TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Saturday afternoon’s showdown between Alabama and LSU had a little bit of everything. It had the good and the bad, the fortunate and the unfortunate.
For the Tide faithful, there was the expected.
Mark Ingram rushed for 145 yards on 22 carries, keeping his name in the thick of the race for the Heisman.
Leigh Tiffin, who had converted 11 field goals in the Tide’s previous three games, was successful on all three of his attempts, two of which came in the final quarter.
There was even a pleasant surprise tossed into the mix.
Julio Jones, who had caught just one touchdown this season, took a screen pass 73 yards for the game-winning score.
On the contrary, LSU experienced plenty of the unexpected.
After Jordan Jefferson completed 8-of-14 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown in the first half, the sophomore quarterback was injured on the first drive of the second half.
He never returned.
On the next possession, Charles Scott broke off a 34-yard run to move LSU inside the red zone. When he didn’t get up after being tackled to the ground, fans across Louisiana took a deep breath.
Just like Jefferson, Scott never returned.
After a trip to the locker room, the senior tailback wore a sling over his right arm for the remainder of the game. Early signs point to a collarbone injury.
Without their starting quarterback and running back, LSU never looked the same.
Keeping drives alive with quick feet and an improving pocket presence, Jefferson scrambled for 33 yards and was sacked just once, the same play he was injured on.
Jarrett Lee, stepping in for his first real action since getting benched during the Ole Miss game last November, was not able to find the same comfort.
By night’s end, he had completed four passes for 44 yards, was sacked twice and threw an interception. On LSU’s final three possessions, Lee and the Tiger offense moved the ball a combined nine yards.
Prior to the injuries, it looked like LSU could stick with the Tide until the final whistle. After the injuries, it was evident that they wouldn’t.
After a scoreless first quarter in which both sides punted three times, LSU put together a 13-play, 91-yard drive that put the first points of the day onto the board. It was early, but the day looked bright for the Tigers.
Playing without injured tight end Richard Dickson, redshirt freshman Deangelo Peterson stepped into the spotlight with the biggest came of his young career, grabbing the 12-yard touchdown pass from Jefferson to put LSU in the lead, 7-0.
Alabama answered with an eight-play, 40-yard drive that culminated in a Tiffin field goal. Two possessions later, with halftime drawing near, the Tide drove 53 yards on five plays to move into LSU territory once again.
With 23 seconds on the clock, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy tried to find tight end Brad Smelley for the score, but LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard intercepted the pass.
Thanks to the poor pass, the score stayed at 7-3.
Alabama moved fast out of the gates in the second half, taking the 10-7 lead on a 21-yard Darius Hanks touchdown reception. The eight-play, 81-yard drive was the longest of the game for the Tide.
Jefferson went down to injury on the following possession, which began the unraveling. After an intentional grounding, Lee entered the game looking at second-and-25. LSU called a timeout, threw an incomplete pass, and then called another timeout.
Facing third-and-25, Lee found R.J. Jackson across the middle for a 20-yard gain. Facing fourth down from the Alabama 41-yard line, Miles decided to gamble. Lee found Jackson on a similar play, but the pickup was negated by a false start before the snap.
While LSU was forced to punt, the silver lining on the drive was that the Tigers would still end up with points.
After Josh Jasper placed a punt inside the one-yard line, McElroy dropped back on third down and was blindsided by defensive tackle Drake Nevis. When McElroy tried to get rid of the ball, he was flagged for intentional grounding and LSU was awarded a safety, moving the Tigers within one.
Scott’s 34-yard pick up after the punt set up LSU for their second score of the game, an eight-yard touchdown run by sophomore Stevan Ridley. Miles then gambled again, this time with a two-point conversion. Lee’s pass to Peterson was incomplete, which kept the score at 15-10.
Tiffin then brought Alabama within two on a 20-yard field goal at the start of the fourth quarter, putting the pressure on Lee and the Tiger offense to keep drives alive and the clock rolling.
After a quick three-and-out, Alabama struck their biggest blow.
With cornerback Patrick Peterson sidelined with cramps, McElroy looked to Jones on the first play of the drive. After catching a screen pass and making LSU’s Brandon Taylor miss, Jones sprinted 73 yards for the touchdown.
After running back Trent Richardson crossed the goal line on the two-point conversion, the Tide held a 21-15 advantage, their biggest lead of the game.
When the next LSU drive went for negative eight yards, Alabama capitalized – though not in traditional fashion.
After moving into LSU territory, Saban faced a fourth-and-six. The Tide punted, but a five-yard penalty for running into the kicker gave Alabama another shot at fourth down. This time, they needed less than a yard.
Ingram lined up in the Wildcat, took the snap and rumbled two yards to keep the chains moving.
Two plays later, the dramatics kicked into high gear. With all the down moments conference officials have had this season, it wouldn’t have been an evening of SEC football without a questionable call from the referees.
A drawn out episode made short, Peterson stepped in front of McElroy’s pass to Jones and secured the interception. After a quick discussion, the play was ruled as an incomplete pass.
During the booth review, the crowd of 92,012 fell silent. The replay on the big screen had convinced the Tide faithful that LSU was going to get the call overturned, and then the Tigers would be driving late in the fourth quarter and down only six.
When the officials confirmed the call as an incompletion, Bryant-Denny Stadium erupted. With the drive still alive, Tiffin added three more to move the score to 24-15.
From a page out of the 2008 playbook, Lee was intercepted on LSU’s final possession.
After leading at both halftime and at the end of the third quarter, the Tigers let the Tide bust out for a 14-point, fourth quarter for the comeback win.