Man, talk about your metaphor for the evening…
I know the popular refrain last night, between Musburger’s non-stop “Honey Badger” references, was that Jefferson was having trouble handling the pressure, but I thought it was more a matter of him being disconnected from the proceedings. The lack of effort in running the option, the pathetic shovel pass which led to an interception, the mishandled snaps – all were indications that the LSU quarterback’s head wasn’t in the game. Facing a soulless robot who had more than a month (and a game tape of the LSU offense versus a 3-4 defense in the SECCG) to prepare was tough enough for the Tigers offense; having a quarterback who (pardon the expression) played like he didn’t give a shit made it that much harder.
LSU looked like a team that spent the last month working on just one thing, slowing Trent Richardson down. Alabama, on the other hand, played like a bunch that went down a laundry list of dos and don’ts, checking them off one by one: don’t turn the ball over, don’t let Mathieu create big plays, don’t throw the ball in Claiborne’s direction, use the running threat of Richardson to set up play action on early downs, make Jordan Jefferson beat you on offense, etc. The result was the most dominating defensive performance I’ve ever seen in a BCS game. Yeah, Jefferson made things easier, but I don’t know of a team in the country which would have scored more than fourteen points against Alabama last night. (And none of those were as good defensively as LSU.)
If I can take the opportunity to put on my homer hat for a moment, I hope Mark Richt makes everyone in the program watch last night’s game several times this offseason. Nick Saban put on a clinic of what it takes to win a game of import against what turned out to be the second best team in the country. It wasn’t just that the ‘Bama defense controlled the game. The Tide made no mistakes on offense – no turnovers, no penalties – and had no serious lapses on special teams. Alabama never gave LSU an opportunity to seize the momentum as it had done time and time again against some very good opposition.
And that’s what Georgia couldn’t do in the SECCG. Let’s not forget that as stifling as Saban’s defense was last night, Grantham’s first-half defense against LSU was even better. (Georgia also scored more points in the first half than Alabama did.) But Georgia let its chances to win the championship game unravel on special teams and turnovers, as had happened on other occasions this season.
There are lessons to be learned for 2012, if this Georgia team will take the time to learn them.