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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Screen play a hit for Alabama in 21-17 win over LSU

AJ McCarron rallies the top-ranked Crimson Tide, which scores with 51 seconds left to fend off the fifth-ranked Tigers.

November 03, 2012|Chris Dufresne
  • Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon scores the winning touchdown against LSU on Saturday.
Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon scores the winning touchdown against… (Gerald Herbert / Associated…)

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Until they break up the Bowl Championship Series in two years, the only thing left to do is shake it up.

Tiger Stadium, on a Saturday night, seemed a perfect place to do it.

Pittsburgh had a similar thought at South Bend and USC actually came close to running down Oregon's rabbits at the Coliseum.

Almost, though, never counts in the BCS.

In the end, the top four undefeated teams remained undefeated and so now we move forward to next week.

Pittsburgh let a 20-6 lead slip away against Notre Dame and Louisiana State let the biggest catfish, Alabama, slip off the hook.

“It's tough,” LSU Coach Les Miles said. “You know there's a game there you could have had. There's some sick guys in that room.”

Top-ranked Alabama defeated No. 5 LSU, 21-17, only a minute after LSU thought it was going to win, 20-14.

The switch flipped that fast. Drew Alleman missed a 45-yard field-goal attempt with 1:34 left that would have put LSU up by six.

Instead, Alabama got the ball back and took less than a minute to stone-cold silence a crowd of 93,374.

Quarterback AJ McCarron, deep in his own zone, with no timeouts, picked his way down the field and calmly hit freshman T.J. Yeldon on a 28-yard scoring screen pass with 51 seconds left.

It was over that fast. It took Alabama only five plays and 43 seconds.

There is a reason these guys are defending national champions.

“That drive is something I will never forget,” Alabama Coach Nick Saban said.

Alabama's band chanted “Saban! Saban!” when he walked through the end zone only minutes after his team had emptied the stadium.

Alabama improved to 9-0 with the win, and LSU fell to 7-2.

LSU fell hard.

This was by far the best of the three-game trilogy that started last November in Tuscaloosa.

These schools continued their knock-down drama series with a new a twist: touchdowns.

“Our guys will be about as sore as they'll ever be after a game,” Saban said.

It seemed impossible that Alabama could lose a 14-3 halftime lead against an LSU team that has struggled mightily to score points.

Alabama came in allowing opponents only eight a game.

Saban's team, though, lost focus in the third quarter. They made uncharacteristic mistakes.

LSU cut the lead to 14-10 when Jeremy Hill scored on a one-yard run with 3:35 left in the third quarter.

It was the first touchdown the Tigers had scored on the Crimson Tide in more than 10 quarters dating to last November.

Miles, the gambler, sensed the momentum and tried an onside kick. It nearly worked, but it hit an LSU player's helmet before going the requisite 10 yards.

Alabama should have crushed LSU's spirit right then, but Yeldon, the freshman, fumbled it back to LSU.

The play ignited the crowd and LSU drove 90 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, a 14 yard pass from Zach Mettenberger to Jarvis Landry.

The good news for the anti-rematch crowd is that it appears the schools will play only once this season.

You never say never with LSU, which crawled back from two losses to win the BCS title in 2007, but Saturday night almost made it official: There isn't going to be a rematch in the BCS title game.

Forget about getting rid of resilient Alabama, though.

Winning at LSU has been next to impossible. Alabama should get two wins for getting out of here with a victory.

LSU had won 22 straight games at home and was 36-1 in night games under Miles

Alabama started slowly and must have been shocked early when it had to play from behind after LSU took a 3-0 lead.

The Crimson Tide had trailed for only 15 seconds all season.

The sense was the game might be over if Alabama scored a touchdown. Overcoming two touchdowns against the nation's top defense seemed impossible for an LSU offense that ranked No. 74 nationally.

Yards are so precious in this defense-dominated series that LSU fans cheer for first downs the way Oregon fans cheer for touchdowns.

There was dread in the air when Alabama's Eddie Lacy scored on a seven-yard run in the second quarter to make it 7-3.

The deficit must have seemed like Mt. Everest when, just before the half, McCarron broke loose up the middle for a nine-yard touchdown.

It was only a 14-3 game, but it seemed like 30-3.

Under Saban, Alabama had a 57-3 record when leading at the half. Yet, LSU almost changed that number to 57-4.

Miles, “The Mad Hatter,” reached into his bag of tricks a few times.

The fake field goal he tried in the second quarter was snuffed out like a cigarette butt.

“Any time they don't work I'd like to have them back,” Miles said of his decision.

Hey, LSU did cross midfield on its first possession, something the Tigers didn't do until the fourth quarter in January's 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS title game.

Before the game, LSU fans were giddy with the prospect Notre Dame might fall in an upset to unranked Pittsburgh.

A win over Alabama coupled with a Notre Dame loss would have put LSU back in the title race.

The Irish rallied to win in triple overtime, though, and Alabama also didn't want to cooperate.

Alabama moved closer to another title Saturday, while LSU can only wonder what might have been.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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