Movie review: How LSU disrupted Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and upset | USL

In one of the biggest upsets in Tiger Stadium history, No. 10 LSU beat No. 6 Alabama 32-31 in overtime Saturday night.

The Tigers entered as 13.5-point underdogs for the Crimson Tide. The single biggest upset came in 1997 when LSU knocked out top-ranked Florida, which came in that day as a 16.5-point favorite.

With this win, LSU has charted a clear path to the Southeastern Conference championship and maybe more. The Tigers would likely reach the college football playoffs now if they won, a remarkable possibility as a coach Brian Kelly’s first season.

The idea of ​​playing for titles seems almost unlikely given where LSU stood at the start of the year and four weeks ago after losing to Tennessee. But the Tigers can clinch SEC West as early as next weekend if they win and Alabama defeats Ole Miss, likely setting up a matchup with Georgia.

To make all of this possible, LSU first had to upset Alabama. Let’s review.

How LSU affected Bryce Young

As Kelly alluded to all week, LSU played true freshman linebacker Harold Perkins and junior rusher BJ Ojulari together the majority of the game, bringing its most disruptive players onto the field simultaneously in more than third-party situations. trying for the first time this season. .

While Ojulari played near the line of scrimmage more often than Perkins, defensive coordinator Matt House moved them around the formation and used the pair in different ways, creating different looks that disrupted Alabama quarterback Bryce Youngthe reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

On Alabama’s third drive, Perkins and Ojulari lined up on opposite sides of the line of scrimmage on third down. Perkins emptied Young from the pocket and Ojulari looped the other side. Ojulari got in Young’s face as he threw from the end zone, forcing an incompleteness that popped onto the grass.

House has often deployed a spy linebacker on Young, whose escape ability makes him one of the most dynamic players in college football. Perkins filled the role particularly well. When Young came out of the pocket at the start of a third down, Perkins was waiting for him. Then, with Alabama threatening from the 6-yard line in the second quarter, Perkins chased Young to force a field goal.

Perkins went on to emerge as one of the best linebackers in the nation, regardless of class. Even when held down and pushed to the ground on a play, he immediately stood up, using his relentless motor to affect the throw. He led LSU with three quarterback rushes and Ojulari had two while recording 11 tackles.

But it wasn’t just Perkins and Ojulari who were wreaking havoc. One of the things LSU did best was tighten the inside pocket with defensive tackles Mekhi Wingo and Jaquelin Roy. The two constantly pushed inside offensive linemen to cloud Young’s accuracy and vision on the field, which made it difficult for Alabama to establish a rhythm.

Young still had moments. He threw for 328 yards. He escaped the hands of three defensemen to throw a 41-yard touchdown and regain the lead late in the fourth quarter. But he could rarely improvise with so much pressure around him, and LSU defensive backs did a good job of sticking with their receivers on scrambling drills.

Red zone defense

Young completed his first three passes for 46 yards and had an easy opener. Then he intensified the pressure on second and the goal. Linebacker Micah Baskerville walked into Young’s face, disrupting his vision. He tried to throw over the middle, but the ball was behind intended receiver Jojo Earle and Jarrick Bernard-Converse picked it up.

Alabama’s next three trips to the red zone ended in field goals. The Tigers produced two negative plays to force a kick after Alabama running back Jase McLellan gained 65 yards. They forced another field goal after an obscure rule overruled a fumble recovery before halftime. And they pressured Young to complete third down from the LSU 20-yard line for another kick.

The Crimson Tide trailed 14-9 in the fourth quarter after reaching the red zone four times, and although they completed two touchdowns to regain the lead, LSU crucially forced three straight incompletions on Alabama’s final possession. before kicker Will Reichard dispatched the game. overtime.

LSU now has one of the best red zone defenses in the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers allow touchdowns on 41.94 percent of their opponents’ trips in the red zone, the second-lowest percentage in the league behind Georgia.

unsung heroes

Josh Williams: The undersized running back made plays all season and added more against Alabama, further proving his value to this team with his well-balanced play. On LSU’s second touchdown, Williams burst into the secondary for a 16-yard gain, then rebounded on a goal-line tackle to regain the lead.

Later, with LSU facing third and seventh and trailing 21-17 late in the fourth quarter, Williams broke a tackle 5 yards from the marker and clinched the first down. Jayden Daniels threw a touchdown to Mason Taylor on the next play. And in overtime, Williams ran down to provide a key block on Daniels’ touchdown run.

Jay Bramblett: The Notre Dame transfer felt motivated for this game as a Tuscaloosa native, and he pinned Alabama inside the 15-yard line on three straight punts in the first half. Bramblett averaged 41.8 yards on six punts, and LSU has never let the nation’s top punt returner, Kool-Aid McKinstry, return one.

Major burns: Making his first appearance since Sept. 24 against New Mexico due to an upper neck injury, Burns returned to LSU’s safety rotation. Early on, he stumbled into coverage when McLellan turned a short throw into 65 yards. But Burns tackled him before he reached the end zone, keeping four points on the board.

Ali Gaye: The senior defensive end hasn’t been mentioned much this season because he doesn’t have the passing stats of Perkins or Ojulari, but he’s causing havoc in the running game. Two plays after McLellan’s big win, Gaye lined up at left tackle. He cut inside and swallowed running back Jahmyr Gibbs on an inside run.

Hasty success

Remember all those years when LSU struggled to get the ball running against Alabama? The Tigers had gone more than 4 yards per run (with bag yardage included) only once since beating the Crimson Tide in 2010, and that was with a record offense in 2019.

Offensive patterns have obviously changed since LSU rushed for 1.2 yards per carry in 2016 despite having Leonard Fournette in the backfield, but the Tigers still rushed for 200 yards averaging 7 .1 yards per run with bag yardage removed.

Even with six sacks included, LSU is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and gained 185 rushing yards Saturday night as the offensive line managed to push Alabama off the ball on inside runs, especially in the second half. .

Williams and John Emery combined to average 6.6 yards per carry. Several times this season, LSU has been able to trust the late running game.

Much of the success was due to Daniels. Although Alabama kept him from breaking his pocket more than other teams, he still found running lanes when he had no one open on the field or felt the pressure. , which often happened against a Crimson Tide front that racked up six sacks and five more tackles for the loss.

Daniels didn’t have the same aerial numbers as the last two games — 22 of 32 for 182 yards and two touchdowns — but that wasn’t the product of an ineffective passing game. Additionally, Alabama won deep shots with solid cover or building pressure before the roads developed. But when the pocket collapsed, Daniels used his legs.

One of his most important runs came with LSU trailing 21-17 late in the fourth quarter. All receivers were covered on the third-and-fifth field, but Alabama left the midfield wide open. Daniels found a crease and picked up 31 yards. And, of course, he rushed for the touchdown in overtime.