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CHRIS DURESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

No. 1 LSU wins 'Game of the Century' — but which century is it?

Tigers beat No. 2 Alabama, 9-6, in overtime on a night of leather helmet-era football dominated by defense, with neither team able to score a touchdown. Win puts LSU on inside track to BCS title game.

November 05, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • LSU safety Eric Reid (1) celebrates with safety Brandon Taylor after intercepting an Alabama pass in the second half of their game Saturday at Tuscaloosa, Ala.
LSU safety Eric Reid (1) celebrates with safety Brandon Taylor after intercepting… (Dave Martin / Associated…)

The "game of the century" might not have been the best game Saturday night.

Louisiana State and Alabama lived up to the billing to the extent the volume was high and the scoring was low.

It was a brutally battled contest pulled out by LSU, 9-6, on Drew Alleman's 25-yard field goal in overtime.

The sold-out crowd of 101,821 at Bryant-Denny Stadium, stunned in the end, could not have been more vocally prepared.

"I don't think anybody could watch that game and say Alabama doesn't have a really good team," Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said.

Alabama is really good and LSU, at least on this night, was a little better.

But was it worthy of a rematch in the Bowl Championship Series title game?

Heavens no, who wants to see five more field goals?

Neither bruising team Saturday could even bruise the end zone. There might as well have been a sign posted on the goal line: Keep Off The Grass.

The game had plenty of passion and drama, but it was more a throwback to "Leatherheads" than a modern-day keeper.

Alleman's winning field goal lifted LSU's record to 9-0 and will keep the Tigers at No. 1 in the BCS.

No. 2 Alabama falls to 8-1 and will now have to try to get up.

Maybe this is just LSU's year, the way it was the last two times (2003, 2007) the BCS title game was played in New Orleans.

The ending in a snippet synopsis: LSU won the flip in overtime and elected to play defense first, then pushed Alabama back toward midfield. It forced a 52-yard field-goal attempt by Cade Foster, who missed.

LSU took over and thought it won the game on Michael Ford's apparent 23-yard touchdown run on second down. Ford, though, had stepped out of bounds at the seven. LSU then maneuvered into game-winning field-goal range.

If you wanted to see touchdowns and passing records in Alabama on Saturday you had to be at Legion Field, where Houston quarterback Case Keenum was carving up Alabama-Birmingham.

Alabama vs. LSU was a slug-o'-war dominated by vicious hitting and defensive backs.

The punting was fantastic. The star of the game was field position.

"We had lots of opportunities that we didn't take advantage of," Saban said.

The Crimson Tide made two field goals but missed four.

There will be a lot to rehash.

Alabama got the ball at its 20 with 52 seconds left in regulation and two timeouts.

After a short play on first down, though, Saban decided to run out the clock and play for overtime. It was a smarter play, he reasoned, than risking a costly turnover.

LSU's tying field goal in the fourth quarter was set up by Morris Claiborne's interception of an AJ McCarron pass.

What national championship team can't trust its quarterback to lead a last-minute drive?

McCarron completed 16 of 28 passes for 199 yards. LSU quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee combined to complete only nine of 17 passes for 91 yards with two interceptions.

LSU Coach Les Miles couldn't trust his guys, either, making overtime the most sensible option.

Both teams sniffed the end zone but neither could find it. LSU got close at the end of the first half before the dungeon door slammed.

Alabama thought it was on victory's doorstep in the fourth quarter of a 6-6 game when receiver Marquis Maze took a direct snap and passed to Michael Williams at the one.

LSU defensive back Eric Reid, however, spectacularly ripped the ball away for an interception.

It might be the play of the year if LSU ends up winning the national title.

Saturday was hard-hitting drama at its finest — but probably not worth a second meeting on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

"I would be honored to play that team again," Miles said.

It's an issue that can be debated from here to the last release of the BCS standings in December.

The defenses, no question, were fantastic, with NFL talent running all over the field. Both offenses sputtered, but was that a result of the great defense?

You certainly could argue it, although you could also imagine Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck thinking he might be able to pick a few holes in those defenses.

The first half ended in a 3-3 tie with each team poking each other with moves and counter moves.

LSU started with Lee at quarterback but turned to Jefferson, who had lost his starting job when he was suspended after a preseason bar fight.

The buildup for the game started when the schedules came out and built to feverish frenzy during the bye week for both teams.

LSU vs. Alabama was only the 23rd regular-season matchup of No. 1 and No. 2 in the Associated Press poll and the first time it had happened with SEC schools.

The day was blue-sky perfect for football as fans laid out their tailgate spreads all over campus. Thousands showed up outside Bryant-Denny with no prospect for getting into the sold-out stadium.

This was a game you just wanted to be near.

The stadium was packed an hour before kickoff as Alabama fans booed ever practice step an LSU player took.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" rocked the house and former Crimson Tide star Kenny Stabler capped the pregame with the coin flip.

How could a game ever live up to such hype? It couldn't, ultimately, but it tried.

Army and Notre Dame were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in 1946 and played to a scoreless tie.

At least this game made some points.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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