Tide Falls Again

It was no surprise that Alabama melted when it got in the Red Zone in Baton Rouge Saturday night. It was surprising that the Crimson Tide defense suffered meltdown against LSU in Baton Rouge. The result was LSU taking a 28-14 win.

Alabama sometimes has a tough time getting started in early kickoff games. But on Saturday night in Baton Rouge the Bama defense was sleep-walking in the early going against LSU.

Alabama's offense moved the ball reasonably well against the LSU defense, which was ranked number one in the nation. But three times the Tide got into the dreaded Red Zone and came up empty.

The loss dropped Alabama to 6-5 overall and 2-5 in Southeastern Conference games. Alabama was 0-4 in SEC road games this season. LSU, which has the most talent of any SEC team, improved to 8-2 overall and 4-2 in conference play.

Alabama closes out regular season play next Saturday hosting Auburn in Bryant-Denny Stadium. CBS will televise the game with kickoff at 2:30 p.m. CST. Auburn has won four consecutive games against Alabama. The Tigers were beaten by Georgia Saturday to fall to 9-2 overall and 5-2 in the SEC.

That LSU scored just 28 points in the game would surprise anyone who watched the Bengal Tigers in the first half of the first quarter. LSU was on track to score over 100 points. LSU went 73 yards in five plays, taking only 1:26, to take a 7-0 lead.

After Bama drove down and missed a field goal, the Tigers drove 68 yards in five plays in just under two minutes to make it 14-0.

It was no surprise that the SEC's best player, LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, keyed the Tigers' touchdowns. On the first drive he had a key 21-yard completion to Dwayne Bowe to move LSU into Tide territory. Freshman Keiland Williams then went over right tackle untouched on a 38-yard touchdown burst. On the second possession, Russell completed three passes, the last to a wide open Early Doucet in the end zone.

But against the nation's number one defense, the Alabama offense did pretty well. The Crimson Tide responded with an eight-play, 75-yard drive with quarterback John Parker Wilson making a perfect pass to Kenneth Darby on a 29-yard wheel route to close the gap to 14-7 before the first quarter had ended.

Just like the first two LSU drives, the third possession of the Bengal Tigers resulted in a march to a touchdown. LSU went 81 yards in 10 plays, including running for six yards on a fourth-and-one on the first play of the second quarter. Russell finished the drive with a middle screen pass to Bowe for 19 yards and the score.

In the next five minutes, Alabama gave every indication that the Crimson Tide could compete with the 12th ranked Tigers. Wilson got the drive started on a third-and-nine from the Bama 20 by connecting with D.J. Hall for a 40-yard gain to the LSU 39. The duo hooked up again for 21 yards to the LSU 18. In a departure from form, Alabama took advantage of its Red Zone presence to score a touchdown. Bama was helped by a pass interference call that gave the Tide a first down at the eight. The points came two plays later when Wilson connected with Nikita Stover. It was 21-14 after the eight-play, 80-yard drive.

Alabama's special teams are not always sound, but the Tide had the best of plays following the touchdown and Jamie Christensen extra point. Christensen made a coaching clinic-perfect onsides kick that was recovered by Jeffrey Dukes for the Tide. However, a chop block penalty killed any chance to capitalize on the opportunity.

Alabama's defense finally got the job done late in the second quarter, twice holding the Tigers to three-and-out. And it looked as if Bama might get the game tied by halftime. At least it was expected Bama would get a field goal.

But the curse of not having a good Red Zone offense meant nothing. In fact, for the second consecutive week a pass interference call in Bama's favor may have worked to keep the Tide from getting points just before halftime. A third down pass was incomplete, but LSU was guilty of pass interference inside the Tigers' 10. So instead of kicking a field goal, Bama tried another play. Wilson was sacked and fumbled and the half ended with Bama down a touchdown.

It looked like Alabama's offense was still hot when the second half started, but a holding call stopped the drive and forced a punt, giving the ball back to LSU. The Tigers hadn't had much success after their first rthree drives and wouldn't have any more success after the first possession of the second half. But on that opportunity, LSU made the play of the game to sew up the win.

Matt Collins broke through to turn a trick play into a 17-yard loss for the Tigers. But on third-and-19, LSU's Russell scrambled for a 24-yard gain to the Bama 33. Three plays later Russell connected with fullback Jacob Hester on a swing pass and Hester went 16-yards untouched to the fourth and final LSU touchdown.

Wilson kept the Tide rolling after a terrible kickoff return and penalty started Bama at its own nine-yard line. He connected with Will Oakley for 23 yards and D.J. Hall for 21 around a 10-yard Darby run and Bama was back down inside the LSU 25. But Wilson's arm was hit as he attempted to pass and an LSU interception killed the opportunity.

Alabama moved back inside the LSU 20 early in the fourth quarter, but Wilson was sacked on a third down play and Christensen missed a 38-yard field goal try.

Alabama would have the ball only one more time. On a fourth down play, Bama was willing to gamble. But an unusual non-reporting call offset a facemask penalty by LSU when punter D.J. Fitzgerald attempted a run on fourth down. Alabama then had to punt the ball away. LSU never gave it back, driving inside the Alabama 10-yard line as the game ended.

Although Alabama has a substantial lead on LSU in the all-time series (43-22-5) and in games in Baton Rouge, that was the Bengal Tigers' fourth consecutive win over Bama.


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