In today’s college football, when so many teams run up-tempo offenses, time of possession often means little.
How long a team holds the ball or how many plays it runs can be insignificant when scoring comes quickly. But for a team like LSU, especially in a defensive struggle against top-ranked Alabama, time of possession can be revealing.
The Tigers (5-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) controlled time of possession and field position in the first half of Saturday night's 10-0 loss to the Crimson Tide (9-0, 6-0) in Tiger Stadium. That was not the case in the second half: Alabama possessed the ball 14 minutes and 34 seconds longer than LSU did after halftime.
The LSU defense could be headed for another long night against Arkansas on Saturday. The Razorbacks lead the country in time of possession.
“As an offense,” LSU fullback J.D. Moore said, “we have to put together some longer drives and some drives that put some points on the board so (the defense) has time to get off the field.”
The Tide, the SEC’s top scoring offense, chewed up 9:51 of game time on its win-sealing field-goal drive in the fourth quarter. Alabama’s average starting field position in the final 30 minutes was the Tide's 41-yard line.
LSU’s defense, which forced two turnovers and had a goal-line stand, finally succumbed to Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts’ mobility in the fourth quarter. His 21-yard scoring scamper was all the Tide would need for its sixth straight win over LSU.
“We were on the field too long,” outside linebacker Arden Key said. “When you’re on the field too long, you get tired, and you start missing tackles or whatnot.”
One play wouldn’t have made such a difference if the Tigers offense could have capitalized on good field position in the first half. Safety Jamal Adams intercepted Hurts at the Alabama 33 on the first possession of the game, but LSU gained just 1 yard on its first series, and Colby Delahoussaye’s 49-yard field-goal attempt was blocked.
The Tigers started two other drives in Alabama territory. The combined result was a loss of 4 yards.
“We got plenty of chances the whole game,” left guard Will Clapp said. “Defense put us on our side of the 50 multiple times. We've got to block better. We've got to put that stuff in the end zone. We had multiple opportunities to take the lead.”
On Monday at LSU’s football operations building, the players will gather for a weekly tradit…
Fournette foiled again
Not only was quarterback Danny Etling sacked five times, but running back Leonard Fournette was once against smothered by Alabama, which leads the country in rushing defense.
Fournette totaled 35 yards on 17 carries, a 2.1-yard average. In three career games against the Crimson Tide, he is averaging 48.3 yards per game and 2.5 yards per carry.
“We had a great game plan,” Clapp said. “Our offensive line, we need to open holes and execute better. We’re going to put this one on us.”
Harris wasn’t an option
Despite a meager night by Etling, LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron said he never consider turning to backup Brandon Harris.
“Never came up tonight,” Orgeron said. “There was no consideration. We feel that Danny is our quarterback.”
Etling completed 11 of 24 passes for 92 yards with an interception.
Harris started the first two games but was benched by former coach Les Miles in the second game, against Jacksonville State. Etling is completing 58.5 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
Tigers slide to No. 19
Even with three losses, the Tigers remain in the top 20 of both national polls.
LSU landed at No. 19 in both polls released Sunday. The Tigers were No. 14 in last week's coaches poll and No. 15 in The Associated Press poll. The Tigers are the highest ranked three-loss team in the AP poll.
LSU was No. 13 in the season's first College Football Playoff rankings; those will be updated Tuesday.