Posted on: January 8, 2011 3:09 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
LSU takes an 11-point lead into halftime after a critical Ryan Tannehill interception, and never looks back in a 41-24 victory.
Offense: Where on earth did that come from? "That" meaning: the nation's 87th-ranked offense, taking on an explosive and talented Big 12 defense, unloading a 446-yard, 41-point barrage that looked more like something we'd expect to see Monday night than tonight. For 60 minutes, the usually error-prone and conservative LSU attack -- remember, this is the same team that gained only 282 yards and scored just four touchdowns against Alcorn State -- lived up to every ounce of its vast potential.
Shall we count the ways? Jordan Jefferson had what may have been the best game of his career, throwing for three touchdowns to MVP Terrance Toliver and terrorizing A&M with his legs; aided by a dominant line, running backs Stevan Ridley and Spencer Ware each went over 100 yards, the latter on just 10 carries; and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, less-than-popular amongst the LSU faithful these days, kept the Aggies off-balance all night with an expertly-called game. The Grade here is an easy A.
Defense: The LSU defense had a few shaky moments early on, as the Aggies showed a little bit of balance of their own to score 17 points (and miss a field goal) on their first four possessions. But from there, it was all Bayou Bengals as the Aggies' final seven drives ended interception, interception, punt, punt, touchdown, interception, fumble.
Leading the way was, predictably, an LSU cornerback ... but maybe not the one you're thinking. Freshman Tyrann Mathieu clinched the game with a pair of second-half turnovers, the first a diving interception of Tannehill and the second a smooth strip-and-recovery that would have given him a fumble returned for touchdown if not for an LSU penalty. And it was fellow freshman defensive back Eric Reid that made the play of the game, intercepting Tannehill and returning the ball to the Aggie 2, setting up the touchdown that would stretch LSU's lead to two possessions for good. By that point, any sins to open the game had long since been forgiven. Grade: B+
Coaching: Crowton had arguably his best game since the 2007 national championship, and despite the lingering concerns that Les Miles might be plotting an escape to Michigan, the Mad Hatter had his team ready to play their best game since at least the win over Alabama. No complaints here. Grade: A
Offense: Give A&M some credit: as athletic, well-coached, and just plain fast as LSU's defense is, 24 points and 351 yards aren't anything to sneeze at. Despite the presence of Drake Nevis and Kelvin Sheppard in the front seven, Cyrus Gray still got his school-record seventh-straight 100-yard rushing game, and the Aggies finished with only one fewer first down than LSU, 24 to 23.
But none of that mattered half as much as the four turnovers, particularly the backbreaking Reid pick just before the half, which robbed the Aggies of a shot to take the lead and instead sent them in at halftime down 11 with LSU getting the ball. Tannehill had a tremendous half-season after taking over the starter's job, but this wasn't his best night. Grace: C+
Defense: It's pretty simple: when you've let an offense as moribund as LSU's walk all over you the way LSU's did -- when Jordan Jefferson has looked like a world-beater, when Gary Crowton looks like a genius, when with the game slipping away in the third quarter you allow them to embark on a 12-play, 59-yard march that eats up 7 minutes of clock -- then you have had bad, bad night. Von Miller was his usual self -- a sack and three tackles-for-loss -- but even he couldn't do it alone. Grade: D+
Coaching: Not many in-game decisions from Mike Sherman and his crew seemed like particularly egregious mistakes, but clearly something went awry in the Aggies' defensive game-planning for LSU to put together the kind of performance they did. And while the attempt to keep Gray involved and the offense balanced in the fourth quarter makes a certain kind of sense, a little more desperation (read: passing) would have been needed to actually turn the thing around. Grade: C
FINAL GRADE: The first quarter made it seem the game would be a classic; the second quarter made it seem it would still be competitive; the third made it look like A&M would need a miracle; the fourth was just garbage time. Oh well. Grade: B-
Posted on: January 7, 2011 7:07 pm
Edited on: January 7, 2011 7:22 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Basics: Texas A&M (9-3) vs. LSU (10-2), Jan 7., 8:00 ET
Why You Should Watch: If you're going to the game, you can enjoy the spectacle and experience that is Jerry Jones' masterpiece, Cowboys Stadium. Of course, if you're going, you don't need to be told why to watch, so you can probably click to another article now. EVERYBODY ELSE: Watch this game. Not only is it the only college football game of the day, but its bookends are Thursday's Miami University - Middle Tennessee State pillow fight and tomorrow's clash of the titans between Pittsburgh and Kentucky. Two 6-6 teams facing two teams replacing their coaches. Yeah, you'll want to watch A&M-LSU.
But past all that, LSU has been one of the most must-see teams of the season, with head coach Les Miles turning his endgames into odd exhibitions of anarchy and chaos that end up working out 60% of the time. Imagine this: one-possession game in either favor, ball at either 40-yard line, and 3:45 left on the clock. Are you turning this game off? Of course you're not.
Keys to Victory for LSU: For all the disorder that has characterized the 2010 season, one immutable constant has been LSU's stingy defense. When the Tigers haven't been facing the T-1000 Cam Newton Cyborg, they've been shutting down opponents at prodigious rates; on the entire season, LSU is tenth in the nation in scoring defense and eighth in overall defense, while ranking in the top 20 in passing efficiency defense, rushing defense, sacks, and tackles for loss. This team does not have systemic deficiencies on defense.
That's good, because the Tigers will be tested on defense by a physically talented but inconsistent Aggie offense. Texas A&M has achieved more offensive balance with Ryan Tannehill at QB than when Jerrod Johnson was healthy, but while that's usually just a euphemism for "he's a worse quarterback," Tannehill is actually competent under center, and it's no surprise that A&M has gone on a six-game winning streak (including wins against four bowl teams) with him back there. If the LSU secondary can force mistakes and turnovers, the Tigers will be in good shape, but that's easier said than done; Tannehill hasn't thrown a pick in over 100 straight attempts. That streak may come to an end tonight, but it's not like 13-30 with 4 INTs is a plausible final line.
Keys to Victory for Texas A&M: For all the struggling the Aggies did against Nebraska 's defense in that 9-6 atrocity, they did manage 19 first downs in the affair, and odds are that if the Aggies replicate that effort in moving the chains, they'll score enough to stay in the game for four quarters. And, again, that's when the fun begins when Les Miles is on the other sideline.
The real challenge, then, is going to be getting the ground game going with Cyrus Gray against elite front-level defenders like Drake Nevis and Kelvin Sheppard -- two guys who have made running between the tackles a nightmare for opponents all season long. The Aggies aren't exactly a spread-and-shred type of team, so they'll have to get their yards by grinding and breaking tackles, or anything else in their repertoire to keep LSU from sitting back and taking away the passing game. Want to see how this game goes for Texas A&M? Just watch where the point of attack moves during the first quarter; if Nevis and company are in the backfield with any regularity, it's going to be a long day for the Aggies.
The Cotton Bowl is like: the senior prom. Prom isn't the apex of one's high school arc, and neither is the Cotton Bowl for the bowl season. But they're awfully close, calendar-wise, and this is one of the last chances to see something magical happen. Everyone's getting all dressed up, they're headed to one of the fanciest places in town, and they're going to have one crazy night while they can. Further, if you've ever seen the way a typical high school senior talks to girls, it's remarkably similar to how Les Miles coaches at the end of the game: it's desperate, astonishing, and far more successful than it has any right to be.
Posted on: November 6, 2010 5:17 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2010 5:17 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The line on LSU vs. Alabama coming in was that this was going to be a low-scoring game dictated by two outstanding defenses and potentially decided by field position and special teams.
That line has been proven nearly entirely accurate, as Alabama enjoys a 7-3 lead on the road at halftime. The Crimson Tide defense has been every bit as good as advertised, holding LSU to just 95 total yards ... and just 45 before a half-ending 50-yard Bayou Bengal drive whose aim was more to run out the clock and deny 'Bama field position than put points on the board. The only LSU points came after a Kelvin Sheppard interception that set up the Tigers in field goal range to begin the possession (which covered 0 yards in three plays).
Alabama has been largely kept in check as well, with eventual All-American tackle Drake Nevis wreaking havoc, but the Tide put together one outstanding drive, an 11-play, 81-yard march that thanks to Trent Richardson ended like this:
In a game like this, that one drive was enough to give the Tide the halftime lead. The one part of the pregame expectations that hasn't played out is the bit about field position; LSU has started four drives on their own 35 or better. It hasn't helped them yet. But if you're Alabama, you know that until more points get put up oin the board, the game is one play away from being turned on its head.