Last-minute touchdown lifts top-ranked Alabama over LSU

By By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

BATON ROUGE — Les Miles was right: championship dreams do die inside Tiger Stadium.

He just didn’t know he was talking about his own team’s dreams.

On Saturday night, it was the fifth-ranked Tigers who had their national championship aspirations proclaimed dead in Death

Valley. And Miles had no idea just how hard of a death it would be.

Top-ranked Alabama cut the heart out of Tiger Nation with a 21-17 comeback victory before a record crowd of 93,374 crazed

fans.

It was the third time in the last year that the two teams have played, with Alabama winning the last two, including the Bowl

Championship Series national title game on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

Quarterback A.J. McCarron hit T.J. Yeldon for a 28-yard touchdown pass on a screen play with 51 seconds remaining to steal

victory from LSU.

“This is a tough one to lose,” said LSU head coach Les Miles. “They fought all night.”

In the end, it was a perfect drive that saw McCarron march the Crimson Tide 72 yards on five plays in 43 seconds that did

in LSU. During that drive, he was 4 of 5.

“My hat goes off to Alabama,” said Miles. “They did the things they needed to do at the end of the game to win.”

Miles said there was a missed assignment on the winning play but would not say what the mess-up was.

“Nobody feels worse than anybody else in our locker room,” Miles said. “It is tough. We all feel bad.

“There are some sick guys in that room. We don’t like to lose games here, especially games you feel you should win.”

Alabama head coach Nick Saban didn’t exactly see it that way. He said he knew the game would be tough, but thought his team

responded despite not playing its best.

“We expected this to be tough and physical,” Saban said. “We are going to have a lot of sore guys in the morning. I’m proud

of how hard we fought.

“I don’t think we played our best game, though. I do think they played their best game, and we were able to find a way to

win.”

The Tide comeback ruined an impressive Tiger rally.

Down 14-3 at halftime, LSU (7-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) responded by dominating all but the final two minutes of the

second half.

When quarterback Zach Mettenberger hit Jarvis Landry on a 14-yard scoring pass with just under 13 minutes remaining, the Tigers

grabbed a 17-14 lead and appeared in control of the game. Alabama (9-0, 6-0) didn’t have a fourth-quarter first down until

the final drive.

“Zack really let the ball loose tonight,” Miles said. “He really played a great game. We saw a lot from him.”

Mettenberger hit on 24 of 35 passes for a career-high 298 yards and the touchdown. He was 14 of 17 for 206 yards in the second

half alone, when he not only found his rhythm but also seemed to finally settle in as the Tigers’ quarterback.

“That was his best game for us,” Miles said. “I like the way our football team responded.”

The Tigers got back in the game with a 1-yard scoring run by freshman Jeremy Hill with 3:11 left in the third quarter. Hill

led all runners with 107 yards on 29 carries.

His TD plunge came at the end of a 13-play, 58-yard march that turned the tide of the game.

That’s when Miles decided to become the Mad Hatter for the second time on the night. He followed Hill’s TD up with an onside

kick attempt that failed because LSU touched the ball a yard too soon.

“I wish I had some of my calls back,” Miles said. “That was one of them.”

He also missed out on a field goal try in the second quarter, electing to go for a fake field goal that didn’t work.

Kicker Drew Alleman caught the pass from punter/holder Brad Wing but was tackled well short of the first down, the first gamble

by Miles.

Alleman, who connected on a 38-yard field goal in the first quarter to give LSU a 3-0 lead, also missed on tries of 54 and

45 yards.

“He had a great week of kicking, and I thought he would make them,” Miles said.

The Tide took control in the first half when Eddie Lacy scored on a 7-yard run midway through the second quarter. McCarron

then scampered home from 9 yards out with 11 seconds left before halftime for an 11-point Alabama lead.

Lacy rushed for 89 yards on 11 carries, and McCarron finished 14 of 27 for 165 yards.

Twice in the game the Tide were able to drive for touchdowns during their 2-minute offense, the first time going 63 yards

on 6 plays in 57 seconds after a missed field goal attempt.

“I was surprised somebody could do that on our defense,” Miles said.

Not only did the Tide do it once, they did it twice. That’s why they are the club that left Tiger Stadium with its championship

dreams still in place and why LSU’s hopes are dead.