Saban, Alabama Stay Undefeated, Miles Beats Himself
The #5 LSU Tigers welcomed the undefeated #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide back to the bayou state for the first time after losing last year’s National Championship game in NOLA. Hopefully there wasn’t another tea-bagging incident like there was after LSU lost 21-0 in the BCS Championship game. When these two teams faced off last regular season the Tigers prevailed in a shootout winning the game 6-9. The Tide got their redemption in the game that really mattered but the Tigers have had a bad taste in their mouths since being shut out in the biggest game of their young careers.
Les Miles and the Tigers had an extra week to prepare for Nick Saban’s Tide for the two teams 77th all-time meeting. Surprisingly LSU has beaten Alabama just 9 times in Baton Rouge and have just 25 total wins dating back to their first matchup. Since 2007 Saban and Alabama have been 13-3 in November coming into this season and thus far the Crimson Tide have trailed in a game for just a few seconds all season long. That changed after LSU jumped out to an early 3-0 when Drew Alleman kicked a 38 yard field goal. The Tigers marched down the field 53 yards in 12 plays to set up the kick but were shut down for the rest of the half afterwards.
Alabama would answer back on an 11 play 92 yard drive that was capped off by a 7 yard rushing touchdown from Eddie Lacy. Later in the 2nd quarter the Tigers would march down and get themselves in field goal range yet again, but this time Les Miles tried to get sneaky. He called a fake field goal and the swing pass to the kicker was quickly snuffed out and LSU would turn the ball over on downs. Alabama would use that momentum to charge down into the red-zone yet again but this time is was QB A.J. McCarron who ran it in for a 9 yard touchdown. The Tide was up 14-3 going into halftime and under Nick Saban Alabama has 57-3 record when entering the locker room with a lead. It is the fifth time that ‘Bama has held their opponents to 3 points or less heading into halftime and the Tide has now outscored their opponents 222-34 in the first half through 9 games.
Alabama’s offense struggled throughout the entire game and if it wasn’t for a few minor mistakes during Les Miles trickery the Tigers could have snuck away with a victory. After cutting the lead to 10-14 on a 1 yard rushing touchdown, LSU decided to attempt an onside kick. It wasn’t your everyday onside kick as the team was in regular kickoff formation. The Tigers’ kicker softly kicked the ball up the middle and it seemed as if the Tigers had recovered, but after further review it was determined that the kicker touched the ball before it had traveled 10 yards. The Crimson Tide got the ball back and tried to start running the clock out, rushing the ball 5 straight times with T.J. Yeldon. It was 3rd and 3 on LSU’s 10 yard line and Yeldon rushed the ball yet again, but was stood up by the Tigers defense and he lost the ball.
LSU’s Sam Montgomery recovered the ball and set up a 7 play 89 yard drive that took just over 3 minutes and gave the Tigers their 2nd lead of the game. Alabama’s offense answered LSU by having back-to-back 3-and-out drives while it seemed like LSU was going to increase their lead. The Tigers stretched down the field behind a few solid Zach Mettenberger completions but after they got to Alabama’s 32 they took the ball out of their QB’s hands. The Tigers rushed the ball 3 straight times for just 4 yards and set up a Drew Allerman 45 yard field goal attempt. The field goal was no good and Alabama took over on the 28 and for the first time all game the Tide proved they could throw the ball when they have to.
Alabama has averaged over 200 yards per game, passing and rushing but in this game A.J. McCarron was struggling, until that final drive. McCarron was 4-5 for 72 yards competing 3 straight passes to Kevin Norwood before getting it to T.J. Yeldon who got into the end-zone from 28 yards out. McCarron turned it on after being just 10-22 for 93 yards during the earlier portion of the game. The most important factor is that McCarron or any other player attempting a pass has not thrown an interception all season long. The Crimson Tide offense wasn’t nearly as explosive as they have been through the first 8 games but they were able to win a game going 1-9 on 3rd downs and going -2 in the turnover margin.
The Tide would hold off LSU despite a solid game by Zach Mettenberger, who was 24-35 for 298 yards, a touchdown and 0 interceptions. The Tigers didn’t turn the ball over all game but they did have 7 penalties for 51 yards to Bama’s 1 for 15. The penalties along with the two big mistakes in special teams was too much for LSU to overcome and they have dropped to 7-2 on the season and 3-2 in the SEC. Alabama stays undefeated and in the front-runner seat for a chance to play in the BCS Championship game and defend their National Title.