While No. 2 Oregon grilled No. 18 USC 62-51 at the Coliseum, and No. 3 Kansas State had its way against Oklahoma State 44-30, and No. 4 Notre Dame needed three overtimes to hold off Pittsburgh 26-23, and No. 25 UCLA ripped No. 24 Arizona 66-10 at the Rose Bowl, defending national champion and top-ranked Alabama squared off against No. 5 Louisiana State University in a Southeastern Conference clash.
In what turned out to be a thrilling 21-17 comeback victory for the Crimson Tide last Saturday evening at Tiger Stadium, it took every bit of blood, sweat and tears to get past the Tigers.
“I told our players they were going to face adversity,’’ said Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban, who has led LSU and the Tide to national titles. “And they did. LSU is a great team. We needed to play 60 minutes.”
Alabama still sits atop the Bowl Championship Series standings because quarterback A.J. McCarron deftly found freshman running back T.J. Yeldon on a screen pass that went for 28 yards as 51 seconds remained.
“These are the best teammates anyone could ask for,’’ said McCarron, a junior who has 19 scoring passes without an interception. “We have the best offensive line, and we have the best coaching staff.”
So far, it would be tough to argue otherwise because the last time Alabama (9-0) lost was a 9-6 overtime decision to these Tigers. And for good measure, the Tide later beat LSU 21-0 in last season’s BCS title game.
LSU (7-2) made a tactical mistake by blitzing McCarron (14 of 27 for 165 yards), who is gunning for his second national title.
But that’s how LSU Head Coach Les Miles, called “The Mad Hatter,’’ runs his ship. Miles has a penchant for trick plays like the fake field goal in the opening half that failed, or ordering Drew Alleman to kick an especially long 54-yard field goal late in the second quarter that fell five yards short.
Miles came into the contest with a 36-1 record in night games at home, and the Tigers had a 22-game winning streak at Tiger Stadium.
Alleman also missed a 45-yarder with 1:34 left in the fourth quarter, but nailed a 38-yarder with 6:11 showing in the first quarter to make it 3-0. However, Alabama running back Eddie Lacy (83 yards on 11 rushes) answered with a seven-yard sprint and 8:17 left in the second quarter after the Tide marched 92 yards on 11 plays to grab a 7-3 lead.
McCarron isn’t known for his running ability, but he did chip in with a nine-yard scamper just before the half to make it 14-3, as Alabama drove 63 yards.
One of the most criticized quarterbacks in the SEC is LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, who now has tossed eight touchdowns with four picks.
But on this night before a record crowd of 93,374, Mettenberger (24 of 35 for 298 yards) engineered two brilliant second-half drives that had the fans on their feet.
The first was a 13-play march that culminated in running back Jeremy Hill (107 yards on 29 carries) scoring on a one-yard run and 3:35 remaining in the third quarter to get LSU within 14-10, and the second was Mettenberger’s 14-yard pass to wide receiver Jarvis Landry (76 yards and eight catches) early in the final quarter that capped a 90-yard march and gave the Tigers a 17-14 lead.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.