In what seemed to be the second-coming of the Game of the Century, Alabama used a big performance from quarterback Jalen Hurts to win 10-0 in Baton Rouge on Saturday night. The true freshman had a big fourth quarter and scored the game’s only touchdown on a 21-yard scramble.
Alabama’s defense could not get on the board this time but they will be happy with a shutout. The Crimson Tide allowed just 125 yards of total offense and only six first downs. The nation’s top-ranked team improved to 9-0 and likely got its best win of the season.
It was a good thing the Crimson Tide did not need a big outing from their passing attack. Hurts finished with just 107 yards on 10 of 19 passing. 52 of those yards came on one pass to ArDarius Stewart to open up the second half, which the Tide did not capitalize on. There were miscues early and often in the passing game, including an interception on the Tide’s opening possession. Alabama receivers were bobbling passes while the passing attack seemed out of sync.
Stewart’s catch was not the only good play from the passing game though. Calvin Ridley had a 21-yard reception just before a missed field goal and Miller Forristall caught a 22-yard wheel route to jump start the Tide’s touchdown drive. The offensive line only allowed three quarterback hurries and one sack all night.
Alabama’s running game was the key to victory Saturday night but not in the way you would want it to be as fans. There were plenty of negative plays for the rushing attack but Hurts made the difference with his legs. The freshman finished with 114 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, leading the team in all three categories.
Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough split time in the backfield and finished with almost identical nights. Harris finished with 53 yards on 12 carries and Scarbrough had 52 yards on 11 carries. As a whole, Alabama averaged 4.2 yards per carry. The Tide had eight rushes that went for 10 yards or more.
It was clear that the Crimson Tide’s defense came to play from the start. After being given a short field for LSU’s opening drive, Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams combined for a big sack, leading to a blocked field goal. Alabama finished with five sacks and three quarterback hurries on the night, being led by Jonathan Allen who had one of each.
The Tide’s coverage was just as stellar on Saturday night, only allowing 11 completions and 92 passing yards. Minkah Fitzpatrick, who filled in for the injured Eddie Jackson at safety tonight, got the team’s only interception. The pick came after the Tide took a 7-0 lead and helped ice the game away. Fitzpatrick also added a pass breakup, along with Anthony Averett and Ronnie Harrison.
It was supposed to be Leonard Fournette’s revenge game but the Crimson Tide’s defensive front was having none of that. The junior running back’s biggest run was just nine yards and he finished with 35 yards on 17 carries. His 2.1 yards per carry average was actually an improvement from last season (1.6 ypc). Reuben Foster finished the night with 11 tackles and 1.5 for a loss, leading the team in both categories.
Alabama finished with four tackles behind the line of scrimmage against the home team’s rushing attack. The Tigers finished with 33 rushing yards on 27 attempts on Saturday night. Alabama’s defense came prepared and they executed to perfection.
It was a weird night for the Crimson Tide’s special teams unit but there were plenty of positives to be pulled from the game in Death Valley. Ronnie Harrison blocked an LSU field goal attempt on the opening possession for the Tigers. However, shortly after, Trevon Diggs did not field a punt and forced the Tide’s offense to start on their own 2-yard line. Adam Griffith added to the woes with a missed 42-yard field, keeping the score deadlocked at 0-0 at halftime.
The Crimson Tide got a huge performance from punter J.K. Scott. The junior punter averaged 51.6 yards per punt, including a 66 yard kick that barely made its way into the endzone. Diggs muffed one punt but quickly fell on it and for the most part looked comfortable filling in for Eddie Jackson. Griffith’s 25-yard field goal helped clinch the game in the final minutes of the game.
Saturday night marked Nick Saban‘s 200th career win as a collegiate head coach so it’s tough to get upset about the coaching tonight. Alabama’s play-calling may have been frustrating to start the game but the team came in with a clear gameplan and they did not want to stray from that too quickly. When Kiffin saw that Hurts was the hot hand, there were more designed runs for the quarterback.
Alabama’s star of the night was probably defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who put together a great plan to stop one of the nation’s best rushing attacks. The Tide finished with six penalties on the night, which included a scuffle on the LSU sideline, but Alabama seemed controlled and disciplined for most of the night. Happy 200th CNS!
Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Bleacher Report. He also works as a columnist and contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.