Tigers take down Tide 28-14

Those in the crowd of 92,588 in Tiger Stadium Saturday night who showed up to watch a first half defensive struggle were just as disappointed as the ones who arrived expecting it to be warm.

As a 15-mile per hour north wind whipped through the stadium, LSU and Alabama's offenses whipped through the No.1 and No. 15-ranked defenses respectively in a 28-14 Tiger win that remained up in the chilly air until the middle of the fourth quarter.

 

The win improved LSU's record to 8-2 overall and 4-2 in the Southeastern Conference allowing the Tigers to cling to the slightest of hopes of advancing to the SEC Championship game. Alabama came in smarting just a week after losing to hapless Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide fell to 6-5 overall, 2-5 in the SEC after the loss to LSU. Ahead for Bama is a shot at redemption against beyond bitter rival Auburn.

 

The LSU defense had held opponents to a slight 215 yards per game entering the contest, but Alabama paid that fact no mind, gouging the Tigers for 369 total yards, the bulk of that thanks to the arm of John Parker Wilson who finished with 22 completions on 33 attempts for 291 yards, two touchdowns and a costly interception that cost the Tide a scoring chance in the third quarter. Wilson also fumbled inside the LSU 10-yard line in the waning moments of the first half when a touchdown would have tied the game at 21.

 

"Give Alabama credit," LSU Coach Les Miles said. "They had a tough loss to Mississippi State. They came in here and gave us everything they had."

 

But, all of Alabama's offensive urgency didn't make up for LSU's offensive precision as the Tigers scored two touchdowns in the first 7:33 to stake themselves to a mildly comfortable cushion. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell was spectacular and efficient in completing 18-of-21 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns. The Tigers ran the ball well also, compiling 211 rushing yards. Keiland Williams was responsible for 79 yards on just nine carries. Jacob Hester added 64 yards also on nine carries, while Russell contributed 36.

 

Tiger receiver Early Doucet followed his excellent performance last weekend at Tennessee with another team leading effort, hauling in seven catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. Alabama's D.J. Hall led all receivers with 143 yards on eight catches.  

 

In all, LSU amassed 418 yards against an Alabama defense that was giving up slightly more than 277 a game. The lone touchdown of the second half came halfway through the third quarter when Russell and Hester teamed up on a 17-yard screen pass. But, the Alabama offense kept fighting back and the Tide's hopes of a comeback didn't really deflate until Russell connected on a 15-yard pass to Dwayne Bowe on third down with 6:00 to play in the game.

 

LSU received the opening kick for the first time this season and quickly turned the possession into points. The Tigers expertly and flawlessly eased down the field in five plays capped by a 38-yard touchdown run by Williams who burst through the right side of the Alabama defense then outran the defensive backs to the corner of the north endzone. The quick jaunt gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead after a 73-yard drive that consumed just 1:26.

 

The Crimson Tide responded by moving the ball to the LSU 32-yard line in eight plays. LSU's defense stiffened and allowed the Tide to surge no farther forcing place kicker Jamie Christensen to the field for a 49-yard field goal attempt with a stiff breeze at his back. But, the breeze only helped push the ball wide left and the scoring threat was quelled.

 

LSU needed just five plays to insert the dagger deeper. Russell dropped back, took three steps up to avoid the Bama rush then found Doucet on a screen pass wide open in the right flat. Doucet raced up the east sideline, broke a tackle at the 5-yard line then skipped into the endzone to give the Tigers a two touchdown advantage with 7:33 remaining in the first quarter.

 

This time, the Alabama response was much more fruitful as the Tide seamlessly attacked the Tiger defense on the ground and in the air. Wilson aided the drive early with a 13-yard scramble from the LSU 30. He then finished the drive on its eighth play with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Kenneth Darby who snuck out of the back field and found single coverage along the sideline. The 75-yard march ate 3:45 off the clock and cut the Tiger lead to 14-7 with 3:37 to play in the first quarter.

 

But, Bama's glee evaporated shortly thereafter as Russell again piloted the Tiger offense straight down the field with little difficulty. LSU decided to take its time on the drive, making it last 10 plays and 4:55 in opposition to the first two drives that both lasted less than 2:00. Tailback Alley Broussard bruised Bama defenders on a 16-yard run on the drive's ninth play giving Russell a chance to find Bowe in the south endzone just across the goal line and just out of reach of the Alabama defender. The point after gave LSU a 21-7 advantage with 13:33 to play in the half.

 

Wilson and his teammates took no time to sulk as they moved right back down the field against the suddenly porous Tiger defense. He extended the Alabama push on a 3rd-and-9 at his 21-yard line with a 41-yard strike to Hall. Five plays later, Wilson tossed a six-yard strike to Nikita Stover to cut the LSU lead to 21-14 with 9:04 remaining in the half.

 

Alabama caught the Tigers unaware on the ensuing kickoff with a dribbling onsides effort that was recovered by the Tide at the 50-yard line. But, LSU's defense thwarted Bama's attempt to dissolve the lead by forcing the Tide to punt after picking up a first down but, thanks to penalties and pressure a total of just two yards.

 

The Crimson Tide appeared ready to tie the score in the waning seconds of the first half after driving inside the Tiger 10-yard line with little more than 30 seconds to play after taking control of the ball at their 36 with 1:21 remaining and moving the ball well into scoring distance in six plays. But, Tiger cornerback Daniel Francis blitzed and knocked the ball from Wilson's hand. Defensive end Chase Pittman corralled the bounding ball at the LSU 18 preserving the 21-14 lead.

 

LSU cracked the scoring column first in the second half thanks to Russell's arm and legs. After losing 17 yards on a sack during a flee flicker attempt and facing a 3-19 at his 33-yard line, Russell scrambled out of the pocket for 25 yards, giving LSU a first down at the Alabama 32. Three plays later, Russell kept the ball on an off-tackle run for a first down at the Bama 17, setting up his chance to lob the ball to Hester at the 14-yard line. Hester dashed left and right and hurdled a defender at the two yard line before leaping into the endzone with 7:14 remaining in the third quarter. The nine-play, 78-yard drive extended the LSU lead back to two touchdowns and eased the crowd's trepidation.

 

Wilson and the Tide bounced right back as the Bama quarterback connected on passes of 23 and 35 yards during a seven-play drive that gave Alabama an excellent chance to cut into the LSU lead. Alabama was facing a 3rd-and-10 at the LSU 24 when Wilson arm was hit by blitzing safety LaRon Landry causing the ball to flutter right to Tiger cornerback Chevis Jackson at the 12-yard line, ending the Bama drive.

 

Crimson Tide Coach Mike Shula said the entire game was punctuated by missed scoring chances.

 

"We come back and just get stopped," Shula said. "We tried to kick a long field goal because it was with the big wind behind us trying to get points on the board. They (LSU) go down and score again and kept moving."

 

Alabama gave themselves a good scoring chance again at the beginning of the fourth quarter after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on LSU during a punt gave the Tide a first down at the LSU 45. Eight plays later, Wilson faced a 3rd-and-9 at the LSU 19 and was sacked for a four-yard loss by Ricky Jean-Francois giving Christensen a chance at a 40-yard field goal. But, much like he had done in the first half, Christensen pushed the attempt left, preserving LSU's 14-point cushion.

 

"This team (LSU) is gaining speed," Miles said. "It is going to be a team to reckon with. We scored 28 points in 55 snaps. That's not bad. We'll take that every time."


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