LSU loss to Alabama, part II – the defense

The Advocate (the Baton Rouge daily, not the national gay newspaper) this morning is filled with tales of heroism and references to the “epic” game played in Tiger Stadium yesterday. As any reader of that paper knows, homerism is to be expected. The softness with which they treat Jarrett Lee has become familiar – praising the hell out of his good throws, making excuses for the interceptions they find fault of others in and glossing over the truly horrendous mistakes of Lee.

But what’s bothering me more this morning is this notion published in The Advocate and generally spreading online of “‘D’ shines, but Tigers still fail“. Maybe it’s a reflection of LSU’s diminished expectations on defense, but I would hardly call giving up 353 yards to a team that averages 369 “shining”.

Yes, it was very good to see LSU’s defense not collapse this week and give up ridiculous scores (thanks, in large part, to Earl Alexander basically handing the ball to Chad Jones at the one-yard line and John Parker Wilson’s touchdown scramble being called back for holding), and nine of 12 Bama drives ending in either punts or turnovers means the defense did its job.

Look, though, deeper into this season and you can see how LSU’s defensive performance against the Tide was completely average. In SEC play, Bama was held to fewer rushing yards than LSU allowed (138) by both Ole Miss and Georgia, and fewer passing yards (215) by Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Ole Miss held Bama to 326 total yards and 24 points – better than LSU in yards and just one of Bama’s two missed/blocked field goals worse in points.

Had the LSU defense truly “shined” and completely shut down Bama’s offense – like Tulane did (172 total yards, 20 points allowed) – the Tigers would have been in a better position to overcome Jarrett Lee. But they were just average. Given LSU’s performances against Florida and Georgia, average was very good to see. It just wasn’t enough.

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