Tide torches Tigers, 31-0

Alabama's football team took another step toward a high national ranking, with a 31-0 win over last season's Southeastern Conference champion LSU in Baton Rouge Saturday night. Bama came into the game ranked 10th in the nation, while the Bengal Tigers were ranked 12th in one poll and 14th in another.

"It really was a great win for our football team," Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione said afterwards. "We played a complete game. We had (almost) 500 yards of offense, two 100-yard rushers, we got a shut-out on defense. We had a couple of ugly glitches in the kicking game that we need to work on still, but it was a great win."

Alabama is now 9-2 on the season, 6-1 in the SEC, the best record of any team in the SEC Western Division. LSU fell to 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the conference. Auburn lost 24-21 to Georgia Saturday, dropping to 4-3 in the conference. Arkansas, a team Alabama defeated earlier 30-12 also has three league losses. Mississippi and Mississippi State are both out of the running for the division title.

"We are the Best in the West," Franchione said. "I'm really proud of these players. I'm proud of their accomplishment. I'm really pleased for them. I can't say emotionally how much it means to see them and what they've been through, to be able to accomplish this."

Bama won its fifth straight SEC road game, dating back to last season. The win avenged a 35-21 loss last season to the Tigers. Alabama has now won 13 of its last 15 games.

Alabama returns to Tuscaloosa next Saturday to host Auburn in its last SEC game of the season. Kickoff at Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at 2:30 pm Central Time, with television coverage by CBS.

Much will be made this week of Alabama having never defeated Auburn in Tuscaloosa, but few games in the series have been played there. Alabama defeated the Tigers 31-7 last season in Auburn.

Alabama had an unlikely 14-0 lead at halftime after a scoreless first quarter. The lead was unexpected in part because the Tide had a missed extra point kick after its first touchdown, and partly because Bama seemed to be in a position to just run out the clock and go in at the half with a 6-0 lead. However, a handful of very nice runs led to another touchdown opportunity.

Alabama took that 6-0 lead with an eight play, 64-yard drive capped by Santonio Beard running in from six yards out. A high snap led to the missed extra point attempt.

Late in the second quarter, an excellent punt pinned Alabama at its own four-yard line with only 1:53 until intermission. Almost everyone expected Alabama to just run out the clock. However, the Tide got runs of 12 and 19 yards from Beard and runs of 18 and 12 yards from Shaud Williams to set up a first down at the LSU 14 with just over 20 seconds until halftime. Watts ran the ball down to the five, and a personal foul after the run put the ball at the two yard line. Then Watts took it in on an option run to the right with 12 seconds remaining in the half. Triandos Luke scored the two-point conversion on an end-around run.

"The offense stayed patient," Franchione said. "We had to grind, and then all of a sudden we got that quick score right before the half to make it 14-0. I thought that was a big swing for us there. That was a great job by our offense, going over 90 yards for the score in less than two minutes."

Bama raised its lead to 21-0 on the first play of the fourth quarter as Beard ran 22 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. The run capped an 88-yard, 13-play drive.

Kyle Robinson kicked a 46-yard field goal with just under 11 minutes to play to push the lead to 24-0. It was his longest field goal, and Alabama's second longest of the year.

The Tide closed out the scoring with a 27-yard pass from Tyler Watts to a streaking Zach Fletcher in the left corner of the endzone. Bama went 70 yards in eight plays for that score after Ahmad Childress recovered an LSU fumble. The score came with just over four minutes to play.

LSU came into the game with the nation's top-ranked defense. Alabama's offense shredded the Tigers for 477 yards. Bama's defense was ranked third in the nation and lived up to that billing, holding LSU to only 196 yards. Alabama averaged six yards per play on 79 plays, while LSU averaged only 3.6 yards on its 54 plays. Alabama had 27 first downs to 14 for LSU. Bama had 54 rushing plays for 300 yards, while the Tigers ran 31 times for 131 yards.

Watts completed 11-of-20 passes for 177 yards, while LSU quarterbacks (including redshirt freshman Rick Clausen, the brother of Tennessee's Casey, who came in to finish the game) totaled only nine completions in 23 attempts for 65 yards.

"Tyler had another great game," Franchione said. "He had one interception there in the first quarter, but I think that was our only turnover of the night. Tyler played very well this evening. He made great checks at the line of scrimmage."

Alabama had a sizable advantage in time of possession, holding the ball for 34 minutes and 36 seconds. The Tide had two runners with over 100 yards. Williams carried 16 times for 131 yards, and Beard carried 18 times for 109 yards. Sam Collins had five receptions for 115 yards.

LSU had the first scoring opportunity, but its first quarter field goal try of 44 yards was blocked by Bama's Antwan Odom. Odom also had a fumble recovery and a big sack.

Crimson Tide senior defensive tackle Kenny King suffered an apparent neck injury in the second quarter and was taken to the locker room for observation. King returned to the Bama sideline in the second half and told reporters after the game that he was fine.

"All of our seniors have been magnificent," Franchione said. "They've done a great job. Marico (Portis) and Alonzo (Ephraim) up front on the offensive line. We had a great catch by Sam Collins. I was so proud."

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