This week we bring you another numbers-centric breakdown of the SEC’s biggest game of the week. On most weeks this fall — when he’s not in California watching his own son play college football — guest analyst Ralph Miranda will provide us with a quick Tuesday breakdown of CBS’s Game of the Week or another big game airing on ESPN.
Ralph knows the game. He was a walk-on linebacker for Notre Dame’s 1977 national championship team and he also served as color analyst for Vanderbilt football games on television in the 1990s. His own site can be viewed here.
We think his short breakdowns — focusing on stats that coaches often say are the most important stats in football — will give you a little something extra as we wrap up one week and roll into the next.
And now, I turn it over to Ralph for his breakdown of Alabama’s last-gasp 21-17 win over LSU:
Alabama — 2 (2 fumbles, 0 interceptions)
LSU — 0 (0 fumbles, 0 interceptions)
1st-and-10 Plays Covering 4+ Yards:
Alabama — 26 1st-and-10 Plays / 16 of 4+ yards (62%)
LSU — 34 1st-and-10 Plays / 14 of 4+ yards (41%)
3rd Down Conversions:
Alabama — 1 of 9 (11%)
LSU — 10 of 20 (50%)
Explosive Plays Covering 20+ Yards:
Alabama — 5 (2 on the game-winning drive)
LSU — 9
Three Keys To Victory:
1. Win Rocky Win!
This game epitomized why the SEC is the class of college football! A true prizefight between two championship caliber teams. Alabama weathered the initial onslaught of jabs and punches thrown at them and was down only 3-0 in the early going. The Tide’s ability to run the football effectively on 1st down (62% of plays for four or more yards) allowed them to use their play action passing game and screen game to build a 14-3 halftime lead.
LSU got off the canvass in the second half and threw a dizzying array of counter punches at Alabama; effectively mixing the run and the pass to go ahead 17-14 late in the contest. This game showed us, if we needed to see it again, why college football is so special!
2. “Luke, it is your destiny!”
By all rights and analysis we should be talking about how LSU was able to upset the #1 team in the country. LSU had more passing yards (296/165), more total yards (435/331), controlled the time of possession two-to-one (39 min/21 min), ran for 139 yards and had a back run for 107 (something you just do not do against Alabama). LSU also did not turn the ball over all night while Alabama coughed it up twice.
But championship teams find a way to get it done. When Alabama took the ball late in the fourth they didn’t flinch and instead moved it down the field with two explosive plays and a final, beautifully designed screen to TJ Yeldon to win the game. You cannot beat Alabama, or any championship team, in 59 minutes; you must play the full 60 until the clock reads 00:00.
LSU lost the game on an ill-conceived fake field goal and a 4th-and-1 when they should have kicked another field goal, rather than go for it. Field goals at both of those junctures would have made the score 23-14 and Alabama would not have been able to come back.
3. Finding Nemo?
Zach Mettenberger came into this game as a questionable commodity. He had all the tools (strong arm, stature, press clippings) but hadn’t achieved the type of success you would expect from a championship quarterback. He proceeded, in the biggest game of his career, to throw for 298 yards, 1 TD, and complete 24-of-35 passes with no picks. He was brilliant standing in the pocket, facing the constant pressure from the Alabama blitz yet delivering strikes to the open receiver.
LSU may have lost this game but the Tigers found themselves a QB who just might take them to the promised land again in the future. Stay tuned.