By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
It was a game many true Tigers will remember for a long time as "the Saturday where 2021 LSU made a stand", a night where LSU's defense rolled back the clocks to the early 2010s while doing more than enough to beat Alabama four times over....
Even still....against #2 Alabama, our 4-4 Tigers did us proud: embarrassing Saban in front of his own fans inside his own house, while missing 7 defensive starters & 16 future NFL players, our Tigers held the Crimson Tide to just 6 rushing yards and only lost on the final play by 6 points (the spread was nearly 30 points by kickoff).
Many of our players experienced their first ever starts on the road @ #2 Alabama, and to have this valuable experience, even in defeat, is the start of something massive for the future of the LSU program.
Young studs such as B.J Ojulari, Jack Bech, Brian Thomas Jr, Max Johnson, Malik Nabers, Jaquelin Roy, Mike Jones Jr, Dwight McGlothern, Darren Evans & Pig Cage learning from the few veterans left: Damone Clark, Ty Davis-Price, Jay Ward, Neil Farrell Jr, Cam Lewis and Micah Baskerville.....it's a special passing of the torch:
Together, this squad made every LSU Tigers fan proud.....at the program's lowest moment since 1992, senior or freshman, junior or sophomore, 4 star, 5 star, 0 star, JUCO transfer, walk-on..... it didn't matter....
LSU needed all hands on deck....and this team responded.
There are players on this squad who won a title with Joe Burrow in 2019.....they're now teaching the new blood how to win their own in 2022-2024.
Our five best performers from the night?
TY DAVIS-PRICE (RB)
4th Down Conv: 3
3rd Down Conv: 2
Though he had the ball stripped from his grasp in a crucial moment, Ty Davis-Price kept LSU in a game we had no right to be in.....at least on paper.
Fumbling for only the 3rd time over 311 total touches as a Tiger, losing his first ever fumble on Saturday, TDP also recovered a Max Johnson cough-up earlier this season.
But knowing the kind of competitor and leader Ty is, he won't give himself any excuses. it was a huge play from Tennessee-Alabama transfer LB Henry To'o To'o at a big moment, but without Ty, LSU aren't even in the game:
Keeping drives alive with a trio of 4th down do or die rushes, alongside a pair of 3rd down conversions, TDP's acceleration in between a collapsing O-Line, against a top 10 defense, is remarkable, busting runs loose for 37 on 4th down, taking LSU inside the red zone, smashing over Alabama defenders as he ran for another gain of 9, Ty earned every one of his 104 yards the hard way.
Becoming the first player to rush for 100 yards on Alabama since Ole Miss RB Snoop Connor grabbed 128 in October 2020, Ty just achieved something no other player has in 19 games.
More than that, Ty Davis-Price's name is in the record books alongside only two other LSU running backs:
Only three LSU running backs have ever run for over 100 yards on the road @ Alabama in Tuscaloosa: Kevin Faulk's 168 yards in 1997, Clyde Edwards-Helaire's 103 yards during that G.O.A.T 2019 matchup, and now Ty's 104 yards
Following his undeniable exhibition @ Alabama, TDP has now rushed for 731 yards on the season, averaging 5.1 per carry, with one eye on a 1,000 yard campaign, it was considered unthinkable even a month ago for LSU to have a 1,000 yard rusher.....well, even against all the odds, here he is.
And right alongside the rise of his yards total?
Ty Davis-Price's NFL Draft stock.
He's showing his dominance, with or without an offensive line....that's special vision, brilliant running, and next level strength in the hole.
Remember, Ty ran for 104 yards and a touchdown @ Arkansas last year, as well as catching a TD that was wrongfully called back......#3 is far from finished.
CAM LEWIS (S)
6 Tackles (4 Solo)
1 Catch Allowed
1 TD Allowed
While he was picked on in coverage for Alabama's biggest play of the night, a long TD over the top, the 3rd string safety / 3rd string nickel stepped up in the way a 6th year senior wearing a National Championship ring is expected to....and in doing so, Cam Lewis was able to have his best night as a Tiger.
Allowing just one explosive play all game, Lewis stood up in only his first ever Tigers start, stuffing most plays that came up his side; he showed off dynamic range, eating up ground, making big stops in the open field.... it's no question that Saturday was "Cam Savage's" greatest performance as a Tiger.
Stuffing Alabama's Brian Robinson Jr among others for 6 tackles (his second highest ever tackle total: 9 tackles vs Florida 2021), as well as shutting down Bryce Young's intermediary throwing lanes, it was still his big time strip-sack that not only gave LSU a chance to win the game, it was the biggest defensive play of the night in a game full of 'em:
Strip-sacking Bryce Young was Cam's first ever created turnover over 5 1/2 years of service at LSU, pointing to the cavernous depth of NFL Draft picks & All-American talent he had to wait behind for his turn (Grant Delpit, Jacoby Stevens, Jay Ward, Kary Vincent etc).
With Major Burns most likely out for the remainder of the season, as a banged up Todd Harris tries to put his name back in the hat, while Jordan Toles doesn't seem to garner much trust from Daronte Jones, over the next 3-4 games, in his last year of eligibility, senior Cam Lewis will have his first ever extended starting run out at safety for LSU....
Thus far, 2021 has been his most productive season:
Across 8 appearances, Lewis issued 35 total tackles, 20 solo, 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 pass broken up, 1 forced fumble and his experienced, measured presence offers LSU a major boost at the safety position over Cam's last 3-4 games as a Tiger.
DAMONE CLARK (LB)
8 Tackles (3 Solo)
3 QB Hits
Once again leading the team in tackles, which Clark has pulled off every game so far on the schedule, Damone had himself another monumental 4 quarters, taking the fight to Alabama all night long, destabilizing their bewildered, battered offensive line & patrolling the spaces sideline to sideline like a Tiger unleashed from his cage, making one key tackle after another in order to prevent explosive gains.
A glorified LB/DE hybrid at times on Saturday, Damone was allowed to rush off the edge, or was sent in on disguised blitzes up the gut at key situations, hounding Bryce Young and pressuring his every move.
He blasted the quarterback, registering his second consecutive game with a sack as well as a flurry of violent retribution behind the line of scrimmage.
Forming the spine of the defense, alongside veterans Neil Farrell Jr and Jay Ward, Damone Clark takes his place as a great LSU linebacker, fighting off every single one of his doubters with one silencing tackle after another, intercepting passes, batting throws into the air, forcing fumbles, tracking down quarterbacks before pasting their weakened remnants into the ground.....
Damone's intimidation factor vs Alabama was the real deal.....he terrified the Crimson Tide, every single one of those Tide players were scared of #18: their demeanor, haunted expressions, and most of all, fearful gameplay made their fear all the more palpable.
America, I present to you... Your #1 linebacker of 2021: Damone Clark. Now a high round NFL Draft pick, as well.
NEIL FARRELL JR (DT)
7 Tackles (2 Solo)
3 QB Hits
Every time we've put together a Top 5 Performances list this season, I'm starting to feel like Neil Farrell Jr qualified for all or at least most of these Top 5s.......he's simply been a devastating figure for LSU in a season where all hope seems lost, ambition thrown out, with our collective winning mentality scattered, DT Neil Farrell Jr stood up and was counted, delivering an incredible All-American level exhibition of dominance....and just as he out-performed the competition vs Florida or kept fighting hard @ Ole Miss, the 6th year Tigers senior enjoyed his greatest game as a Tiger @ Alabama.
Clogging, stuffing, blowing up plays and creating avenues of savage destruction for his teammates, of course Neil can do all the typical elite DT stuff.....yet, #92 is an even more versatile festival of brutality:
Against Alabama, Farrell Jr was LSU's best pass rusher, pressuring Bryce Young the most of any LSU Tiger (4 pressures), obliterating the former Mater Dei prospect directly on 3 occasions, while entering the backfield and barreling towards Saban's QB on most snaps.
#92 stalked the field with a violent presence, a total renegade mentality, sealing his LSU Legend as a key member of the 2019 National Championship team who continued to pave the way for his Tigers, despite all the changes, poor defensive performances surrounding him both individually or collectively, plus the constant bad headlines, Farrell Jr hung in there and is now celebrating rapidly rising NFL Draft stock & wildly impressed fans, coaches, scouts & analysts alike.
JAY WARD (S)
6 Tackles (5 Solo)
0 Catches Allowed
1 forced incompletion
More than making play after play out there, which he did, Safety Jay Ward's smack-talking, instigating, intensified-Southern-Fried DBU reputation is now glittering in purple & gold stardust:
After his vicious "YOU SHALL NOT PASS" hit on QB Bryce Young or his athleticism tracking down ball carriers or passing targets, Ward set the stage for the Tigers' "defensive hunting" when he blasted a receiver over the middle early on......you could sense his teammates feeding off his energy.
Following the performances of QBs Will Levis and Bo Nix rushing unstoppably on the Tigers, Jay's crowd-pleasing hit on Bryce Young was the greatest bout of Tiger on QB Violence since the 2019 title run, refusing to allow another QB to run on the Tigers.
Targeted 3 times for 0 catches, Jay even broke up a Young pass to Latu inside the end zone, swatting away a would-be TD at the most crucial moment. Ward now has 5 career PBUs inside the red zone, preventing TDs against the best opponents (Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma).
Ward was a major part of the Tigers' ability to shut down Alabama's offense for the better part of 4 quarters, but his defiant annihilation of anything Bama was everything we've always loved about facing Alabama, cheering for LSU, watching DBU week in / week out, and it's one of the many reasons we love Jay Ward.
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
SHOUTOUTS: ALL FIVE OF THESE COURAGEOUS TIGERS...WE LOVE YOU!