It Takes Overtime To Beat LSU, 27-21

Alabama, the nation's top-ranked team, avoided the calamity that has come to four other number one ranked teams this year. It took an overtime John Parker Wilson quarterback sneak and three interceptions by Rashad Johnson, but the Crimson Tide got out of Baton Rouge with a 27-21 win over LSU Saturday. Bama Coach Nick Saban took the insults, but also took the victory.

Final Stats:

Alabama worked to kick a short, game-winning field goal as the clock expired, but Leigh Tiffin's 26-yard attempt was low and blocked by LSU defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois. That set up overtime.

Alabama won the toss, which meant Bama could choose to go on defense first. Rashad Johnson took a lot of pressure off an Alabama offense that had been inconsistent when Johnson snatched his third interception of the gameon third down in the end zone.

That meant all Alabama had to do to win the game was score, starting its possession from the 25. On first down, John Parker Wilson connected with freshman wide receiver Julio Jones at the one-yard line. Two plays later Wilson went in on a quarterback sneak for the victory.

An ugly sideshow in Baton Rouge was the vicious nature of LSU fans towards Saban. Saban had rebuilt LSU from also-ran program to national championship team, but he left the Bengal Tigers to go to Miami of the NFL. When he had an opportunity to go back to college football, Alabama had a vacancy. The convuluted reasoning of many LSU fans has Saban a traitor.

It was not the best-played game by Alabama. Twice in the waning moments of regulation the Tide had the opportunity to put the game away. Before the blocked field goal, on Bama's next-to-last possession, Wilson had scrambled for what appeared to be a 32-yard touchdown with just over three minutes to play. But Bama was guilty of holding and ended up punting.

Johnson, the senior safety who led the SEC in interceptions last year with six but had only two prior to Saturday, had three against LSU, tying an Alabama single-game record. His first set up the first of two Wilson quarterback sneaks for touchdowns. His second he returned 54 yards for a touchdown.

Alabama improved its record to 10-0 and is now 6-0 in Southeastern Conference play. The win clinched the SEC Western Division championship and put Alabama in the SEC Championship Game on December 6. LSU, the defending national champion, fell to 6-3, including 3-3 in the conference.

Next week Alabama will host Mississippi State at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama's typical fast start had a bizarre finish, no points and loss of the football. Alabama got 31-yard run from Glen Coffee, a clutch pass to Julio Jones for a first down at the LSU 30, and then on a third-and-six John Parker Wilson scrambled and got the ball to Julio Jones. It looked like it might be a touchdown, but Jones was run down from behind. Jones stretched for the end zone, but the ball was knocked loose by Chad Jones--through the end zone fumble, which was a touchback, LSU taking over at the 20.

Alabama got the ball right back. A third-and-17 from the LSU 13 found Jarrett Lee passing. His pass was knocked loose from the receiver by Kareem Jackson and picked off by Rashad Johnson at the 25. Johnson returned the ball to the 15.

On first down, Coffee ran 14 yards to the one. On first and goal, Coffee didn't get in. On second down, Wilson's sneak came up short. On third down Wilson did get it in. With 8:23 left in the first quarter, Leigh Tiffin kicked the extra point to give Alabama a 7-0 lead.

Alabama had one of those particularly costly penalties. Wilson was charged with unsportsmanlike conduct after the score and the 15-yard penalty was assessed on the kickoff, meaning Bama had to kick off from its 15-yard line. Tiffin had one of his better kickoffs, back to the LSU 15, but LSU got good field position, starting at its 44-yard line.

The Tigers took advantage. Two first downs got to the Bama 30 and then on second-and-10, Lee passed to Demetrius Byrd, who had gotten behind Kareem Jackson at the goalline. With 6:21 to play in the first quarter the Tigers got an extra point kick from Colt David to tie the score at 7-7.

Alabama had a horrible kickoff return. Not that Javier Arenas didn't make a good runback, but Arenas--who has had ball security issues recently--fumbled and LSU was back at the Tide 30-yard line just 12 seconds after having scored from that spot. After an incomplete pass, a little counter delay to LSU tailback went up the middle with no one touching him for a touchdown with 5:57 to play. LSU had scored 14 points in 24 seconds to take a 14-7 lead.

It was the second time this year Alabama had trailed in a game. Against Ole Miss Bama was behind for 1:15. The Tide was in need of some offensive production when Arenas' kickoff return started Bama deep in its own territory and Wilson to Jones delivered, a 21-yard third down pass to the Tide 40. Nothing came of the possession except a change in field position, P.J. Fitzgerald punting to an LSU fair catch at its 13.

Alabama's third turnover of the game came on the first play of the second quarter. On a second-and-three, Wilson tried to hit Marquis Maze, but the ball was picked off at the LSU 13 by Patrick Peterson. It was Wilson's first interception in a road game this season. Other than loss of field position after LSU punted a few minutes later, no harm was done.

Wilson got the drive started well with a 26-yard completion to Jones to the LSU 26, but the drive stalled on two incomplete passes and Tiffin's 42-yard field goal try was wide left.

LSU caught Alabama in a blitz and had the perfect play called, a quick option that got Keiland Williams a big gain into Tide territory. LSU had third and short, but a wide play by Williams was sniffed out by Rashad Johnson for a yard loss and the Tigers punted the Tide into a hole at the Bama 12.

About the only thing working for Bama was Wilson to Jones, and it worked for a 20-yard gain to move trhe Tide out of a hole. On a third-and-inches from the Alabama 41, the Tide went unbalanced left and tried a quick pitch to Mark Ingram, who fumbled for a three-yard loss and forced a punt. With almost everything going bad for Bama, Fitzgerald's punt was returned 19 yards to the LSU 34.

Rashad Johnson's second interception got Alabama on the scoreboard and the game tied at 14-114 with 4:33 before intermission. Lee overthrew Terrance Toliver and Johnson got the pick at Bama's 46-yard line. He returned it down the right sidelines, then cut back to the end zone for the 54-yard score.

It would be hard to draw up a less efficient offensive performance than Bama's last possession of the first half. Wilson missed badly to a wide open Jones behind the LSU secondary. Then Nick Walker dropped a pass that would have gained a couple of yards. Finally, Wilson connected on third-and-10 with Mike McCoy...for five yards. Bama punted and LSU had its chance for a two-minute offense from the Tigers' 21.

LSU had a good plan. Lee completed a 24-yard pass to tight end Richard Dickson. Two plays gained six yards and then Williams went off right tackle for 25 yards to the Alabama 24 with just over 40 seconds until intermission. The drive stalled there, but LSU placekicker Colt David is one of the SEC's best, but his 41-yard try with 20 seconds to play in the first half was wide right. It was still 14-14 at halftime.

Alabama had only 13 offensive plays in the second of them a knee to end the first half. But despite LSU having the ball six more minutes than Bama in the second quarter, the Tigers didn't add to their scoring total.

Alabama got the first break of the second half when LSU had only a 29-yard punt, setting the Tide up at its 44 for its first possession. What a waste. Three incomplete passes.

Bama looked more efficient with its second possession of the second half. Wilson to Coffee got a first down, then Coffee had a nice run for five. A Wilson-to-Jones pass gained 19 to the 33. Coffee gained seven to the 26, then ran to the three. On first and goalthe Tide stayed with Coffee behind the left side of the line and he picked up the touchdown. Tiffin's kick made it 21-14 with 8:14 left in the first half. The 69-yard drive took only seven plays.

LSU came back with the Lee to Brandon LaFell combination, three passes getting the Tigers from their 16 to the Tide 33. Two runs brought up a fourth-and-inches at the Alabama 30 and LSU went for it and made it. Three plays later good Bama defense paid big dividends.

A safety blitz by nickel back lAli Sharrief resulted in a tipped pass that became a jump ball. Tide linebacker Rolando McClain won the jump and returned it 12 yards to the Alabama 46. The Alabama offense went back into its shell and had to punt it back to the Tigers. But field position had been switched as LSU was back at its 23. A few plays later and LSU made a better switch, punting Bama back to its seven just before the end of the third quarter.

When Alabama had to punt it back a few minutes later, Fitzgerald had one of his best, a 53-yard punt out of bounds at the LSU 26.

LSU continued to dominate offensively. Lee hit Toliver twice to near midfield then connected with LaFell to the Tide 25. Richard Murphy, a wide receiver, took the next snap at the tailback spot and went up the middle for a first down at the Alabama 15. Lee got sacked by Bobby Greenwood, but Lee came right back to Toliver at the six for third and two. Quinn Johnson ran it to a first-and-goal at the one. Johnson couldn't get it in on first down, but on second down Scott did. The Tigers had gone 74 yards in 14 plays to tie the game at 21-21 with 6:12 to play.

It wasn't necessarily last chance, but Bama's offense was under pressure. Arenas made a nice return to give Alabama good starting position at its 37. The Tide moved to the LSU 32 and faced third and eight with just over three minutes to play. Wilson scrambled around right end and went to the end zone, but a holding call pushed it back and the Tide had to punt.

Alabama's defense held, forcing a punt, and Arenas--who had not had a great game--had an excellent return of a long punt. His 23-yard return set the Tide up at the LSU 41. Coffee, who went over the 1,000-yard mark for the year with 26 carries for 126 yards in the game, did most of the heavy work in getting the ball deep into LSU territory. On his final carry of regulation he was grabbed by the face mask, moving the ball to the LSU 12. Bama maneurvered the ball to the middle of the field and ran the clock down to three seconds for Tiffin's 29-yard field goal attempt, but it was blocked, his second miss of the night.

That left it to the dramatics of overtime.

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