Tigers rally to beat Bama 26-10

Behind a defensive effort that pitched a second half shutout and an offensive spark from Joseph Addai in the final two quarters, LSU defeated Alabama Saturday night, 26-10.

The Tigers (7-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) defeated Alabama for the second straight year after downing the Crimson Tide 27-3 a year ago in Tuscaloosa. The win also marked the first nighttime victory over Alabama in Tiger Stadium since a 20-15 victory in 1969.

"I was really proud of our guys and the way they competed in the game, especially in the second half," Tigers' head coach Nick Saban said. "It says something about us to be able to comeback and do that.

"But the one thing nobody's ever said about this team that I'm going to say is we do a lot of things wrong, we're not always pretty, we can complain about how much we throw the ball and how many we complete, but the one thing we do is, they've comeback about four times and won and you've got to say something about that."

Pinned deep in their own territory when starting drives in the first half, LSU found themselves down 10-6 at halftime. The Tigers tried to change things from the start of the third quarter.

"We went out and onsides kicked it, should have got the onsides kick," Saban said. "It was a flop kick. It was not supposed to be kicked on the ground. It was supposed to be kicked up in the air, it was a flop kick, thinking that into the wind it wouldn't affect field position that much and (Ryan) Gaudet missed it."

Despite the kick not going as planned LSU forced a punt, but the Crimson Tide (6-4, 3-4) nearly managed a score when Alley Broussard mishandled a handoff from Marcus Randall that was recovered by Alabama's Mark Anderson at the 12 yard line.

Corey Webster intercepted Spencer Pennington in the end zone to prevent a Crimson Tide score of any kind, however, and returned the pick out to the LSU 44 yard line to give the Tigers excellent field position.

"We knew in the red zone they just like to throw a lot of fades and that's what they did," Webster said. "I was kind of prepared for it, knew there was a chance they were going to run that route."

A questionable non-call accompanied the interception.

"We didn't like that," Pennington said. "Back where we come from, that is pass interference every day. That is a big turning point in the game. You lose momentum after coming out after halftime up 10-6. We got the lead. We go down and get great field position. If we score, we are up 17-6."

Alabama head coach Mike Shula shared his quarterback's sentiment.

"We lost the momentum, we lost the lead, and there was a struggle from that point on," he said.

The change of possession changed the upper hand of field position, and with the Tigers' defense holding Alabama to a three-and-out LSU's offense would get the ball at the Crimson Tide's 37 yard line to start their next series.

Once more the Tigers could not capitalize, suffering a three-and-out of their own that consisted of Randall scrambling for no yards, Randall being sacked, and then missing an open Addai.

Chris Jackson's punt that followed was downed by an awaiting Ronnie Prude at the Alabama two yard line, but the Crimson Tide seemed poised to quickly move away from the shadow of their own goalposts with an 11-yard run by Kenneth Darby.

Fortunes changed suddenly when Marcus Spears sacked Pennington and forced a fumble recovered by Cameron Vaughn and returned eight yards for LSU's first touchdown of the night to help make the score 13-10 in the Tigers' favor.

It was LSU's first lead of the game.

"It felt good," Spears said. "I won't say it won the game, but it felt good to at least change the momentum and get our guys pumped up on the sideline. And then the job well-done going back out and stopping them again to give our offense the ball back. That was a key play in the game, but there were a lot of key plays made."

By virtue of Brandon Brooks fumbling the ensuing kickoff out of bounds Alabama found themselves starting from their own eight yard line, but with Darby carrying on six consecutive plays the Crimson Tide reached their own 40 yard line before falling apart and having to punt.

"I think those kickoff plays were critical in the game because they never had field position ever in the fourth quarter at all, and the third quarter either," Saban said. "So their field position was just terrible all the time and they never did open things up the way they could have, or might have had they had better field position to try and score. I think they were playing conservatively thinking if we made a mistake it was a one-score game, they could have gotten back in it that way."

After trading non-productive series, LSU finally landed what appeared to be the decisive blow with 9:38 left in the fourth quarter when JaMarcus Russell helmed a 67-yard drive that lasted a mere four plays.

Broussard sliced through the heart of Alabama's defensive line with a 23-yard run on first down, but was stopped in the backfield as a follow-up.

Russell hit Addai on a hitch that netted 10 yards, and then tossed a short out to the tailback, who turned it into a 35-yard scoring play down the left sideline complete with a juke of Crimson Tide cornerback Anthony Madison at the 25 yard line.

At the 9:38 mark in the fourth quarter, the Tigers had made a tight contest a two-score game.

Another muffed kickoff by Brooks had Alabama starting out on their own six yard line, and a Claude Wroten sack of Pennington on third down moved the ball back to the two for a punt.

The Tigers took over at the Crimson Tide's 27 yard line, and had Russell connected with Craig Davis who was running a post route LSU would have added an additional touchdown.

But the pass was short, and a 39-yard field goal try that was pushed by Gaudet ended a drive yielding no points and lasting just 1:40.

Spears took down Pennington to begin Alabama's next three-and-out, and with 4:32 showing on the clock Addai took a toss right 47 yards for a touchdown.

Addai's second score capped a two-play, 49-yard drive, and accounted for the Tigers' final margin of victory.

Darby was the game's leading rusher with 109 yards on 35 carries, but his average of 3.1 yards per attempt paled next to Addai's 8.3 average. Addai rushed 12 times for 99 yards.

"I think we ran the ball effectively," Saban said. "That's the most yards I think they gave up this year rushing. Both Joe (Addai) and Alley (Broussard) did an outstanding job, the offensive line did an outstanding job."

Against the nation's No. 1 overall defense, the Tigers put up 192 yards on the ground, a number diminished by Russell being sacked three times for a loss of 25 yards.

The Crimson Tide was held to just 82 yards rushing as a team, and 114 yards through the air.

Entering the contest, Alabama had been averaging 229.8 yards per outing on the ground. As the game moved along, it was apparent the Tigers were wearing the Crimson Tide out.

"The front played great," Saban said. "I mean this is a football team that can run the ball now and they've run it effectively against everybody all year. And Darby's a real good back, and he wasn't the same at the end of the game as he was the beginning, which says a lot about the way we played up front."

Pennington went 7-of-15 throwing the ball, completing one pass more than LSU's tandem of Randall and Russell.

While Russell connected on 5-of-10 attempts for 92 yards, Randall was just 1-of-4 for minus one yard.

With LSU's offense unable to flip the field on its first two possessions, Alabama took advantage and put up the first points of the game on a four-play, 53-yard drive.

The series started with Pennington hitting Matt Caddell on a 48-yard bomb that put the Crimson Tide down at the Tigers' five yard line. From there Darby took three carries to cover the final distance needed with 4:27 remaining in the first quarter.

LSU would answer on its ensuing series, but only with a 32-yard field goal from Gaudet after the Tigers had driven down to the Alabama three yard line.

A slant to Craig Davis picked up 21 yards to move LSU to the Alabama 24 yard line, and Addai rushed up the middle to give the Tigers a first and goal at the nine yard line.

Russell was sacked facing a third and goal, necessitating the kick with 12:17 left to go in the second quarter.

Alabama responded somewhat immediately, marching 72 yards on 14 plays in 6:53 and capping their drive with a 26-yard field goal from Brian Bostick.

Facing a fourth and three from the LSU 30 yard line, Pennington connected with a wide open Le'Ron McClain for 24 yards for a first and goal at the Tigers' six yard line to keep the drive alive.

Randall made his first appearance of the night on LSU's fifth possession, engineering a nine-play, 65-yard drive that ended with Gaudet booting a 28-yard field goal to pull the Tigers within four points.

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