Tide takes its time finding running room
Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon waited just long enough.
After being handed the ball, Yeldon shifted his feet, biding time for a crease, a hole, a seam — something — to open. A second later, he squeezed through a slim opening on the left side and raced 22 yards down field.
The play unfolded during the third quarter in LSU’s 38-17 loss at No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. It happened again and again and again over the next hour.
Yeldon rolled up 104 yards rushing in the second half, being patient and slicing through small creases in the LSU front. It was the one change LSU defenders noticed in the latter half from the Crimson Tide: a willingness to run with patience.
“They kind of slowed their running game down,” linebacker Lamin Barrow said explaining the late-game woes against the Tide. “At first, those backs were trying to hit those holes. And everybody did their gap responsibility, and there wasn’t really anywhere to run. In the second half, they kind of slowed down a little bit, got a little bit more patient in their running game. It allowed the running back to choose which gaps.”
They chose wisely. Bama ran for 129 yards on 28 carries in the final two quarters, averaging nearly 5 yards a rush. The Tide went on three touchdown drives, all of them lasting longer than 4:40 and one seven-minute haul.
The No. 18-ranked Tigers (7-3, 3-3) have an off week before hosting No. 10 Texas A&M (8-2, 4-2) on Nov. 23. The sting of Bama’s loss, though, hasn’t cooled.
In each of his three media availabilities Wednesday, coach Les Miles mentioned how LSU could have led 14-0 against the top-ranked Tide had it not committed two first-quarter fumbles.
That said, Miles’ team tied the score at 17 early in the third quarter. Then came Yeldon and Alabama’s bullish rushing attack.
Tide running backs changed how they ran in the latter half, defensive tackle Anthony Johnson said.
“The running backs,” Johnson said, “just took their time to find the crease.”
Paris to sign
Ed Paris, a four-star safety prospect from Texas, will sign a financial aid agreement with LSU on Thursday, becoming the second Tigers commitment using a new clarification to an old NCAA policy in the last week.
Paris is set to sign at 2 p.m. from his school, Mansfield High, he said. He joins Parkway High quarterback Brandon Harris to sign early.
The new NCAA clarification — which binds LSU to the signee and not the player to the school, unlike a National Letter of Intent — gives high school seniors who are on schedule to graduate at midyear and who plan to enroll in college in the spring an opportunity to sign early. They do not sign NLI in February with the rest of the signing class.
Paris, who committed to LSU in February, is ranked as high as the third-best safety prospect in the nation among the major recruiting sites. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder could play immediately, Brown said.
“Physically,” Mansfield High coach James Brown said, “he’s a big corner.”
‘Hootie’ decision soon
Neville High safety Laurence “Hootie” Jones, a four-star prospect being fought over by Alabama and LSU, announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he’ll make his college selection public on Dec. 2. He had previously said he’d announce Nov. 25, two days after he was expected to visit LSU for the Texas A&M game on Nov. 23. He was at the Bama-LSU game last weekend on an unofficial visit.
LSU fullback J.C. Copeland didn’t have good enough ball security during his goal-line fumble, Miles said Wednesday on the SEC teleconference. But the coach claims Copeland wasn’t benched for the rest of the game.
Copeland, it appeared, would cap LSU’s opening drive against Alabama with a 3-yard touchdown. He was inside the 1-yard line when Bama linebacker Tana Patrick stripped the fullback. Alabama recovered.
“I don’t know if it was a great play,” Miles said. “Ball security needed to be addressed.”
Copeland wasn’t seen again at fullback, replaced by backup Connor Neighbors. Miles said otherwise Wednesday when asked about the situation.
“He did play,” Miles said. “Went in there and played. Blocked. Didn’t carry the ball.”
Miles has a strict policy on fumbling. Players normally miss at least a quarter of play for letting the ball hit the ground.
Copeland has practiced this week, and Miles said the fullback is “well.”
“He’s going to be all right,” center Elliott Porter said. “Everybody makes mistakes. I made mistakes in the game just like he did.”
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who sprained his ankle on LSU’s final offensive play of the game last Saturday, practiced for a second straight day Wednesday. Miles expects him to “be fine” for LSU’s game against A&M. … The team will practice Friday morning, then have the weekend off, Miles said. This week’s practices are “short and designed to get their legs back and yet work some solid fundamentals and focus on A&M,” the coach said. … Freshman receiver Avery Peterson, who broke his ankle during fall camp, has been cleared to practice, Miles said Wednesday. It’s unclear if he’s practicing, though. “We’ve given him some time through this year, through this open date to get some academics right,” the coach said. “He’s working out.”