12 steps for LSU to beat Alabama

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Danny Etling
(Photo: Terrill Weil)

Although it will be an extremely steep climb, LSU has a chance to beat Alabama.

Here are 12 steps the Tigers must take if they want to challenge the unbeaten Crimson Tide this weekend in Tuscaloosa. You will have to add a dash of extra effort from each participant and a pinch of Lady Luck to the formula below.

1. Play assignment football: It sounds cliche’ but all the defensive players can’t get caught into wanting to be a hero and make a game-changing play. Don’t overlook your assignment, coverage area or individual territory. Do your job.

2. Tackle well: Break down and display good tackling form. Sometimes a defender will want to put a “kill shot” tackle on a runner or the quarterback. One juke from the ball carrier eliminates the would-be overly agressive tackler.

3. No mental lapses: Particularly on offense, penalties can take away a game changing play. You can avoid digging a deep hole by avoiding the yellow flags. Concentration and silly penalties prove costly and many times come back to bite you.

4- Get ’em out of sync: Motion, different looks offensively (Saban called it Eye Candy) can force the defense to re-align or basically get the players out of their temporary comfort zone. An offensive player in motion will cause the front seven to get their cleats out of the turf, make them move slightly, if only for a snap count, but it gets them thinking for a moment (instead of reacting with instinct) about their keys or assignment. That fraction of a delay can help the Tigers come up with a key play.

5. Make them run sideways: Get the Alabama defenders to run east and west. If that happens, it accomplishes two things. It will put wear and tear on the defense and increase the potential for running lanes. This way you are using the entire width of the field, offering cut backs.

6. Change tempo of the game: The cadence can get the defense out of balance with different voice inflection – shorter cadence, longer cadence, etc. Every offsides penalty provides an opportunity to move the chains and create more options.

7. Etling’s arm: Senior starter Danny Etling doesn’t have to win the game, just manage it. He will have to take a few shots downfield and it will be up to the receivers to create separation or just battle to make a play. Etling can only deliver the ball. He must try to limit 50-50 throws in traffic. Those could be tipped or intercepted, leading to further problems. Etling actually holds the advantage in passing over his counterpart, Alabama sophomore Jalen Hurts. Both have nine touchdown passes and just one interception but Etling’s passing rating are yardage totals are slightly higher.

8. Winning QB mentality: Etling has been sacked 15 times this season so avoiding them as a big underdog will be a challenge. A couple of options he has include using the cadence and throwing screen passes. He must also be cognizant of the rush and not hold the ball too long. Move the pocket and throw it away when necessary. It sounds easy, but it’s not. It’s something that can be accomplished with an ever-evolving game plan.

9. Leave no stone unturned: LSU’s D.J. Chark and Alabama’s Calvin Ridley are playmakers. Ridley with 41 grabs for 523 yards and two scores. Chark has 22 receptions for 535 yards and no touchdowns. Chark will gain most of the Crimson Tide’s attention on defense. It’s imperative that LSU utilizes the backs, tight ends and other receivers to provide balance in the passing game. And say what you want about jet sweeps, but both Russell Gage and Derrick Dillon are averaging 8.8 yards per carry on those plays.

10. Limit the Tide’s smooth ride: Alabama is physical on offense. They aren’t fancy. They line up and run right at you. If something is working they are not going to change it. Alabama runs the ball about 47 times each game and throws it about 15-16 times, almost 3 to 1 ratio. It’s not an easy task to stop or even slow the vaunted Tide running game down, but I refer back to tackling assignment. If you force Alabama to pass even a little bit more than they want to do, it’s not as smooth of a ride for an offense used to being under control. LSU doesn’t have as many yards on offense but are more balanced.

11. Close strong: Dave Aranda’s defense usually don’t lose their pace. The Tigers did not allowed a point against Auburn or Florida in the fourth quarter and only allowed eight points to Ole Miss with the win all but secured. Giving up 142 total yards and eight first downs in the final quarter to those three SEC opponents demonstrates great conditioning and commitment to assignment. They’ll just have to ratchet that intensity up this week.

12. Special teams battle: Alabama is dead last in the league in returns. LSU is not much better at 12th, but the Tigers have two punt returns for touchdowns while the Crimson Tide have none. The Tigers more than double Alabama’s production for punt returns. That trend must continue if LSU wants to win the field position battle. Also, Alabama’s kicking game has slightly better numbers but LSU’s Connor Culp was perfect 4-for-4 including a 48 yarder against Ole Miss to cap a fine three-game stretch. Both special teams are solid.

I know it’s a lot of information to process, and I’m sure the Tigers know all of it well. They must do a lot right to pull off a big Saturday surprise.

Other notes… LSU sophomore MLB Devin White is the SEC’s leading tackler with 80 stops. He’s on pace to tie Kevin Minter’s 2012 season with 130 stops, more than guys like Lawrence Williams, Trev Faulk and Kelvin Sheppard recorded in one season. White is a leader on the defense and is primed to earn multiple All SEC honors as well as All American consideration before he departs…Alabama has the best rushing defense in the country, allowing less than 67 yards per game to opposition. They have a solid defense with no superstar tacklers evidenced by the fact that there is not one Bama defender among the SEC’s top 34 in tackles…LSU actually has a slight advantage in the sack department (26 to 23) over the vaunted Tide defense…Derrius Guice is the healthiest he has been since the start of the campaign and the top LSU running back is averaging 5.73 yards per carry. Darrel Williams manages a solid 4.7 yards per try. The bad news is Alabama has two runners who boast better numbers, QB Jalen Hurts (6.81 yards) and RB Damian Harris (8.6 yards)..LSU’s youngsters on the offensive line have made incremental steps the past few weeks and have demonstrated they have grown mentally and physically. This gma ewill by far be their toughest test…LSU has played 20 true freshmen, the most of any FBS team in the country. But did you realize that the Tigers have also played seven redshirt freshmen (Lloyd Cushenberry, Eric Monroe, Connor Culp, Glen Logan, Zach Von Rosenberg, Jakori Savage and Greedy Williams)? It shows just how young these Tigers are and gives one reason for the slow start and miscues back in September. It’s been a learning process, but the future is extremely bright.

Louisiana Tide-Turned

Alabama has recruited the Pelican state very well. Local talent on the current roster include:
#17 WR Cam Sims from Ouachita Parish (9 catches 140 yards)
#82 TE Irv Smith, Jr. from Brother Martin (9 catches for 86 yards and 1 TD)
#49 DE Isaiah Buggs from Ruston (3rd leading tackler)
#6 SS Hootie Jones from Neville (31 stops, 1 interception)
#7 LB Dylan Moses, a Baton Rouge native (5 tackles)
#4 LB Christopher Allen from Southern Lab (6 tackles)
#5 CB Shyheim Carter from Kentwood (5 tackles)
#97 PK Joseph Bulovas from Mandeville.
#93 DT Phidarian Mathis from Neville

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Rene Nadeau


Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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