TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — An appropriate Hollywood movie pairing for LSU’s constantly flammable circumstances here much of Saturday night would have been “Our Brand is Crisis.”
By the time the Crimson Tide was done with LSU, balling up so many of the Tigers’ hopes and chucking them into the recycle bin, a better title turned out to be “All is Lost.”
Goodbye, unbeaten season. In this respect, LSU had plenty of company as top-10 unbeatens TCU and Michigan State also were knocked off.
Au revoir, control of the SEC West race: That belongs to Alabama now after this 30-16 demolition job. LSU’s only shred of hope at the moment is that the Crimson Tide makes the short, trap-like trip to Mississippi State next Saturday.
Bon voyage, Leonard Fournette’s almost-insurmountable Heisman Trophy lead. Fournette’s talented toes looked like they had fallen victim to a skilled Chinese foot binder. Actually it was just Alabama’s Great Wall of China defensive line, inscrutable and impregnable. Maybe Fournette could have made a hole with a few well-placed sticks of TNT, but otherwise, no. And this game, no thanks to Fournette’s practically invisible offensive line, just opened the door to a raft of other Heisman contenders, chief among them Bama tailback Derrick Henry.
Goodbye, most likely, LSU’s national championship hopes. The Tigers would need a big assist from Mississippi State or Auburn just to get back into the hunt for the SEC Championship Game. As far as being a one-loss nonconference champion that could sneak into the playoff, well, the CFP committee isn’t likely to forget the scope of this loss, made only cosmetically less gruesome with Fournette’s late touchdown following a Henry fumble.
The Tigers tried to overcome it all. Truly, they did. To deny their fate. To push back against the Crimson Tide, the totalitarian power of SEC football.
For a moment late in the first half, it looked like LSU had punched a hole in the gray, chilly clouds that hung over Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Tigers fell behind 10-0 in the second quarter. Around here, that’s the football equivalent of the black hole of Calcutta.
But fight back LSU did, evening the score at 10 late in the second, thanks not to Fournette but the appendages of quarterback Brandon Harris. He threw a beautiful 40-yard touchdown strike to Travin Dural and danced his way out of the pocket on an option keeper to set up a Trent Domingue field goal.
Momentum swung over to the LSU sideline, but only temporarily.
First came an unlikely 55-yard field goal by Alabama’s Adam Griffith just before halftime. His longest this season had been 40. Then Harris threw his first interception of the year on the first play of the second half, setting up a Henry touchdown run that erased all the good credit the Tigers’ second-quarter comeback had built up, putting them back in a 10-point deficit again at 20-10.
Did LSU have another double-digit comeback in it? Not on this night. Not against that rock of Gibraltar defensive front of Alabama’s. Not with Fournette reduced to a supporting-cast member instead of the Tigers’ offensive leading man.
The question all along was: Could Fournette be enough of a rammer jammer stud hammer to overcome LSU’s flaws and lead the Tigers to championship glory? Maybe he still can. November is starting out to be a doozy, and there are certainly more upsets and twists and turns left in this nutty season.
But on this night, anyway, LSU didn’t look like a championship team. And it started in the trenches.
Football is at its heart a simple game. The team that blocks and tackles better typically wins. But blocking is the big key.
To this point, LSU’s offensive line had been justly praised, but it couldn’t open any cracks for Fournette to wiggle through. Time and time and time again, he simply got stuffed. Thirteen of his 19 of his carries were for 1 yard or less. Thirteen. LSU was simply overwhelmed at the point of attack, and not even Fournette’s incredible talent could overcome it.
On the other side, LSU’s defense played gamely but was constantly being gamed and outangled by Alabama’s offense. Then there was Henry, a tank of a runner who rumbled for a very Fournette-like 210 yards on a tireless 38 carries.
LSU has a good team. Alabama is very good — and once again the scarecrow in the cornfield of the Tigers’ dreams and aspirations.
The knee-jerk reaction will be to blame Les Miles and coordinators Cam Cameron and Kevin Steele. The truth is this game looks like it was lost on the recruiting trail, where Alabama’s stack of top-ranked classes have been just better enough than LSU’s year upon year, especially it appears on the lines. How much could LSU have used Monroe’s Cam Robinson at left tackle, for example?
So for now, LSU just has to take it in the teeth again, a fifth straight frustrating loss to the Crimson Tide.
With a little time and perspective, it probably won’t seem all is lost for LSU. But right now, the Tigers’ defeat is so total, it’s hard to think of it as anything but.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.