10 Takeaways: Alabama Crimson Tide falls to LSU, 46-41
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Here are 10 takeaways following the Alabama Crimson Tide’s 46-41 loss to LSU.
1. Tua's 'warrior' display
Less than three weeks removed from a tightrope surgery on his injured right ankle, Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t quite the precision passer Alabama has grown accustomed to seeing. However, the left-hander put up a valiant effort while leading the Crimson Tide’s comeback bid.
Tagovialoa completed just 11 of 19 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown in the first half, committing two uncharacteristic — and costly — turnovers. However, he rallied back after the break to finish 21 of 40 for 418 yards with four touchdowns.
It was questioned whether or not Tagovailoa would be able to return in time for Saturday and if so how well he would perform. Following the game, head coach Nick Saban said he felt the junior was close to 100 percent and showed good short-area quickness in the pocket.
“I think he was a warrior in terms of what he did,” Saban said. “And I think probably missing the practice that he missed over the last couple weeks, he may not have been quite as sharp as normal. But I thought he did a good job in the game, and I’m proud of the way he competed in the game.”
2. Najee Harris has a career night
This is the type of five-star performance Alabama expected from Najee Harris when he joined the team as the No. 1 overall player in the 2017 class. The junior running back put together a career game against LSU, carrying the ball 19 times for 146 yards and a touchdown while adding three receptions for 44 yards and a score through the air.
Both of Harris’ touchdowns came in the second half. First, he pulled in an acrobatic 15-yard reception from Tagovailao to help Alabama cut LSU’s lead to 33-20 with 4:51 left in the third quarter. On the Crimson Tide’s ensuing drive he punched the ball in from a yard out to trim the deficit to 33-27 with 14:33 left to play. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound back gained 152 combined yards in the second half, including 108 on the ground.
Through nine games, Harris has 788 yards and six touchdowns on the ground to go with 215 yards and five more scores through the air. Those totals are already higher than what he recorded through 15 games last year.
3. DeVonta Smith quietly reaches the 200-yard mark again
It almost went unnoticed, but DeVonta Smith reached the 200-yard mark for the second time this season. The junior receiver hauled in seven receptions for 213 yards and two touchdowns against LSU. That came after he set the school’s single-game mark with 274 yards and five touchdowns on 11 catches against Ole Miss.
Smith’s 200-yard game is just the eighth in Alabama history. He joins Amari Cooper as the only Crimson Tide receiver to have multiple 200-yard games in their career. Cooper had three 200-yard games in 2014, recording 224 yards in games against Tennessee and Auburn while tallying 201 yards against Florida.
Through nine games, Smith leads Alabama with 934 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air. That’s more than he had in his previous two seasons with the Crimson Tide combined.
4. Alabama’s final touchdown could be important
Smith’s final catch Saturday might end up being his biggest this season. With Alabama trailing 46-34, the speedy receiver reeled in an 85-yard deep ball from Tagovailoa, trimming the deficit to 46-41 with 1:21 to play. While Alabama was unable to complete the comeback, the one-score defeat will look better on its resume at the end of the season.
“I feel like we made a big statement,” offensive lineman Jedrick Wills Jr. said. “I feel like we really showed what we can do, show that we are a good team. But it was just too late.”
Alabama will need all the help it can to convince the College Football Playoff committee it’s one of the top four teams in the nation. While the Crimson Tide will also need some chips to fall its way for the remainder of the year, its hopes of reaching a sixth straight playoff aren’t dead just yet.
5. Joe Burrow for Heisman
Alabama might end up playing the Heisman Trophy winner in back-to-back seasons. Last year, the Crimson Tide went up against Heisman winner Kyler Murray in the Orange Bowl. While Joe Burrow hasn’t locked up the award just yet, he cemented his place as the frontrunner on Saturday.
Burrow completed his first 13 passes against Alabama en route to finishing the game 31 of 39 for 393 yards and three touchdowns. That’s the most the Crimson Tide has given up since Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence recorded 347 yards and three scores in last season’s national championship game.
“He’s a good quarterback. He does what they do well,” outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings said of Burrow. “Hats off to them.”
6. Saban explains decision not to take a knee before the half
Hindsight is 20/20. One of Alabama’s biggest mistakes came right before the half as Tagovailoa was intercepted by LSU linebacker Patrick Queen with 26 seconds remaining. Queen returned the ball to the Alabama 13-yard line before Burrow completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire the next play to put the Tigers up by three scores.
Following the game, Saban explained his decision not to take a knee in the situation.
“Since the result we got was what we got, I wish we had ran the ball,” Saban said. “I wish we had taken a knee. We had two timeouts. We were trying to throw a chunk play and maybe hit a big play. We have a lot of capability to do that. We trusted the quarterback to make a good decision. The guy broke on the ball and intercepted the ball.
“Based on what happened, I definitely — if I had to do over and I knew that was going to happen, we would have kneeled on the ball. But being aggressive in the game at the time, I thought that we would throw the ball down the field and give ourselves a chance to make a play, and even if it was a bad play, it would be no worse than a punt. That was obviously a mistake on our part and I take all the blame for that."
7. Alabama cornerbacks had nights to forget
Trevon Diggs entered this game having allowed just 12 receptions over Alabama’s first eight games. Over four miserable quarters against LSU, the senior cornerback allowed 10 catches on 14 targets for 147 yards and a touchdown.
Coverage wasn’t the only problem for the 6-foot-2, 207-pound defensive back. Diggs earned a 37.7 tackling grade from Pro Football Focus with two missed tackles, including one on LSU’s final score of the game as Edwards-Helaire bullied over him into the end zone on a 7-yard run.
Diggs wasn’t the only Alabama defensive back who put on a dismal display Saturday. Fellow cornerback Patrick Surtain II allowed four receptions on four targets for 78 yards and a touchdown.
8. Early mistakes cost the Crimson Tide
Alabama’s slow start was largely self-inflicted. The Crimson Tide committed several careless errors early on, starting with a fumble by Tagovailao on the opening drive of the game. Scrambling to his right near the end zone, the left-hander lost control of the ball, giving it up at the LSU 8-yard line.
After the Tigers scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession, the Crimson Tide went three-and-out before punter Ty Perine mishandled a snap on a punt, giving LSU the ball at the Alabama 40-yard line.
Diggs intercepted Burrow the following play. However, the play was called back due to a substitution infraction on Alabama. LSU would go on to score a field goal on the drive. Alabama finished the game with seven penalties for 53 yards.
9. Don’t kick the ball to Jaylen Waddle
With Alabama’s offense struggling to move the ball early, Jaylen Waddle provided a much-needed spark when he returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter. Despite appearing to have his facemask grabbed right after securing the punt, the sophomore receiver broke free and raced to his left where he was able to streak down the sideline for the score.
Through nine games, Waddle leads the nation averaging 25.27 yards per punt return. His 77-yard return Saturday marked his first return for a touchdown this season. The electrifying playmaker returned a ball 63 yards for a score last year against Louisiana. For his career, Waddle is averaging 19.7 yards, a total that ranks atop the Alabama career list.
10. SEC explains controversial call
One of the games more controversial moments occurred when LSU tight end Thaddeus Moss made a 16-yard catch to give the Tigers the ball at the Alabama 1-yard line late in the second quarter.
The play was reviewed and shown on the big board as Moss clearly stepped out of bounds before catching a ball in bounds on his toes. However, the play stood much to the dismay of the crowd inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. Later, the SEC Officiating Twitter account explained the ruling.
In #LSUvsBAMA, if a receiver is forced out of bounds due to contact by a defender, the receiver can re-establish position on the field and make a legal catch. On the play in question, the ruling on the field was the receiver was forced out of bounds by contact.— SEC Officiating (@SECOfficiating) November 9, 2019
By rule, if there is contact between the defender and the receiver, whether or not a player was forced out of bounds is not reviewable. Replay confirmed the receiver reestablished himself and completed the catch. (2/2)— SEC Officiating (@SECOfficiating) November 9, 2019