Alabama, the nation’s number one ranked team, improved to 9-0 with the win over the 10th-ranked LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night. Bama is now 6-0 in Southeastern Conference games. Previously, LSU had lost two three-point road games. This was a three-touchdown decision although, truly, it seemed closer than the final score. LSU is now 7-3 overall and 3-3 in SEC games.
The men who put the dagger in LSU in Baton Rouge a year ago – Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron and Crimson Tide tailback T.J. Yeldon – dealt misery to the Tigers again. McCarron passed for three touchdowns and Yeldon ran for two.
Alabama went to the fourth quarter nursing only a one-touchdown lead, 24-17, but in the final quarter LSU managed only one first down and had minus nine yards of offense, finishing with only 43 yards net rushing. In that fourth quarter Bama tacked on nine first downs and 20 plays for 96 yards of offense. Alabama kept the ball for 11:24 in the fourth quarter to finish with about an eight-minute advantage in time of possession.
Alabama continues in SEC play next week at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs played well Saturday before losing by 51-41 at Texas A&M. Kickoff time and network – either 6 p.m. on ESPN or 6:45 p.m. on ESPN2 – is expected to be announced Sunday. Mississippi State is 4-5 overall and 1-4 in SEC games.
Alabama finished with 25 first downs to 16 for LSU. Bama had 42 rushes for 193 yards, the Tigers 31 runs for 43 yards. McCarron completed 14 of 20 passes for 179 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions and was sacked one time (the first time since September). LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger completed 16 of 23 passes for 241 yards with one touchdowns and also did not suffer an interception, but was sacked four times for losses of 32 yards.
Alabama had total offense of 62 plays for 372 yards, 6.0 yards per play, while LSU had 54 plays for 284 yards, 5.3 per play. Alabama didn’t fumble. LSU fumbled twice and lost both. LSU was penalized seven times for 73 yards, Bama four times for 35 yards.
Yeldon had 25 rushes for 133 yards with two touchdowns, while Kenyan Drake had 10 carries for 65 yards. Jeremy Hill had 13 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown to lead LSU.
Kevin Norwood had four catches for 38 yards, Amari Cooper three for 46. O.J. Howard had the most yardage, his one catch going for a 52-yard touchdown.
Cody Mandell, the nation’s loneliest punter, had only two kicks for 87 yards.
Two fourth quarter touchdown drives and a nice defensive stand by Bama after a long LSU kickoff return provided for the comfortable margin. Early LSU mistakes were helpful to Bama having a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 10-7 lead at halftime. Bama earned its 24-17 third quarter lead and the final two scores.
Although Alabama led by 3-0 at the end of the first quarter and 17-14 at halftime, the Crimson Tide had benefited greatly from LSU errors. Still, Bama made some plays.
The LSU errors were meaningful. On the Tigers first drive, LSU had goal-to-go when back-up Tide linebacker Tana Patrick stripped the ball from LSU fullback J.C. Copeland and it was recovered by Landon Collins, preventing points by the visitors. Later in the quarter the Tigers had an unforced error. Trey DePreist had a nice sack on LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger to force long yardage. As Mettenberger moved to the line to change the play, the ball was snapped into his chest, bounded to the ground, and was recovered by DePriest.
Two incomplete passes forced a field goal and Cade Foster was good on a 41-yarder for a 3-0 Tide lead.
LSU ended the first quarter with a nice drive to the Alabama 3 where it was first and goal as the second period began. It took just one play, Jeremy Hill at left guard for the touchdown. Colby Delahoussaye kicked the Tigers to a 7-3 lead.
Bama regained the lead when freshman tight end O.J. Howard took a pass on a crossing route from McCarron and turned it into a 52-yard sprint to the end zone. After a penalty on the extra point kick, Foster kicked it to a 10-7 Tide lead with 12:35 remaining. Kenyan Drake had a 16-yard run and turned a short pass into a 10-yard gain in the 4-play, 78-yard drive.
LSU’s only punt of the first half went to the end zone. From the 20, McCarron hit Amari Cooper for 20 yards, Drake ran for 15, and a quick pass to DeAndrew White gained 13 and pushed it to the LSU 40. Another pass to Cooper gained 22 to the 18. Drake ran it to just short of the first down marker. On third down he powered for first-and-goal at the 6. Two plays later, McCarron found Mr. Clutch, Kevin Norwood, in the back corner for the touchdown. Only 5:18 remained in the first half as Bama took a 17-7 lead.
But Mettenberg wasn’t finished. On a third –and-6 he connected with Kadron Boone for 28 yards to the Tide 43. On the next play he found Odell Beckham for 16 and a first down at the Bama 27. On another third-and-6 Mettenberg hit Jarvis Landry on a crossing pattern for 15 and a first-and-goal at the 8. On his third third-and-6 of the drive, he completed a touchdown pass to Travin Dural in the back of the end zone with just 43 seconds left in the half.
It was Alabama 17, LSU 14.
Because the Tigers had, somewhat surprisingly, deferred after winning the toss to start the game, LSU got the ball to start the second half and was able to move to a tying field goal. Bama helpd the LSU cause. C.J. Mosley seemed poised to have an interception, but the ball bounced off his hands and into those of Tigers tight end Dillon Gordon for a 22 yard gain. Then on a short run, Ed Stinson was guilty of a facemask penalty that moved the Tigers to the Tide 32. Bama Bama stiffened and the Tigers had to settle for a tying field goal with 12:01 to play in the third quarter.
Perhaps the most surprising play of the tense and important game was an Alabama gamble from the Tide 41 with a 17-17 score in the third quarter. Facing fourth-and-two, Alabama had its punt team in the game and called a timeout when LSU had an eight-man (punt rush) team on the field. After the timeout, the Tigers were in regular defense.
That’s what Bama wanted to see.
The snap went to linebacker C.J. Mosley, who handed off to safety Jarrick Williams, and Williams gained six yards and a first down.
Yeldon did most of the damage on the ground (McCarron had a scramble for eight and completed a 13-yard pass to Cooper and Drake had a couple of runs) as the Tide went 79 yards in 14 plays to take a 24-17 lead late in the third quarter.
Bama forced an LSU punt late in the third quarter, and it was a poor punt – only 24 yards to the Tide 25. The insult added to injury was a five-yard penalty against the Tigers. Alabama started on the last play of the third quarter with McCarron scrambling out of bounds…where he was hit, drawing a 15-yard penalty.
The Tide moved from its 48 with Yeldon rushing for three first downs, the last one at the goalline. From there Yeldon took it in to make it 31-14.
LSU didn’t roll over Odell Beckham returned the kickoff 82 yards to the Alabama 18. The Tigers were throwing, and Bama’s Landon Collins and C.J. Mosley both nearly had interceptions on incomplete passes. A fourth down pass was not close and the Tide took over at its 21 with 9:10 to play.
LSU again helped a Tide drive with a personal foul and a facemask to set Bama up at the Tigers 20. Yeldon picked up 14 to the six, but two runs got only three yards. On third down McCarron completed a touchdown pass to fullback Jalston Fowler to finish the scoring.
Mosley led the Tide with 12 tackles (7 primary, 5 assists) and was in on two tackles for loss and broke up two passes. Trey DePriest had six tackles and a sack and recovered a fumble. Cyrus Jones and HaHa Clinton-Dix five each. Landon Collins had four tackles, was in on two tackles for loss, boke up a pass, and recovered a fumble. Adrian Hubbard (nine yards) and Jeoffrey Pagan (seven yards) had sacks.