Stone Cold Shutout

On a cold night in Tiger Stadium, LSU was frozen out of the end zone by Alabama and saw a chill placed on its bid to repeat as Southeastern Conference champions.<br><br>The Crimson Tide's 31-0 win over LSU Saturday at Tiger Stadium marked the first time the Tigers have been shut out since Alabama blanked them 26-0 in 1996.

The loss dropped the Tigers to 7-3 and 4-2 in SEC play, but Auburn's loss to Georgia keeps LSU in the driver's seat in the SEC West. If LSU wins their last two games, they will advance to the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 7 in Atlanta to play Georgia.


Though the win improved Alabama's record to 9-2 and 6-1 in conference play, they are banned from postseason play.


Alabama racked up 300 yards rushing against the LSU defense, statistically the nation's best entering the game, and held the Tigers to only 196 yards of total offense.


"We just got beat by a good football team tonight," LSU head coach Nick Saban said after the game. "We just got beat by a better football team."


The game was a slow and steady beating. After exchanging punts for most of the first half, Alabama punched into the end zone with 3:52 left in the half when Santonio Beard took an option pitch from Tyler Watts and ran 6 yards for the score. Kyle Robinson missed the extra point, giving Tiger fans a little bit of hope.


LSU received the following kick but had to punt after three downs. Donnie Jones kicked an excellent 44-yard punt that was downed at the 4-yard line, giving Alabama a 96-yard field with 1:53 left in the second quarter.


What followed was an astonishing drive that helped to break the Tigers' back. On first down, Beard ran right off tackle for 12 yards to give the Tide some breathing room. Beard gained 19 yards on the next play, a sprint draw play from the I-formation that would continue to haunt LSU the rest of the night.


A-back Shaud Williams followed with runs of 18 and 32 yards to bring the Crimson Tide down to the LSU 14-yard line with 22 seconds left on the clock. Quarterback Tyler Watts scored on an option keeper ten seconds later to complete the two-minute offensive drive that featured just two pass attempts - both spikes to stop the clock.


Triandos Luke scored the two-point conversion on and end-around for a 14-0 Alabama lead at halftime.


"When we punted the ball down to the 4-yard line and they drove 96 yards and score right before they half, I think that was a real momentum change," said Saban.


LSU did a fine job of defending Alabama's option for most of the night, but they were destroyed by the sprint-draw play. In the play, the quarterback drops back and rolls one way before handing the ball underneath to the tailback, who can pick and choose his hole to run through.


"I think the thing that really surprised us about the game was the draw," said Bradie James. "(It) was the play they were killing us with, but you play and you learn, and I'm sure we're going to have to make some adjustments about that. They were executing it to perfection and we couldn't stop it."


"I think we did a pretty good job defending the option, but they killed us on that draw play the whole game," said Chad Lavalais. "It's this weird play where all the linemen turn one way, and all you can do is try and press the lineman that's in front of you, and the back just picks a hole. We knew it was coming, but they just couldn't stop it." 


Shaud Williams led all rushers with 131 yards on 16 carries. Beard added 109 yards on 18 carries, and scored twice. Tyler Watts was 11 of 20 passing for 177 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, and also rushed for 37 yards. Sam Collins led all receivers with 5 catches for 115 yards.


The Tigers' inability to stop Alabama's rushing attack was compounded by an ineffective offense. After completing 5-7 passes in the first quarter, Marcus Randall completed only one pass for the rest of the game and was pulled for redshirt freshman Rick Clausen in the fourth quarter.


"(Coach Saban) just told me that he was going to sit me down for little while, to stay in the game, and he was going to bring Clausen…and see if we could get a little change-up," said Randall after the game. "Confidence-wise, I'm real confident right now because I know our offense is still a good offense, and we are not clicking right now. We're not putting up points, and you can't win if you don't put up points. But I'm still real confident."


Randall finished 6-for-17 for 39 yards and led all Tiger rushers with 54 yards on six carries. His timing was poor and he missed open receivers downfield several times. Clausen fared no better, completing 3 of 6 for 26 yards against an Alabama defense expecting the pass.


Domanick Davis ran nine times for 47 yards, and LaBrandon Toefield, in his first action since breaking his arm against Louisiana-Lafayette, had 22 yards on six carried.


But neither back was ever able to really get into the flow of the game, as LSU's offensive line was dominated at the line of scrimmage by Alabama's tremendous defensive line. The Tigers gave up two sacks, committed numerous false start penalties and botched several shotgun snaps late in the game.


"Some of the guys are having problems hearing the snap counts," said right tackle Rodney Reed. "When you're playing in the thick of things in the SEC, it's just crucial to put these games behind you and go into next week or you'll get embarrassed like this again."


A fact truly indicative of the offense's struggle is that the longest play of the night came from Bradie James, who ran for 29 yards on a fake punt on LSU's first possession of the third quarter. But on the very next play Randall fumbled the ball on an 8-yard scramble, and the Tide recovered.


In the second half, Alabama's offense turned the game into a game of keep-away, holding the ball for 10:07 in the third quarter.


With 14:53 left in the game, Beard scored from 22 yards out on yet another draw play to make the score 21-0 and sent Tiger fans heading towards the exits.


The Tide added a 46-yard Robinson field goal on their next drive, and Watts threw a 27-yard TD pass to Zach Fletcher on the drive after that to tack the final points onto the scoreboard.


The lone bright spot for the Tigers was the play of James. The senior from West Monroe wracked up 15 tackles, one for a loss, and also had the 29-yard run. James made Tide ball carriers pay several times with punishing tackles, but like the rest of the defense, wore down late in the game.


The Tigers one defensive highlight came on Alabama's first possession, when Demetrius Hookfin picked off a Watts pass in the south end zone. The senior from Independence, playing with a bad right ankle, made a great break on the pass, tipped the ball up and collected the ball with a diving catch.


Penalties also killed the Tigers, who were flagged ten times for 77 yards. Most of the penalties were false starts and blocking penalties, such as a block in the back on the opening kickoff that negated a 60-yard return by Domanick Davis.


The Tigers come into the home stretch still in control of their own destiny. They have Ole Miss at home and must go on the road to Arkansas, who is still mathematically alive in the West race with a 3-3 league mark entering Saturday's game with Mississippi State.


"The biggest thing is you can't win all of them and you can't get down," said James. "What we have is attainable. We can still attain our goal, which is getting back to Atlanta. But we have to take it one game at a time." 

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