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LSU safety Marcel Brooks (9) pressures Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) in the first half, Saturday, November 9, 2019, at Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Welcome to Film Room, where we'll break down significant portions from LSU's last football game.

(Click to enlarge photos)

LSU 46, Alabama 41

How It Happened

Pressuring Tua: LSU could not afford to let Alabama's star quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, have time in the pocket to throw if the Tigers expected to win. The Hawaiian Heisman hopeful had just two interceptions going into the game, and if Alabama's three first-round NFL draft-pick receivers — Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith — had extra time to run routes, they would eventually make LSU pay.

That's what happened on the first play of the game. Tagovailoa had plenty of time to decide where to go with the ball, and Ruggs crossed over the middle of the field and caught a 20-yard pass to the Alabama 49.

Alabama drove all the way to the LSU 8, and on third-and-goal, Tagovailoa and the Tide called a timeout when they saw defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's third-down blitz package for the first time.

It isn't anything new if you're familiar to these film breakdowns. It's LSU's "Cheetah" package (pictured below), using four pass rushers at the line of scrimmage, one linebacker and six defensive backs. The Tigers had success using the same variation of Cheetah against Florida, and there were questions how outside linebacker Ray Thornton would succeed in the package as a replacement for Michael Divinity, who announced on Monday that he'd left the team for a "personal matter."

LSU-Bama: Tua Pressure 1

CBS

LSU-Bama: Tua fumble

CBS

  • Thornton was the player who came up with the decisive play on third-and-goal (pictured right). LSU rushed only its front four on the play, and it's uncertain whether Tagovailoa expected more defenders to blitz. Sometimes linebacker Patrick Queen rushes, but he helps out nickel safety Kary Vincent cover Alabama slot receiver Jaylen Waddle. By rushing the minimum, the Cheetah package showed it could be flexible in coverage, especially since Alabama went five-wide on the play. Tagovailoa had nowhere to throw and optioned to scramble to the right side of the field. It's unlikely that he would have scored. But he flipped the ball from his dominant left hand to his right, and the ball squirted loose. Thornton recovered the football at the 8 yard-line. The turnover was costly for the Tide; LSU quarterback Joe Burrow led a touchdown drive to give the Tigers a lead it would never relinquish.
LSU-Alabama: Rush 2

CBS

  • LSU continued to get pressure with the third-down blitz package. On the following drive, the Tigers broke out the Cheetah again on third-and-6 at the LSU 41 (pictured right). Queen and Thornton continued to shift, gap to gap, which appeared to not show their hand as to whether who was blitzing and who was covering. Queen dropped back in coverage, and Thornton came free off the edge to force Tagovailoa to throw the ball away as he ran out of bounds. The stops allowed LSU to jump to a 10-0 lead.

The variations of the blitz package continued to confuse Tagovailoa and the Alabama offensive line. On the next drive, LSU dropped outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson in coverage (pictured below). Considered LSU's top pass rusher, this seems like it would be quite unexpected.

LSU-Bama: Brooks pressure

CBS

LSU-Bama: Rush 3

CBS

  • On third-and-6 at the Alabama 29, Chaisson dropped back in coverage. Defensive end Glen Logan attacked between the offensive guard and tackle, drawing the guard toward him while the tackle stepped outside anticipating Chaisson's rush. Logan essentially took up both blockers, and Brooks broke free right up the middle and forced Tagovailoa to hurl the ball out of bounds. Three drives in, and Alabama's offense had produced no points and just 82 yards on 15 plays — a 5.4 per play average that was significantly lower than the average the Crimson Tide entered the game with (7.72).
LSU-Bama: Queen reads route

CBS

    • And then came the play that broke the game wide open. Down 26-13 with 26 seconds left before halftime, Alabama decided to push the ball down the field and try and get within one score. The strategy was interesting. LSU was scheduled to receive to start the second half, and perhaps Alabama coach Nick Saban knew he couldn't risk going down three scores. "But being aggressive at the time, I thought that we would throw the ball down the field and give ourselves (a chance) to make a big play," Saban said Saturday, "and even if it was a bad play, it'd be no worse than a punt." The Crimson Tide were about to go down three scores anyway. On first-and-10 at the Alabama 29 (pictured right), LSU came out with its blitz package that it previously used mostly on third-down situations.
LSU-Bama: Tua pick

CBS

  • Queen said that he recognized Alabama's route concept right away. Jerry Jeudy, lined up in the slot, ran a dig route across the middle of the field, and running back Najee Harris ran a short wheel to the same sideline. The play was designed to open the middle of the field for DeVonta Smith, who could make a catch near midfield and perhaps give the Tide a chance to score before halftime. Queen cut the pass to Smith off, intercepting Tagovailoa and returning the pick into the Crimson Tide red zone. How did Queen know? He'd seen it in practice every day. "Our offense runs that and they hit us on that a lot," Queen said. "So, I just let the safety and the nickel play on their man, and I just squeezed over the middle and picked him off." LSU quarterback Joe Burrow threw a 13-yard touchdown to Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the very next play, giving the Tigers a 33-13 lead at halftime.
  • Tagovailoa was neutralized, going 7-of-11 passing for 123 yards, a touchdown and an interception at halftime — most of that coming off a tricky 64-yard touchdown pass to Smith, where Tagovailoa snapped the ball when LSU's defense wasn't ready.
  • Tagovailoa led a second-half surge for the Tide, and he finished the game 21-of-40 for 418 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. But with Burrow playing dominant on the other end for a full game, the LSU's first-half shutdown was enough to seal the victory.

Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.