Alabama never trailed in a game of two national championship contenders as the Crimson Tide knocked LSU from the ranks of the unbeaten with a convincing 30-16 win. An additional boost for Bama is that Ole Miss, which had beaten the Tide earlier in the year, lost its second Southeastern Conference game of the season earlier Saturday, thus putting the Tide in control of its own destiny for the SEC Championship.
Alabama, which was controversially ranked fourth in this week’s College Football Playoff poll, improved to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in SEC games. LSU, which was second in the CFP poll, is now 7-1 overall, 4-1 in the league.
Alabama returns to action next week in an SEC game at Mississippi State. Time and television have not yet been announced.
In what was likely Alabama’s best-played game of the year, Derrick Henry was the shining star with a fine supporting cast is upstaging the heretofore Heisman Trophy favorite, Leonard Fournette. Henry had 38 rushes for 210 yards and three touchdowns, while Fournette had 19 carries for 31 yards and one TD.
LSU came into the game as the SEC leader in rushing at 309.1 yards per game, led by Fournette’s 193.1 per game. Bama’s defense, which was the league leader in rushing defense, held the Tigers to 26 carries for 54 yards.
A key play in the game probably came on the first play of the second half. The Tide had a 13-10 lead at intermission, but LSU was getting the ball to start the second half. On the first play of the third quarter Bama linebacker Dillon Lee intercepted Brandon Harris’s pass at the 32 and took it to the 28. A dump pass from Jacob Coker to Kenyan Drake went for 25 yards, setting up a first-and-goal and three plays later Henry was in the end zone and Adam Griffith’s extra point gave Alabama a 20-10 lead.
Henry would add another third quarter touchdown at the end of an 11-play, 73-yard drive. Coker had completions of 15 and 14 yards to Calvin Ridley and Drake, who finished with 10 carries for 68 yards, went 24 yards on a draw play. Two runs by Henry made it first-and-goal and two plays later Henry took it in for the score to make it 27-10 going to the fourth quarter.
Alabama started the fourth quarter with Griffith connecting on a 29-yard field goal to make it 30-10. LSU took advantage of an uncharacteristic Henry miscue, a fumble at Bama’s 22 with just over 11 minutes to play. Fournette got most of the LSU rushing on an 18-yard run to the Tide 4 and a pass interference call against Bama allowed a first-and-goal at the 2. Fournette scored the final points of the game on a one-yard run. The extra point kick, which ordinarily would be that final point, was blocked by A’Shawn Robinson.
Robinson, incidentally, also played a few downs at fullback in goalline situations and had some crushing blocks in bront of Henry’s touchdowns.
The first half was notable for two things. One, the Alabama defense held Leonard Fournette to 9 carries for 9 yards. Second, the Crimson Tide took a 13-10 halftime lead on the strength of Adam Griffith’s 55-yard field goal 14 seconds before intermission.
There was also Derrick Henry scoring a touchdown in his 14th consecutive Alabama game, which is the longest streak in the nation and tied the SEC record held by former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow (2006-07).
Bama never trailed in the first half, but did let a 10-point lead get away before regaining it on Griffith’s kick.
There was no score in the first quarter, but Bama was on the move at the end of the first period. Starting at its own 9, Alabama got an 11-yard run from Henry and a 14-yard Coker to Calvin Ridley pass to move out from the goalline. Kenyan Drake then broke off an 18-yard run and was tackled by the face mask, which moved it to the LSU 33. Bama moved to a first-and-goal at the 10 on the strength of a pass interference penalty against the Tigers, but the Tide stalled at the 4 and Griffith kicked a 22-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead four minutes into the second quarter.
The defense continued to hold the Tigers in check and Bama got the ball back at its 43. Coker hit O.J. Howard for 15 and then Henry broke off a 40-yard run to the LSU 2. On first down, Henry took it in for the 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Tigers fought back on the strength of quarterback Brandon Harris and some penalties by Bama defenders. LSU started its drive from 10 down at its own 25. Harris ran for 8 and got 15 more on a facemask away from the play. Three short runs got a first down and then Harris hit Travin Dural for a 40-yard touchdown to complete the 6-play, 75-yard drive. Trent Domingue’s kick made it 10-7.
Bama had a three-and-out and then Harris took LSU deep into Tide territory again. The march was helped by a pass interference call against Alabama on a ball that hit UA cornerback Cyrus Jones in the back. The drive stalled at Bama’s 23 and Domingue tied the game at 10 with a 39-yard field goal.
After a kickoff out of bounds gave Alabama starting position at the 35, Coker hit Ardarius Stewart for 19, Henry ran for 10 to the LSU 36, and then the drive stalled, eventually ending up at the LSU 37. After a timeout, Bama elected to let Griffith try the 55-yard field goal and he made it for the Tide halftime lead.
As would be expected, Alabama dominated statistically. The Tide had 28 first downs (14 rush, 12 pass, 2 penalty) to only 12 for LSU (3 rush, 5 passing, 4 penalty).
Bama had 55 rushes for 250 yards, 4.5 yards per try, the Tigers 26-54 for 2.1 per carry.
Jacob Coker did all the passing for Alabama and was 18-24 for 184 yards with no interceptions or touchdowns. Brandon Harris did it all for LSU and was 6-19 for 128 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Ridley led the Tide in receiving with 7-51, while ArDarius Stewart was 3-47, Drake 3-40, Richard Mullaney 3-28, and O.J. Howard 2-18.
Alabama had 79 plays for 434 yards, 5.5 per play, and LSU 45 plays for 182 yards, 4.0 per play.
The Tide was penalized 9 times for 88 yards, the Tigers 7 times for 48.
J.K. Scott averaged 45 yards per kick on his three punts.
Possession time was nearly 2-1, Alabama 39:27, LSU 20:33.
Bama made 7-15 third down conversions, the Tigers 3-11. In the Red Zone, Alabama was 5-6 (3 TDs, 2 field goals), LSU 1-1 (touchdown).
On defense, Dillon Lee’s interception was perhaps the biggest play and he also had a sack among hi,s three tackles. Geno Matias-Smith led the Tide with six tackles, including being in on a tackle for loss, and Jarran Reed had five tackles, Dalvin Tomlinson four. A’Shawn Robinson was in on four tackles, including participating in a tackle for loss, and also had a pass breakup and a blocked extra point kick.
Though not a part of the Alabama game, there was no shortage of interest in Arkansas’s 53-52 overtime victory over Ole Miss, that gave the Rebels a second SEC loss. Alabama will win the SEC Western Division with wins in its last two conference games, against Mississippi State in Starkville next Saturday and at Auburn Nov. 28.
Florida clinched the SEC East Saturday with a 9-7 win over Vanderbilt.