by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
On Saturday night at Tigers Stadium, Alabama earned their revenge after LSU beat Saban's 2019 squad in their own house handily, taking the glory, the Heisman, Coach of the Year, the Blietnikoff, the SEC and finally the CFP National Championship Alabama had a stranglehold on for so long.
Was it over???
Did Ed Orgeron finally beat the pants off King Saban for good, sending him to the hills after yet another wasted year at high profile "win at all costs" Alabama?
Had LSU finally overtaken the Tide as the preliminary kickass favorites in the SEC West, aka the world's most stacked and intensive division in sports??
We found out the answer on Saturday night...55-17 Alabama, LSU losing badly at home...but the final result ended up looking more like the 6th grader beating up the kindergartner if you look at the biblical Covid-caused exodus LSU has suffered from their NFL-ready talent...
No...the time for excuses is over.
This is Alabama...this one's personal...unacceptable...shameful.
The biggest chasm between LSU and Alabama lies in the events of the week leading up to the game, where on one side you had Saban's charges sporting steely determination and licking their chops, ripping off the cutthroat vibe of 2019 LSU for their own #1 hit single in 2020....on the other, we saw a legion of scared fans showering these players' social media feeds with negativity, all terrified over the prospects of even facing their eternal rival. How this malaise is happening during a season which shouldn't have happened due to a global pandemic, where football being played is a luxury in and of itself is madness...and by LSU fans...a year after winning the National Championship with the Greatest College Football Team In History...were too afraid to cheer on their players in hopes of ruining Alabama's season at least...why couldn't you just put a little positivity out there??
The biggest difference between LSU and Alabama is the mentality of our programs and culture, Alabama had been the hunted many times before, DeVonta Smith stayed for 4 years just to get revenge on this night, Mac Jones sat behind Tua and took his chance when it came.....yet for LSU, the target on their backs now weighed just as heavy as their 2019 crown, a feeling initiated with the departures of such alphas as Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ja'Marr Chase, Lloyd Cushenberry, Grant Delpit and Terrace Marshall.
Another difference? We make bonehead plays like celebrating a touchdown by DeSean Jackson-ing the ball at the 2 yard line when it's 21-0 in the first half or biting for the most obvious move from Najee Harris in the book...
Where were the leaders for LSU on the field last night?
I'll tell you where....they were outnumbered by their beleaguered teammates.
There was a feeling amongst the fanbase that maybe LSU could make a game of this, perhaps given the 2/26 3rd down percentage from the last two games and the inspired defensive performances vs #5 A&M and Arkansas would carry LSU through into a tight second half...before another loss...
Despite some great throws by freshman quarterback T.J Finley early (including 5 first down completions on LSU's first drive and 9 altogether) the offensive line couldn't consistently protect Finley from pressure or sustain Ty Davis-Price or John Emery in the running game.
There were plays where I watched Liam Shanahan burying a guy for a big gain and our O-line lighting the Bama front up, especially on John Emery's long touchdown run and the Boutte touchdown....but those were the only two plays that type of dominance occurred.
Alabama's defense were allowing large chunks of space and yardage for LSU's offense to take advantage of and still, somehow, a Terrace Marshall-less group couldn't attack those spaces due to the ineffectiveness of Passing Game Coordinator Scott Linehan, who must be replaced immediately by Offensive Analyst Russ Callaway.
3 catches for 29 yards from Arik Gilbert in this kind of game, when he's making a one handed catch with his left hand near the goal-line at one point....this freshman was up for this game and you hardly gave him a chance to make an impact...damn you for that, Scott Linehan.
Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger must take control back from Linehan, given Ensminger's penchant for aggressive playcalling and balanced offense, LSU could've made some fantastic plays against this sloppy Bama defense...instead, they wilted under the pressure and made senseless mistakes throughout, and our coaches in every phase refused to make adjustments....whoever was in charge of the lack of pre-snap movements must be slapped silly with an oven mit made of felt.
The most egregious would have to be the marking of DeVonta Smith, a man who amassed 263 receiving yards and 219 by halftime with 3 touchdowns, including a one handed circus catch after he pushed off an injured Stingley (which may be top 10 greatest catches I've ever seen).
Coming into the game, slot cornerback and Bama-native Cordale Flott allowed 9 touchdowns directly to his name, including 4 vs Mississippi State's K.J Costello, the only touchdown vs Vandy, burnt for 2 more vs Missouri, and again vs Arkansas. He's been playing out of position, god knows why, on the outside, getting ripped to shreds right off the line by faster receivers or even bullied when he begins to jam them.
Coming into the game, slot cornerback and Bama-native Cordale Flott allowed 9 touchdowns directly to his name, including 4 vs Mississippi State's K.J Costello, the only touchdown vs Vandy, burnt for 2 more vs Missouri, and again vs Arkansas among others. He's been playing out of position, god knows why, on the outside where he's getting ripped to shreds right off the line by faster receivers or even bullied when he begins to jam them.
I don't understand how one of the most physical players on our defense, who thrives off tackles from the corner spot, who succeeds in making plays at the line of scrimmage, cannot jam a receiver successfully...especially when Flott was so good in coverage last year...why?
Because Flott's game isn't the deep ball...he cannot cover a route over 10 yards...that's not his game. Even this season, Flott can shut down the slant or crossing route with the best of 'em, the stats prove that, although once the playcalling understands this and extends the combinations and go for deeper routes, #25 is a number we've become accustomed to seeing the back of.
And on Saturday, once Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian identified LSU's unwillingness to move Stingley with Smith in motion, they matched DeVonta directly over Cordale Flott and asked the Bama native a question: "Can you do what you did last year against us again?"
Once Flott burst forth at Smith, DeVonta caught him off guard and hooked Cordale out of the jam and broke free, catching the ball and turning up field for nearly 30 yards...as I watched the play develop, I knew one thing:
The fact our defensive coaches weren't placing Stingley on Smith 100% of the time was absolutely diabolical...you want to call them out for mistakes against semi-pro guys on Miss State or Missouri?? Ok, that's harsh...they should expect Flott to be able to cover Jalen Knox....but Devonta Smith???
Why the hell wouldn't you want Stingley vs Smith to be that matchup, to showcase how stunning Derek's abilities are?
We want to talk about Alabama's revenge, yet Derek Stingley Jr had some of his own after surrendering two touchdowns beyond his control last year vs Alabama (2 of 4 total allowed as a freshman)....he was denied that vengeance by LSU's coaching staff, leaving him off Smith on those crucial touchdowns....but no, the experience went from worse to a nightmare for Derek.
Finally placed on Smith after he'd re-injured his ankle after running into Jacoby Stevens, DeVonta pushed off Stingley to leap up and make a ridiculous one handed catch touchdown which will be replayed for years and years and years and years whenever this rivalry is talked about or shown on ESPN....
By halftime, Alabama had grabbed the revenge they'd craved after watching LSU parade their success around, ripping off 470 yards of total offense, 45 points while playing a casual form of defense...making plays when they felt like it, letting the ravenous front three (I blasted before the game) let loose on our offensive line.
And still, there were plays from LSU which showed in another life where Ja'Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall, Lloyd Cushenberry, Damien Lewis, Myles Brennan or Kary Vincent Jr are present, Orgeron's Tigers make this a very tight and entertaining game (that's not even counting all the other players LSU have lost due to Covid-caused transfers or opt-outs: Tyler Shelvin, Marcel Brooks, Justin Thomas, T.K McLendon and extremely versatile Marcel Brooks).
Still, the reality is LSU are down to the 60s for available scholarship players, they've been hit harder than any team with opt-outs from their NFL-ready talent, Orgeron's squad has experienced a complete 180 degree flip in the leadership department and there's coaches who don't belong on this staff..... what else were fans going to see except a team fighting to merely survive at this point?
I just kept believing in the collective talent...that somehow these guys' pride would win out over whatever outside drama was going on and they'd get it together...but plans and quarterbacks and players changing or being gone for good and home games becoming away games and Covid and ....the list goes on and on...
Now, because someone allowed Cordale Flott to be placed on Smith, Mac Jones gets to hear his name placed in the same sentence as Joe Burrow's and our skin eternally crawls...
Now, because LSU's culture is obsessed with the NFLSU movement, we can barely convince a player to stay for 3 years, leading to seasons lacking continuity, direction and bad roster management.
Offensive Tackle Shaadiq Charles needed to stay on campus...not only for LSU's offensive line, but for Charles' own career he needed another year....now with Washington, he's been languishing 90% of the season on the sideline or at home after sadly being placed on IR with a season-ending injury.
Guard Adrian Magee (picked up as an undratfted free agent by the Saints) should've been convinced to stay....
How could LSU lose so many players to the opt-outs and transfers while Alabama hasn't?
Bama's team is mostly the same from last year, why didn't Jalen Waddle opt out (he later suffered a season-ending injury Saban later acted petulant about on national television)????
DeVonta Smith surely could've opted out if Terrace Marshall, Kary Vincent Jr or Tyler Shelvin believed they could.
A game like that can never happen again in Tigers Stadium...
Following last year's Renegade Crusade of Saban Stain, every LSU fan believed something as horrendous as 29-0 would never happen again, let alone at home...
But thanks to biblical circumstances of absences and continuity crisis combined with a complete lack of communication on and off the field or a large gulf in understanding, LSU's season is down the drain, already with 5 losses and hope only for a 5-5 record...it's shameful...it's sad...and yet after everything that's been taken from this team, I completely get it...this is 2020.
2020 hasn't been all bad for LSU...not at all.....for starters, the Tigers won the National Championship in the Superdome and partied like it was 1999 and Prince was still alive jamming with OBJ, money raining down...
That 2019 team drew 14 NFL Draft picks (including 4 first round picks) and sent over 20 young men to the professional league...many of whom are enjoying storied rookie seasons.
Orgeron's Tigers repeatedly won over the best recruits of the 2021 class, a loaded and stacked group of America's top talent at #3 in the nation currently, led by the best linebacker in the nation Raesjon Davis (who could start right now for LSU), "the next Burrow" QB Garrett Nussmeier (a young man with an ingrained football knowledge from his coordinator father Doug Nussmeier), 5 Star "Flash-of-all-trades" safety/WR/RB/RET Sage Ryan who chose LSU over Alabama, running back Corey Kiner (who scored 148 career touchdowns in his Roger Bacon career), top 10 receivers Chris Hilton, Jo Jo Earle and Deion Smith, top-rated offensive tackle Garrett Dellinger from Michigan, although there's still so much more room to grow when you see Tristan Leigh, Maason Smith, Korey Foreman, Brian Thomas, Savion Byrd and Armoni Goodwin on the board.
The 2020 freshmen have also performed admirably and electrically on the field:
CB Eli Ricks leads the team in INTs, stealing 3 as well as taking one for a TD, DE B.J Ojulari leads the team with 4 sacks (achieving a sack-trick vs South Carolina), Jaquelin Roy continues to show intensity and wild promise as an interior DT, QB T.J Finley shows poise, a howitzer arm and unbelievable elusiveness in the pocket, QB Max Johnson has matched Finley with his own surprising play and maturity, WR Kayshon Boutte is a menace to DBs (although he cannot drop the ball at the 2 yard line like that ever again...don't rob yourself of touchdowns, man, you should have 3!)....
And yet the bad taste of this game will only be removed by one thing and one thing only concerning the field: beating every team in our path from here on out, that means Florida next, then Ole Miss, followed by taking down Alabama next year in Tuscaloosa on the road once again, this time bringing our weaponized 2021 artillery.
2020 hasn't even come close to the LSU Standard of Performance, however, from the embers of its charred footage and horrific play comes every teachable moment in football wrapped up in one nice, tiny basket...much like Saban's 2007 and 2008 Alabama.
Watch it...learn from it...
Do not wash, rinse and repeat this away...
Don't look away from what's happening...
2019 LSU was what it looks like when everything is geauxing right...how you really take a team to the heights it deserves...
2020 LSU is a team running off the tracks, disinterested in its own ineptitude to the point the harm becomes savage.
Coach Orgeron knows the blueprint...he knows the answers...he told us all how to Flip The Script in his new book with Bruce Feldman...
So, Coach...I'm sorry to have to say it but they're now doubting you again...just like before...even with the rings, even with Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Warren Sapp, Joe Burrow saying what a great guy and coach he is, he still has to prove his doubters (aka "crucifiers") wrong once again.
So...let's geaux Coach...flip this shit...
If a player isn't interested, they're gone...
If a coach doesn't understand he cannot continuously repeat the same colossal mistakes that cost us games, they need to go before their insolence festers....no matter the price of their contract or their name...
If you want to know what the biggest difference between LSU and Alabama is right now, it's not the talent of the players on the field...Saban was up until 2AM every night trying to get Ty Davis-Price to come to Alabama...it's about the cloud of darkness that shrouds the university's athletic department due to the presence of certain people who participated in the cover-up.
Until that's figured out, LSU may lose every game on its schedule.
Anyone who was associated with covering up or silencing reports from rape victims throughout the Les Miles era (and Drake Davis from the third year of Orgeron's tenure) must be dismissed immediately with extreme prejudice and booted out on their ass before the public world.
That's the biggest script that needs flipping...show LSU can lead in the fight against sexual assault on America's college campuses.
Do it...and do it now, Coach O...
BLACK LIVES MATTER
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
SHOUTOUTS: Chelsea and my parents.