Top-Ranked Tide Pulls Away from No. 10 LSU
BATON ROUGE — No. 10-ranked LSU gave top-ranked Alabama fits for the better part of three quarters, but fumbles, penalties, and T.J. Yeldon were too much to overcome in a 38-17 loss in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night.
LSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC) had opportunities to lead by as many as two touchdowns in the first half, but instead trailed by three at the break only to tie the game early in the third quarter. However, Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) proved its top billing by shutting down the Tigers and scoring the game’s final 21 points.
The Tigers have a second open date on Nov. 16 before returning to action on Nov. 23 in Tiger Stadium against Texas A&M. Kickoff time and television network is expected to be announced on Monday.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger gave the Tigers every opportunity to stun the Tide, completing 16-of-23 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. Jarvis Landry had 90 yards receiving on five catches, while running back Jeremy Hill added 47 receiving yards to his 42 rushing yards. Odell Beckham Jr. finished with three catches for 42 yards.
Yeldon led the way for the Tide, running for 133 yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns. Alabama starting quarterback AJ McCarron was 14-of-20 passing for 179 yards and three touchdowns including a 52-yarder in the first half.
LSU, which outgained Alabama in the first half, 232-193, couldn’t keep up the pace in the second half. Alabama finished with a 372-284 advantage in total offense.
Though LSU’s minus-2 turnover differential only led to three Alabama points, a fumble at the Alabama 1 turned an early LSU lead into a first-half dogfight.
LSU won the toss and deferred its decision until the second half. The Tigers kicked off, and Christion Jones returned from five-yards deep in his endzone to the 20. However, a holding penalty gave Alabama possession at its 10 to start the game. Yeldon earned a first down up the middle for 13 yards and an 8-yard pass from MaCarron to Norwood gave the Tide another first down at its 39. LSU defensive Ego Ferguson applied pressure on McCarron to force an incomplete pass and tackled Yeldon for a 1-yard gain to setup third-and-9. Rather than coming on a blitz, LSU defensive back Dwayne Thomas backed off the line, tracked Yeldon and caused an incomplete pass.
The first victory by the Tigers defense led to a punt.
LSU’s offense looked to take advantage of the success against the vaunted Tide defense. After Hill earned a first down with a short run to the LSU 25, Mettenberger looked over the top of the defense to connect with Landry for 45 yardss to the Alabama 31. Subbing for Hill, Magee rolled off runs of 13, nine and six yards to the Alabama 3. On first-and-goal, fullback JC Copeland had a clear path around the left end of the line but the ball way batted out of his left hand at the 1 by Alabama linebacker Tana Patrick. The Tide recovered at their 10.
LSU’s defense stiffened, holding the Tide inches short of a first down to force a three-and-out. After the 43-yard punt, LSU took over at its 38 where nothing went right in a 70-second drive.
Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest shot a gap an sacked Mettenberger for a 6-yard loss, the Tigers were called for a delay of game, and the drive ended when center Elliott Porter snapped the ball while Mettenberger was walking to the line to change the play. Alabama recovered the loose ball at the LSU 27.
For the second-straight drive, LSU’s defense forced a three-and-out, limiting the Tide to a 41-yard field goal by Cade Foster. With 3:54 left in the opening quarter, Alabama led 3-0.
LSU’s offense recovered from the mistake to again take it right at the Tide. After a 39-yard kickoff return, Beckham Jr. added a 17-yard catch on third-and-3 to the Alabama 33. On third-and-8 from the 31, Mettenberger stood in the pocket and took a big hit while completing a 15-yard pass to Landry for a first down at the 16. Hill’s 13-yard run setup his 3-yard touchdown score behind the block of fullback Connor Neighbors.
On the first play of the second quarter, LSU took a 7-3 lead.
With Yeldon held in check, Alabama turned to Drake for a 17-yard run and a 10-yard catch after Jermauria Rasco‘s 8-yard sack. On third-and-8, freshman cornerback Rashard Robinson was flagged for pass interference to extend the drive. The penalty was costly, as McCarron found tight end O.J. Howard streaking alone across the middle for a 52-yard touchdown.
Alabama moved ahead 10-7 with 12:35 remaining in the half.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Mettenberger caught Alabama blitzing and connected with Hill out of the backfield for 23 yards to the LSU 48. However, linebacker C.J. Mosley stopped Magee three yards behind the line of scrimmage on second down, and Mettenberger couldn’t elude pressure on third down. Jamie Keehn‘s punt bounded into the endzone for a touchback.
For the first time in the game, Alabama sustained a drive to increase its lead to 17-7. A 10-play, 80-yard drive ended with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Norwood. With 5:17 left in the half, Alabama led 17-7.
The Tigers answered the score with an emphatic scoring drive of its own before halftime. Wide receiver Kardon Boone went high to pull down a 28-yard catch on third-and-6 just before Beckham Jr. caught a 16-yard pass near the LSU sideline. After escaping an errant throw on first down, Mettenberger found Alfred Blue for four yards to the 23 and then Landry for 15 on third-and-6 to the Alabama 8. Beckham Jr. slipped and couldn’t get back to a first-down pass in the right corner of the endzone and Hill gained two yards to keep the clock running under a minute. On third-and-6, the Tigers went with five wide receivers and an empty backfield. Mettenberger calmly surveyed the field and found freshman Travin Dural behind safety Landon Collins for a 6-yard touchdown.
Dural’s first career touchdown cut the Alabama advantage to 17-14 with 43 seconds left and gave LSU momentum heading into the lockerroom.
Considering Copeland’s fumble at the Alabama goalline, a fumbled snap led to an Alabama field goal, and a pass interference call on LSU’s defense that allowed the long touchdown pass, mistakes turned a would-be 21-7 LSU lead into a three-point halftime deficit.
Despite its first-half shortcomings, LSU came out of the half ready to play. Mettenberger got a fortunate bounce when Mosley turned to intercept a pass on the first play of the half but instead batted the ball back to LSU tight end Dillon Gordon for a 22-yard gain. A 5-yard run across midfield by Hill plus a face mask penalty put the Tigers at the Alabama 32. Landry came up two yards short of a first down, and Colby Delahoussaye tied the game at 17-17 with a 41-yard field goal with 12:01 left in the third quarter.
Alabama used a fake punt on fourth-and-2 from its 41 to turn the game around. After Yeldon was stuffed for a loss, the Tide called a timeout to setup the fake – a punt formation where Mosley took the snap and handed off to junior defensive back Jarrick Williams, who ran right for 6 yards. The play tilted momentum in the Tide’s favor and led to a 4-yard touchdown by Yeldon with 4:11 remaining in the third quarter.
Alabama led 24-17.
Though the Tigers earned two first downs and crossed midfield, LSU’s attempt to answer came up short when the Tide bracketed Landry and Mettenberger wasn’t able to connect. After a 25-yard LSU punt and a penalty for illegal formation, Alabama took over at its 29.
A late hit personal foul against LSU gave Alabama great field position at its 48. Nines later – including seven by Yeldon – the running back scored a 1-yard touchdown that gave the Tide a 31-17 lead with 10:31 to play.
Though Beckham Jr. returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards to the Alabama 18, three passes fell incomplete and LSU turned the ball over on downs.
Aided by two LSU personal fouls on the 78-yard drive, Alabama added another touchdown, a 3-yard play-action pass to running back Jalston Fowler with 4:10 remaining.