These were two athletic, deep and talented teams on the field. One had a quarterback in AJ McCarron who uncharacteristically struggled. The other had a quarterback who just as uncharacteristically played lights out. Both had a stable of capable running backs, good route runners in the passing game, ferocious defenses and sound special teams.
In games like that, you take advantage of turnovers, don’t let your own mistakes hurt you and you play the percentages. You don’t take crazy risks like fake field goals and onsides kicks. When you’re in range and you’re having a hard time in the red zone, you don’t line up and go for it on fourth down. You don’t dial up crazy blitz packages that are easily read by the quarterback.
Les Miles did all of that and more Saturday night and in the process, he likely cost his team the game.
In close, hard-fought matches like this, a handful of plays almost always decide the outcome. Last year’s questionable Reid interception was a key in the 9-6 win in Tuscaloosa. Adrian Hubbard’s stuff of the ill-fated fourth down conversion attempt was critical this time. The only difference is that the Hubbard stop didn’t have to happen.
On the other sideline was the always-prepared, never panicking Nick Saban, whose coaching decisions during the game let his team hang around. You don’t let great teams hang around once you have them on the ropes. Late in the 4th quarter, LSU had Bama on the ropes and instead of slowly strangling the clock, Miles munched some grass and rolled the dice.
When Alabama finally got the ball back with 1:34 left, everyone knew what was coming next. McCarron woke up and hit four of five passes, the last of which was Yeldon’s slip screen TD that, ironically, caught LSU blitzing.
This will go down as one of the great comebacks in Alabama football history. It will probably rank above the 1998 miracle on the Bayou because this time a championship was at stake. But had the coaching roles been switched, this comeback probably wouldn’t have happened.