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UNRANKED TO #1 IN THE SEC WEST: HOW LSU TOOK DOWN ALABAMA

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By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips


In a game containing eight lead changes, numerous critical play reviews or refereeing decisions, one bizarre, mind-altering play after another between a pair of top ten eternal enemies, we hit college football nirvana.

On a night where every play, every inch and every moment mattered, Brian Kelly's previously discarded, criticized and unranked Tigers aggressively took the fight to Saban's Tide in a manner unlike many had ever seen before, winning the game 32-31 on an unbelievable do-or-die two point conversion in overtime, igniting Death Valley into eruption as every purple & gold body in the stands emptied on to the blood-soaked grass of Tigers Stadium.

Just another Saturday night in Death Valley.....

Well, this was far from just any old Saturday night inside Tigers Stadium....

On November 5th, 2022, we all witnessed the greatest ever installment within LSU and Alabama's apocalyptic series, while standing as one of the best ever LSU games any of us will ever see.

Featuring nonstop drama, both teams landing haymaker blow after blow, backed by an overwhelming intensity you could bottle, all against the heightened backdrop of Tiger Stadium's unbridled, incomparable atmosphere, this was one for the ages.

But Saturday night's game meant so much more than a mere victory against Nick Saban, a man who hadn't lost a game at Tigers Stadium since 2010:

By beating Alabama during his first year, Brian Kelly just fortified the program he found in tatters only a little over 10 months ago...completing a remarkable 180 degree turnaround from the losing seasons, roster mismanagement & lack of fight found in Coach Ed Orgeron's final salvo.
In either of LSU's last two meetings vs Alabama, LSU hit rock bottom as a program; Yet unlike 2020's embarrassing calamity or 2021's offensive toothlessness, Saturday night will stand as LSU football at its heart-stopping best.

The wild night will be remembered forever due to Brian Kelly's ballsy two point conversion decision against Nick Saban, one of the greatest calls you could ever imagine.......encapsulating a moment even Coach Gordon Bombay would deem too unrealistic for anyone to reproduce. When Kelly trusted his freshman tight end to execute the biggest play-call of his nearly 40 year coaching career, we knew this man would never have to buy a drink in the state of Louisiana ever again.....

Regardless of the game's ultimate, greatest of all time ending, there was constant action throughout the previous 60+ minutes which made November 5th 2022 an unforgettable experience to behold:

Wire to wire, there were so many points of insanity, moments of brilliance or delirium triggering madness for all to enjoy....unless you are an Alabama fan, of course:

From the first whistle, everyone could sense Kelly's Tigers were here to play, putting Young on the ropes immediately out of the gates, intercepting Young's first endzone-bound pass on Alabama's opening drive, and providing the template for what would be a defensive struggle over the better part of 3 quarters.

Then, once the 4th quarter hit, everything exploded....Alabama scoring 25 points in the final period and overtime while LSU were forced to respond again and again, answering Saban and Young's Tide with their own flurry of points, sending the game from 7-6 to 24-24 at the end of 4.

During an epic overtime, Brian Kelly took the game away from Nick Saban and gave it back to the football gods themselves, calling an unbelievable two point conversion attempt after just the first touchdown response.

Yes, the biggest talking points revolve around LSU's incredible defensive imperialism, the Tigers' ability to rattle Bryce Young & take Alabama completely out of their comfort zone, of course Mason Taylor's incredible lead-taking touchdown catch, followed by his breathtaking 2 point conversion score to win the game, Jayden Daniels' iconic clutch performance, as well as solid showings from Kayshon Boutte, Josh Williams, John Emery Jr, Malik Nabers, led by the collective and individual defensive masterclass from BJ Ojulari, Micah Baskerville, Joe Foucha, Jarrick Bernard-Converse and a game dominating showing from Harold Perkins.

Still, there was so much going on throughout each snap it becomes a tall task & never ending puzzle to put together....in fact, this game was so damn breathtaking in its scope & madness, I'm having trouble locating pieces of my brain...

First off, Matt House's relentless squad shutout Bryce Young and Alabama's offense for 3 quarters, holding the Tide to just a pair of field goals until 12:37 left in the 4th quarter;

Simultaneously, Harold Perkins, BJ Ojulari, Micah Baskerville and Mekhi Wingo pressured 2021's Heisman winner into submission. Totaling 29 overall pressures, 7 QB hits, 2 sacks and 20 hurries against Young, LSU's entire defensive enterprise continued to grow in confidence and control, even when they began to wear down later on.

In a performance beyond his years, freshman linebacker Harold Perkins repeatedly harassed QB Bryce Young into errant throws or negative plays, collecting 3 QB hurries, 3 QB hits and a sack (3.5 on the season), proving himself to be one of the fastest rising stars of 2022....of any age....

Here was a true freshman haunting 2021's Heisman winner and likely 2022 Heisman finalist with one devastating backfield entrance after another, constantly supplying chaos for Tide offensive linemen JC Latham or Tyler Steen to operate around.

It's no coincidence Alabama's offense finally gained momentum once Harold Perkins briefly left the field with an injury.

Against Alabama, LSU's true freshman linebacker became Matt House's most important participant on the defensive side of the ball.....

Veteran edge rusher BJ Ojulari was nearly as effective, partnering up with Perkins for one blown up play after another. LSU's junior defensive end appeared every bit the future 1st Round pick we believe he is, recording a career-high 11 tackles, 6 pressures, 1.5 TFLs, 3 QB Hurries and his 5th sack on the season.

Ojulari attacked this game possessed by a passion & velocity you won't find easily from another edge rusher. There were occasions where Ojulari casually tossed former 5 star offensive linemen out of his pathway to the quarterback like they were a piece of trash...


Continuing his own incredible rise from 2021 All-SEC Freshman selection at Missouri, transfer Mekhi Wingo delivered his most important outing yet, anchoring LSU's chaos-inducing attack on Bryce Young, limiting Jahmyr Gibbs in the running game, while batting down multiple passes for the second game in a row (with a 3rd pass break up going uncalled by the officials, even after review).

Junior standout DT Jaquelin Roy grew into the game, becoming dominant through the interior with 4 total pressures & outstanding displays of strength inside the trenches.

LSU's secondary must also receive credit:

Although they gave up a couple big plays, Mekhi Garner, Greg Brooks Jr, Jay Ward, Sage Ryan, Joe Foucha and specifically the outstanding Jarrick Bernard-Converse broke up red zone targets and denied Bryce Young on many occasions, surviving red zone attempts with sticky coverage and active, calculating hands, always fighting for the ball.


Forcing 4 incompletions officially, (according to Pro Football Focus), DBU showed their resilience against the game's best quarterback.

Bryce Young tossed an excessive, desperate 51 attempts, which DBU turned into 26 incompletions, thanks to their coverage as well as the defensive front's consistent pressure.

Intercepting a touchdown-bound pass as they broke up 4 other throws, LSU's coverage beautifully backed their devastating pass rush.

This was a night where DBU coaches Kerry Cooks (safeties) and Robert Steeples (cornerbacks) more than earned their 2022 bonuses, let alone a proper raise after their fantastic coaching performances this season, elevating their limited personnel at all times.

Matching the ruthlessness of House's defense, Mike Denbrock called his most articulate game as LSU's offensive coordinator, mixing in destructive RPO rushing from Daniels alongside Josh Williams' physical grinding runs, wearing down Alabama's front and forcing Pete Golding's secondary to become mere spectators....until Daniels started dropping dimes on 'em.

Every play was designed to work Pete Golding's brain until Denbrock had him tied up in knots....each snap prepared to wear down Will Anderson and Henry To'o To'o....every offensive play-call set up to drain Alabama's secondary of any notable confidence:


LSU's first big passing play came from Daniels' game-breaking passing touchdown to John Emery Jr, swinging the ball out wide for the running back to cut and blur his way 30 yards for his 2nd receiving touchdown of 2022.

Denbrock continuously complimented LSU's patient running game by dialing up high percentage passing plays for Daniels and his receivers to execute.

Just as we wrote in our pregame previews, LSU's WRs vs Alabama's DBs would be an ultimate battle where Daniels and co wouldn't outgain Young and his receivers, but they'd still make every yard count.

Accordingly, Kayshon Boutte & Malik Nabers combined for 13 catches, 100 yards and 6 first down conversions, testing Alabama's defensive backs enough to keep them at bay, stuck between tracking the movement of Jayden Daniels on the ground or covering LSU receivers.

At first, Alabama clamped down on Daniels' rushing, but as we watched later on, once the Tigers hit a few big time passing plays, the space Daniels needed began to expand:


In the end, Daniels rushed for 95 yards against Alabama, 86 of those yards arriving after contact, making 5 tacklers miss, bursting for a long of 31 yards at one point before ultimately rushing 25 yards across the field & down the sidelines to score the game-winner in overtime.....the first QB touchdown run allowed by Alabama in 2022...

Despite rushing for only 37 yards at halftime, LSU finished with 182 after patience paid off, their freshmen tackles Emery Jones and Will Campbell becoming dominant as the game went on, bulldozing Alabama's defensive line & controlling the Tide physically...something we rarely see, let alone from two true freshmen.....

In accomplishing their strong, physical outings, Jones & Campbell just did something no one has ever done against a Nick Saban coached team: the SEC's youngest offensive line starters physically overpowered Saban's defensive front....

Both Anthony Bradford and Miles Frazier performed even better than their freshmen teammates, continuing their own streaks of consecutive starts, continuing health and progressively elite performances, bullying Alabama's defensive front late in the game.

Another layer to the game, Nabers and Boutte both roasted former Tiger cornerback Eli Ricks for 2 pass interference penalties and 3 catches (all first downs).....rattling the former LSU diva as the same crowd who used to worship Ricks now jeered him ruthlessly...

Leaving LSU and heading to Alabama "to win titles", it's supremely riveting to watch Eli lose to the Tigers inside Death Valley, getting beaten harshly on the field, and now having to sit back as the team he rejected ascends to a likely SEC title game.

LSU running back Josh Williams also continued his career-making surge, tacking on 54 yards from just 7 carries, headlined by an overpowering touchdown on the goal-line to re-take the lead during that intense second half.

Intense isn't even the right word to describe every snap of this game....perhaps "extraordinary" will do???

When both teams are taking dead ball timeouts during their first drives of the 3rd quarter, you knew this bout was as high stakes as one game could possibly be....
If LSU lose to Saban, everyone says "told you so, LSU are 3 years away from even contending, Kelly still isn't ready for the SEC, Jayden Daniels is a run-first quarterback who doesn't make quick enough decisions, Alabama are the gold standard etc upon etc....

Then......everything changed....
Brian Kelly wasn't merely happy to be playing against Nick Saban....he took the LSU job so he could beat Saban...now there's every chance the events of Saturday night just retired Alabama's legendary head coach.

In his first year, Brian Kelly wanted to change the culture at LSU:

Leaving behind the empty, post-2019 One Team One Heartbeat platitudes of Coach Ed Orgeron, Kelly's "Graduate Champions" moniker is now a rallying cry for his players (and future recruits)....one of togetherness, accountability and paying attention to every detail.


Brian Kelly said he "wanted to beat Nick Saban"...and despite everyone from Paul Finebaum, Josh Pate, Glen Guilbeau, David Pollack, Tim Tebow and Bryan Driskell all laughing at that assertion, Kelly just made it happen in the most exhilarating & defiant manner.

Surprising everyone with each move he makes at this point, Brian Kelly showcased rare misty-eyed emotion after the game, saying "seeing where this team was in January and where they are now, yeah that's pretty emotional for me...."

But now we have to discuss the realities of LSU's situation:

These Tigers may have 2 losses, yet much like 2007, they are now 1st place in the SEC West, control their own destiny regarding a place in the SEC Championship Game & if they win out, LSU will find themselves in their second College Football Playoff appearance, first since 2019, and an improbable chance to win both the SEC and a National Championship during Brian Kelly's inaugural season......his first year out of the Midwest....his debut campaign in football's toughest conference & division....his first season building his program at Louisiana State University.
When discussing Kelly's LSU transformation, both for himself personally and culturally for the program, we've never seen anything like this before....not this fast......not against Saban.....

When talking about how LSU beat Alabama.....we'll never see anything like that again.

For Brian Kelly to go toe-to-toe against Nick Saban and push for the win on a two point conversion in overtime, after 60 minutes of LSU destabilizing and containing Alabama, Brian Kelly's decision will stand as the ballsiest call anyone has ever made in college football......can we find any others that top the situation, stakes, scenario and participating coaches????
LSU was never beating Alabama without courage, not just from our players but the coaching staff;
In beating Alabama on a two point conversion in overtime, saying "this ends now" with unstoppable dissent towards college football's expectancy, LSU may have actually hammered the final nail in the coffin for Alabama's 12 year-long dynasty......while planting the seeds for their own.

For all intents and purposes.....ladies & gentlemen: LSU are back.


AUTHOR'S NOTE

We are just beginning to diagnose this madness....Check Out Our Top 5 Performances vs Alabama article coming tomorrow, while we'll be continuously feeding you stats, next level analysis, exclusive interviews with LSU Tigers, and breaking news information directly from the source over the next week.

There will be an exciting change to the site coming in December.


WATCH OUR POSTGAME REACTION


OUR 34-30 PREGAME PREDICTION


by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips

Copyright 2022 Uninterrupted Writings Inc

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