Tough Loss

It was just asking too much of Alabama's defense. Time and again in the second half the Crimson Tide offense and punting units put the Bama defense with its back against the wall, and time and again the Alabama stop troops responded. But more than a game was too much. In overtime, LSU completed an 11-yard touchdown pass and ended Bama's undefeated season. It was LSU 16, Alabama 13.

Game Stats

Alabama went into the game with Southeastern Conference and national championship hopes. The national title, which was never realistic, is gone, of course. The SEC championship is but a faint hope as LSU has only to win out against Ole Miss and Arkansas.

Alabama was ranked third or fourth in the nation and is now 9-1 overall and 6-1 in SEC play. LSU, which was ranked fifth in the nation, improved to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in league play.

Alabama closes out regular season play next week at Auburn. Auburn, with the same unlikely hopes as Alabama for the SEC title, was playing at Georgia later Saturday. Kickoff from Auburn next Saturday wil be at 2:30 p.m. CST with national television coverage by CBS–Alabama's seventh CBS broadcast of the season.

If Alabama doesn't sneak back into the SEC Championship Game picture, it means there will be no chance for this year's Atlanta Sugar Bowl. But a 10-1 Alabama could still find itself in a Bowl Championship Series game, perhaps the Fiesta Bowl. Otherwise, the Crimson Tide will have to wait on SEC affiliated bowls to make their selections. If Bama is not in a BCS game, the best guess is that the Tide will be in Orlando for the January 2 Capital One Bowl against a Big Ten representative.

Alabama got the overtime started with a misstep that was typical of the offense throughout the second half of Saturday's game. Alabama had an illegal shift, and so instead of starting first and 10 from the LSU 25, Alabama was first and 15 from the 30. And three plays later the Tide had gained 13 yards. Without the penalty, that would have been enough for another set of downs. With the penalty, it was fourth and two and that was no time for a gamble. Jamie Christensen, who had connected on one field goal earlier in the game and who had also missed a long one, was good on a 34-yard field goal and a 13-10 Alabama lead.

As had been the case throughout the second half, LSU was more efficient than Bama on offense. A swing pass gained a first down to the 15. After a scramble for no gain, the Tigers got four yards on a reverse. From the 11, third and six, LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who had an excellent game, hit Dwayne Bowe in the end zone for the touchdown and the victory.

LSU stepped things up offensively and defensively in the second half. But Alabama will probably look back and see squandered first half opportunities as the reason for the loss. But even with chances that got away, Alabama took a 10-0 lead to intermission.

Bama had the first scoring shot when the Tide moved to the LSU 29-yard line before stalling. Christensen's 46-yard field go try was wide right.

Alabama's third drive started at its own 22, and the running game was productive. Kenneth Darby had a 21 yard gain, then Glen Coffee and Darby had back-to-back 14 yard runs that got the Tide to the 17. After an incomplete pass, Darby ran it down to the 11.

It looked like Alabama might be in good shape for a touchdown opportunity on Bama's next play when wide receiver Keith Brown was held by an LSU defender while trying to get to a Brodie Croyle pass in the end zone. But reminding all Bama fans of the mysterious no call in the end zone at Baton Rouge last year, the official saw no penalty. The drive stalled and Christensen kicked Bama to a 3-0 lead with a 28-yard field goal.

Alabama got something of a gift from the LSU defense at the end of the first quarter. Facing third and 10 at the Bama 16 and with nine seconds remaining in the period and a brisk wind in its face, Bama was going to do nothing but run the ball, let the quarter expire, and punt with the wind. But the draw play to Tim Castille went for a surprising 15-yard gain and a first down at the Alabama 31.

There was quite a surprise on the first play of the second quarter. Back-up halfback Jimmy Johns lined up at quarterback and ran the quarterback sweep for 13 yards. Croyle completed a couple of passes for 30 yards, 11 yards top D.J. Hall and 19 to Le'Ron McClain, and then LSU was guilty of pass interference in the end zone. On third down from the eight, Croyle connected with Hall for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.

Alabama's passing game was not very good, in part because of poor throws and in part because of dropped balls. Croyle completed 19 of 40 passes for 187 yards. Darby continued his excllent year, rushing for 104 yards against a very good LSU defense.

Alabama was very good on run defense as the Tigers had only 46 yards on 33 carries, but the Tide had problems with the aerial attack as the Tigers struck for 229 yards.

The most notable missed opportunities of the first quarrter were in the punting game. On one LSU punt, Theo Townsend seemed to get in too quickly and overran the chance to block a punt. A little later, Chris Keys just missed blocking an LSU punt.

At the half, Alabama had dominated statistically, numbers like 16 first downs to five for LSU, 92 rushing yards to one, 115 pasing yards to 71, 207 total yards to 72.

LSU won the second half as decisively as Alabama won the first half.

On the opening drive of the second half, LSU drove 80 yards to a touchdown. Even though there was an apparent botched call of pass interference against Bama, theTigers were very efficient and moved to a fourth-and-goal at the Alabama one-yard line. Rather than kicking the field goal, LSU went for it and Justin Vincent squirted in over left guard.

Alabama had almost no offensive success in the second half, including Croyle being sacked four times. The first of those sacks put Bama punting from its nine-yard line. Although the Tide didn't allow LSU's great punt return man, Skyler Green, any returns, Jeremy Schatz was put in a tough situation and never had the opportunity to change field position advantage.

After his 36 yard punt to the Alabama 45, the Tigers were able to move into scoring position. A personal foul penalty against LSU nearly put the tying field goal in jeopardy as the 15-yard steopoff changed a 27-yard effort into a 42-yarder. But Chris Jackson made it. Jackson would miss three chances on the night including a 49-yarder with less than a minute to play in regulation.

Alabama had only 74 yards of total offense in the second half, and 58 of that came in the final 54 seconds, 40 of that in the final two seconds as Croyle completed a short pass to Coffee, who ran it for a 40-yard gain to the LSU nine. Unfortunately for Bama, that play had to score or the game would go to overtime. Until then, Alabama's deepest penetration had been to midfield, and three times in the second half the Tide had to punt from the shadow of its goalline–from the five, nine, and ten.

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