LSU’s game at Alabama last Saturday was every bit as physical as expected, but it was Michael Ford’s speed that gave the Tigers running game a lift in their 9-6 overtime victory.
The Crimson Tide’s bruising defense ganged upon Spencer Ware and pressured Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, but wasn’t as effective when it came to trying to keep up with Ford.
Ware, LSU’s leading rusher, had a team-high 16 carries, but netted just 29 yards. Ford gained a team-high 72 yards on 11 carries.
“They were very big guys,” Ford said of the Alabama defenders. “They were clogginig the holes. They were just sitting in the hole clogging it. That’s what they’re good at. So we tried to get them to the perimeter and tire them out.”
Jefferson, who ran the option in tandem with Ford, gained 43 yards on 11 carries.
“Most of my carries were definitely option pitches,” Ford said. “Spencer didn’t have any option pitches if I remember right. The option probably caught them off guard, but we went into the game thinking we can get to the outside and win. That’s what we tried to do going into the game. Definitely their size had something to do with it because they have some big guys and we thought we could use our speed to get to the outside of them.”
The first time Ford touched the ball he gained 6 yards. He sparked the Tigers’ first scoring drive by gaining 14 yards on the first play. He added gains of 9, 6, and 4 yards during the march to Drew Alleman field goal that tied the score at 3 on the final play of the first half.
Ford’s most memorable run came on the second play of LSU’s overtime possession. After Ware gained 3 yards on first down, Ford took a pitch from Jefferson and sprinted around the left end. He tried to tight-rope the sideline on his way to the end zone, and the Tigers celebrated what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown. But he had stepped out of bounds at the 7.
“I definitely didn’t know I stepped out of bounds,” Ford said. “There were two defenders beside me. If you look back on it, I was very mad. But in the long run, we got the field goal. And we won. The team won. That’s a greater achievement than anything.”
Three plays after Ford’s run, Alleman ended it with a 25-yard field goal. Ford said he thought the Tigers’ option running game worked the best it has all season.
“I guess we had a little more speed to the outside than them,” Ford said. “I thought they were pretty fast. They were definitely strong and big. When we watched film, we watch everything. And we definitely said we were going to run the option and try to get the outside. We’re an option running team. (Coach) Les Miles likes running the option, and we have the speed to do it.
“We’re getting more confident in it.. Jordan and I spend a lot of time on it because the pitch is very important. If you don’t catch the pitch, you fumble the ball and that’s going to kill your whole play.”
It was a fumble against Kentucky on Oct. 1 that seemingly led to a reduced role for Ford, but he is back in the thick of LSU’s running back rotation, which also features Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard.
“There were some tremendously key plays made by Michael Ford,” Miles said. “I think that both guys had success. Spencer Ware really took some rugged yards and got yards after contact. His impact was a very big piece of the game. I felt like Michael Ford came in there with speed and was downhill just as hard. Ford’s perimeter speed helped him.”