Mitchell: Bama Secret Weapon - A Forward Pass
Bama QB AJ McCarron
Bama QB AJ McCarron
Posted Jan 10, 2012

Once again, LSU's defense did a good job stopping the run. Just one problem for the Tigers, the Tide threw the ball instead. Alabama tossed all 34 of its passes in the first three quarter, to just 22 carries; surprising everyone - most importantly LSU.

By Russ Mitchell

NEW ORLEANS, L.A. – Will whoever took the LSU Tigers football team please return it to Baton Rouge before class resumes.

If you went to sleep early on Monday night, we can hardly blame you. This was far more of a one-sided affair than even the most fervent of Bama supporters could have hoped for… On the bright side, we finally got an answer to the question: no, as good as its defense might be, LSU cannot win a game with absolutely no offense at all.

But don't kid yourselves, Tiger fans, this loss was much more than just offensive ineptitude. It was also a defense that couldn't adjust to Bama's secret weapon – and it was indeed a secret – quarterback AJ McCarron.

In shades of the 2009 SEC Championship Game, in which Alabama stunned Florida by coming out of he gates throwing with Greg McElroy, head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Jim McElwain did just that. Not long or difficult throws to start, mind you, but good confidence builders for McCarron, who in the first LSU game completed just four passes that were caught more than four yards downfield.

Bama's first two plays were passes. Four of its first five were passes. LSU's defense continued to wait for the run, but it rarely came. When it finally did, it seemed more of a diversion to set up the pass – a full game strategy deployed by the Crimson Tide rarely if at all this season.

As McCarron started completing pass after pass and his confidence grew, McElwain started stretching them out further and deeper. All the talk Tuesday will be about LSU's quarterback woes, but defensive coordinator John Chavis deserves as much of the blame for never seeming to adjust to Bama's passing attack.

Whenever Bama ran, LSU was prepared. Just one thing…Bama passed instead. Over and over again. Even the loss of starting receiver Marquis Maze didn't slow down the Bama passing attack.

For the game, Bama's offense had 34 passes to 35 runs – but most of those runs came in the fourth quarter with the game all but sealed. In the first quarter, Bama ran 11 pass plays to 5 runs. In the second, 14 passes to 11 runs, and in the third, 9 passes to 7 runs, with three of those coming on the last series, as the Tide shifted into running out the clock, up 15-0. Alabama didn't throw a single pass in the fourth quarter.

That's 34 passes to 22 runs in the first three quarters.

If there is any condolence for what is likely a very tired, disappointed LSU defense, it's that until a final meaningless touchdown in the waning moments, this defense never cracked – forcing the Tide to kick field goal after field goal after field goal. However, death by a million cuts is still just that – death.

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