On the stat sheet, LSU beat Alabama in plenty of categories.
They included first downs, total yards, third-down conversions and possession time.
The Tigers, however, were bludgeoned in an all-important but often overshadowed stat: field position. LSU started from its own 19 on average. Alabama started on its own 33.
The Tigers’ punt return unit cost the team 75 “hidden yards,” coach Ed Orgeron said Monday, two days after the 24-10 loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Alabama’s senior punt and preseason All-American, JK Scott, boomed six punts inside the 20-yard line and four of those were downed or fair caught by LSU returner DJ Chark at or inside the 10.
“We could have done a better job,” Orgeron said, “but it wasn't all on DJ.”
Several factors went into the woes, the coach and Chark explained Monday.
For one, LSU attempted to block “two to three” punts, abandoning much of its blocking for returns, Orgeron said. Secondly, Scott changed his punting style mid-game, Chark said, switching from his normal 50-yard punts to sky kicks of 30-35 yards.
“Had to adjust on the fly,” Chark said. “Never seen a guy punt the ball as high as he did. When they do it on the fly, like an in-game adjustment, (it was) something we haven’t seen. They have a great coverage team. They usually kick it to you and make you fair catch it.”
Chark fair caught balls at the 9, 6 and 7. He’s taught to stand at the 8-yard line and catch punts that might be downed inside the 5, but the rules are situational.
“I do what we’re told to do,” he said. “It’s better than the ball bouncing to the 1.”
The Tigers’ senior receiver, in his first year returning punts, allowed one or two punts to bound 10-plus yards before Alabama players downed them sometimes deep inside the 20.
Chark “could have caught a couple of (more) balls,” Orgeron said. “I think he should have done a better job.”
On Sunday night, Christian LaCouture set his phone alarm for 6:30 a.m. Monday.
Malone misses practice - again
LSU practiced Monday again without left tackle KJ Malone.
The fifth-year senior missed another day of drills while recovering from a left knee injury he suffered in the game at Florida. Freshman Saahdiq Charles worked at starting left tackle. Charles has started the previous four games in Malone's place.
Orgeron has listed Malone's status as "questionable" in the past. Malone was spotted using crutches while on the sideline of the Tigers' game against Auburn on Oct. 14 and has not practiced since.
The Tigers (6-3, 3-2 Southeastern) host Arkansas (4-5, 1-4) at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Welcome to Film Room, our weekly analysis of LSU’s last football game.