On a white board in a forlorn corner of a somber LSU locker room, someone left behind the pregame message “60 minutes of hell.”
In other words, just another first Saturday in November for the Tigers against Alabama.
For the two weeks worth of hype, excitement, anger, anticipation, and rationalizing going into debt for a pair of tickets on the secondary market, the actual unfolding of No. 1 Alabama’s 29-0 victory had a very familiar feel.
The dream to end Alabama's winning streak died in Death Valley.
For the Tigers and their fans, it was like an annual case of gout. Or not winning the lottery. Other than the Tigers’ offense crossing midfield here and there, the game looked an awful lot like the 2012 BCS championship game, the point of demarcation when LSU ceased to be on par with Alabama as a powerhouse program. This Crimson Tide victory looked as inevitable as a lava flow marching toward the sea in Tua Tagovailoa’s home state of Hawaii. And just about as overwhelming.
For LSU coach Ed Orgeron, this was Tell the Truth Saturday.
“We were No. 3 in the country,” Orgeron said, referring to last week’s initial College Football Playoff rankings, “but we were nowhere near Alabama.”
Let me know when LSU can beat Alabama again, be competitive with the Crimson Tide again, just score again. It is now 11 straight quarters and counting for LSU in Tiger Stadium with nary a point scored against the Crimson Tide.
I’m thinking I’ll leave a wake-up call for when Nick Saban retires. If he ever retires.
Amazingly enough, LSU ticked the moral victory boxes that coming into this game looked like landmarks to an upset victory:
• For the first time, Alabama didn’t score a touchdown on its opening drive. Actually, the Crimson Tide didn’t even manage a field goal after some false-start penalties (the bellowing Tiger Stadium crowd definitely played a part) and the LSU defense stiffening its back.
• For the first time, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw an interception. Backup LSU safety Todd Harris will be the answer to a taxing trivia question five weeks from now when Tua is in New York beaming alongside his Heisman Trophy.
• For the first time this season, Tagovailoa took snaps in the fourth quarter, this despite taking a first-quarter shot to his, ahem, nether regions and perhaps pulling up a bit lame on his 44-yard third-quarter touchdown scamper that put Bama up 22-0.
It was a shame in many respects that the game didn’t match the backdrop, because it was quite a day. The campus began filling in the wee hours as thousands turned out for ESPN’s “College GameDay” show in the quad. As the show ended at 11 a.m., all the public spaces already looked filled as if for a 2:30 p.m. game. A perfect day faded into perfect night and Tiger Stadium lived up to its reputation for ear-ringing ferocity, as loud as ever.
“It was the best atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of,” Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow said. “We just didn’t get it done.”
The problem really wasn’t so much Tagovailoa and Bama’s dangerous-as-a-drawer-full-of-knives offense, though that was no picnic for an LSU defense that played the first half without suspended linebacker Devin White and all but the first snap without injured free safety John Battle.
The biggest problem was Alabama’s allegedly gettable defense.
LSU took it on the chin as Alabama rolled through Baton Rouge, but the Tigers still have a lot to take care of this season. With Devin White n…
It was not difficult to figure out how Bama was able to make life miserable for Burrow and the rest of the Tigers’ enfeebled offense: The Tide applied consistent, withering pressure with its front four and dropped the rest into coverage despite LSU spending much of the game in max protect (keeping a running back and tight end in to block). The Tide might have blitzed once or twice early on, but mostly it was straight-up blow-‘em-up the entire game.
“It looks like the 12th-graders against the seventh-graders,” said LSU radio analyst Doug Moreau.
The game proved LSU, still, is not in Alabama’s weight class. It is worth remembering the Tigers have legions of company. The only teams that at this point look like they could hang with the Crimson Tide are Clemson and suddenly surging Michigan.
As for White’s escape from his first-half exile for his targeting ejection against Mississippi State, it did little to move the meter. LSU trailed 16-0 at halftime without him and lost the second half 13-0 with him. Maybe if he played the whole game Bama would have had one fewer score. Maybe. But in all, the Tigers were outgained 576-196, with Alabama as in earlier routs tapping the brakes in the fourth quarter.
Perspective is difficult in the wake of another Tide landslide, but it remains a remarkable LSU season to this point. The Tigers are 7-2, still with a great chance to finish 10-2 and wind up in a New Year’s Six bowl like the Sugar, Peach or Fiesta.
But even if that comes to pass, it will come with the knowledge that Alabama is probably once again ensconced in a College Football Playoff semifinal somewhere, and the awful admission that LSU is still years away from being the Crimson Tide’s equal again.