BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - This one hurt badly and cut deep.
For anyone a fan of or affiliated with LSU football, Saturday night's 30-16 loss at Alabama was a worst case scenario on all fronts. It was simply an astonishing and agonizingly underwhelming performance by the No. 2 (soon to drop in the playoff standings) Tigers, on college football's biggest stage. A chance for Les Miles' squad to prove they were a legitimate national championship contender before a CBS, primetime, nationally television audience, was seemingly crushed beneath Bryant-Denny Stadium's bombastic wall of deafening noise and sea of red shakers. LSU's superhero running back and Heisman hopeful Leonard Fournette, found himself stopped cold by an Alabama defensive line seemingly constructed by Tony Stark.
These were Iron Men, indeed.
Alabama's front seven is a menacing and relentless collection of chiseled young men. Wherever you go, they will follow. And when they track you down, the Tide punches you square in the mouth. Incredibly, Fournette's longest run on his first 15 carries of the night was a measly 4 yards. LSU's offensive line, billed as the best in the country by many local and national pundits alike, got zero push and likewise created no space for Mr. Fournette.
It was extremely hard to watch. That is, unless you cheer for the Crimson Tide.
Their mountainous and ultra-motivated running back Derrick Henry got going early and continued to charge through LSU's back pedaling defense, piling up 210 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Conversely, even the most pessimistic Tiger or overconfident Tide fan could never envision Fournette's anemic final stat line - 31 yards and a score on 19 attempts. Without a late 18-yard scamper, well after the game was decided, those numbers would even be worse.
Trench play was obviously dominated by Nick Saban's hysterically over prepared defense, seemingly anticipating LSU plays before they even transpired. The Tide was on cruise control by the start of the fourth quarter, while LSU found themselves gassed from a combination of Alabama's clock-chewing attack and the Tigers' three-and-out offensive struggles.
LSU also did plenty to hurt themselves as well. Perhaps the most mind blowing blunder, you guessed it, occurred on special teams. After LSU labored hard to escape a 10-0 hole and tie the score 10-10 late in the second quarter, LSU had seized momentum of the game and temporarily quieted Bryant-Denny's jet engine roar. Then the Tigers, on cue, proceeded to send the ensuing kickoff out of bounds. Alabama gladly took the ball at their own 35-yard line and a few plays later, pounded a 55-yard field goal through the uprights for 13-10 halftime advantage.
Sailing kickoffs out of bounds is an unforced error. And it has to stop.
Outside of Brandon Harris' beautiful 39-yd scoring strike to Travin Dural and some quarterback sacks of Jake Coker by the Tigers' defensive from, there wasn't a ton of positive for LSU to point to.
Alabama has now beaten LSU five straight times and there's nothing the Tigers can do about it for another year. That's pretty crushing.
Now, here's the good news.
The Tigers still find themselves No. 9 in both the AP and Coaches Top 25 poll. LSU still has a great chance of reaching a major bowl game and the 2007 season certainly taught us to never count the Tigers out of any SEC and national championship race, until they are officially out.
Despite those gratifying goals, Miles and his staff still have a difficult, motivational task on their hands this week. He has to reenergize this team and clearly communicate the 2015 season didn't end in Tuscaloosa. It is simply unacceptable, for the Tigers to perform this weekend against Arkansas in Tiger Stadium, in the same fashion they did a season ago in Fayetteville vs the Razorbacks following LSU's overtime home loss to Alabama. That group of Tigers were listless and void of energy on that freezing night, losing 17-0 to Bret Bielema's outfit. That win ended a 17-game SEC losing skid for Hogs.
It was a putrid display.
LSU has often been two teams in recent years - the one before the Alabama game and the one after. With so much still to achieve, like finishing in the Top 10 for the first time since 2011, it's time for the Tigers to finally prove they can keep their intensity level high and do big things following the first weekend in November.
And it's Coach Miles and his assistants job to make sure the Tigers fully understand that. No more Bama hangovers - flush the Tide loss and move ahead. LSU can and should thrive, not die from this point forward.