#1: LSU @ Alabama in NCAA Football 12

For the inaugural entry of STAT BOX STORIES, one of the biggest games of the upcoming college football weekend is being tackled head-on in NCAA Football 12.  Number 1-ranked LSU makes the trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium to take on the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide, and for the sake of this game I took control of the Tigers in a very hostile road environment.  The game was played on All-American difficulty with 7-minute quarter lengths, resulting in 28 minutes of game time.  All gameplay sliders were left at default settings, though penalty settings have been tweaked to result in a more balanced game.

Even though LSU is ranked #1 in real-life, in the game Alabama holds a slight ratings advantage.  I had actually never played as the Tigers in NCAA Football 12 before this game, so I had a limited idea about what I was getting into.  Without further ado, here’s the box score and scoring summary:

 

I won the opening coin toss and elected to kick the ball off–preferring to get the ball back and dictate the flow of the game when the second half begins–though this quickly looked like a poor decision.  The opening kickoff was returned all the way for a touchdown by Alabama’s kick returner; although–as you might have guessed from looking at the scoring summary above–some “laundry was on the field” and the long return was negated by a clipping penalty against one of the Crimson Tide’s special teamers.  With the air sucked out of the building somewhat, I forced a 3-and-out and the “tide” had turned (many apologies for the bad pun).

Unfortunately for me, my opening possession was similarly futile, ending with a punt.  Alabama put together a solid drive against me, and though I kept them out of the end zone, three points went up on the board as a result of a short field goal.  On the ensuing LSU possession, I crossed over into Crimson Tide territory but the drive ended with a 55-yard field goal falling just short of the uprights.

With a short field, it didn’t take long for Alabama to legitimately threaten to get into the end zone.  Unfortunately for them, a gutsy call to go for it on 4th-and-Goal inside the 5 yard line ended with a defensive stop and turnover on downs.  Re-energized, my team put together a lengthy drive culminating in a short touchdown run to put the first seven points of the evening on the scoreboard.  To end the half, a promising Alabama drive came to an end when a deep pass was intercepted by my cornerback on the 2-yard-line, keeping the score 7-3 going into the halftime break.

On the first play of the second half for my offense, my lead halfback suffered a concussion and could not return to the game.  This was a big blow to how I’d been running my offense to that point, as he had accumulated 90 yards on the ground in the first half alone.  As I struggled to get into a rhythm, I had to punt the ball again.  On Alabama’s next possession, I stopped the Crimson Tide for a 4th-and-Inches just barely across the 50-yard-line and they decided to go for the conversion, gaining 19 yards on the ground and getting into at least field goal range.  Unfortunately for Bama fans, the next play was a pass that was intercepted at the LSU 4-yard-line and returned back to the 25.

Tiger fans had a brief window to celebrate, however, as the very next play was intercepted by an Alabama linebacker and set up the Crimson Tide’s first touchdown of the game.  I found myself trailing by a field goal going into the final quarter of the game.  After leaning heavily on the run, I finally faced facts and turned my attention to the pass.  On a deep route I saw one of my sideline receivers just barely ekeing out his coverage man, and it was a gutsy heave which fortunately resulted in a long touchdown pass to re-take the lead.

Alabama’s gambling tendencies returned on their next possession as they were successful converting another 4th-and-Short in LSU territory, but on the very next play my cornerback jumped the route on a short pass to the sideline and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown and a 21-10 lead.  With the game getting out of reach, Alabama was unable to put together a scoring drive on their next possession and got picked off again, with the ball being returned almost all the way back for a touchdown.  Another LSU rushing touchdown put the lead at 18 points and Bama’s last-ditch throw to the end zone was picked off–the fifth interception of the day for LSU’s defense–to seal the game.

Though Alabama gained more yards overall, the key stat for the game was definitely turnovers; even though I threw two interceptions with LSU, my defense was able to snag five passes intended for receivers in red, including one returned for a touchdown and another returned to the Alabama 1-Yard-Line to set up another touchdown.  Three of the interceptions were grabbed within five yards of the LSU end zone as well, meaning that 21 points were potentially taken off of the board; points which would have swung the game heavily in favor of the home team.   Penalties were also an issue for Alabama, as they racked up 49 more yards due to yellow flags compared to my more disciplined squad.

Although there were some standout individual performances on offense, Player of the Game honors went to LSU’s SS #18, who racked up 9 total tackles for the game–leading all defensive players–and also was responsible for two of the interceptions within the LSU 5-Yard-Line.  Even though he was unable to directly turn those picks into points, the 14 points kept off the opposing scoreboard made him an easy decision for the game honor.

All in all, I felt as though the game was a solid effort on my part.  It stayed close through the first three quarters–due in large part to the loss of the starting halfback who I’d relied upon for the entire first half–but by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, I was finally able to take advantage of Alabama’s offensive miscues.  I am greatly looking forward to the real-life showdown between these SEC rivals coming up this Saturday night.

And so the first entry of STAT BOX STORIES draws to a close; if you’re reading this, be sure to leave a comment about whether or not you liked it, or what you might like to see done differently going forward.  And, if you think you might have a STAT BOX STORY of your own to contribute in the future, I would love to feature them!

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