking the new SEC defensive coordinators
Greg McElroy ranks the best new defensive coordinator hires in the SEC.