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No. 2 Alabama Football Outlasts LSU in Physical Slugfest, 20-14

The Crimson Tide and the Tigers combined for over 600 yards of offense in a matchup of two SEC giants, with Alabama emerging victorious.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — In some ways, it felt like an Alabama-LSU game pulled from about a decade ago. In other ways, it felt like what Crimson Tide fans have grown accustomed to against the Tigers.

Regardless, No. 2 Alabama football defeated LSU inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night by a margin of 20-14. Surging offenses that came and went combined with defensive performances that were — at times — stifling created quite a roller coaster of a game that saw the Crimson Tide emerge victorious.

"It was a great win for our team," Alabama coach Nick Saban said after the game. "We were in a lot of tough, competitive situations and guys responded well — made plays when they needed to make them — especially on defense."

On Alabama's first drive of the game, a 49-yard field goal attempt by Will Reichard doinked off of the crossbar, marking the first time that Alabama hadn't put points up on the scoreboard on its opening drive of a game since Sept. 11 against Mercer.

LSU capitalized on its first drive of the game, ending an 8-play, 68-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Max Johnson to wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. The touchdown put the Tigers up 7-0 to start the game, but the stadium packed with Crimson Tide fans didn't quiet down.

While LSU was able to put forth a solid opening drive, the remainder of the first half was nothing but trouble for the Tigers. Back-to-back three-and-out drives and an interception by Alabama defensive back Jordan Battle limited LSU to just nine yards for the remainder of the first half.

Alabama had struggles on offense of its own to deal with. The Crimson Tide failed to score on each of its first four drives of the game. Finally, at the 2:52 mark, a 12-play, 77-yard drive ended with a two-yard touchdown rush by running back Brian Robinson Jr.

The Tigers' next drive resulted in Battle's interception, setting up the Crimson Tide at the LSU 39-yard line. Five plays later, quarterback Bryce Young found wide receiver John Metchie in the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown connection.

At halftime, Alabama led LSU 14-7. Offensive struggles on both teams — particularly on the ground — limited the effectiveness for each side. For Alabama, Young finished the first half having completed 17-of-27 passes for 191 yards and one touchdown. However, the Crimson Tide had just 25 rushing yards split between the team's two running backs.

"I just feel like we all need to be on the same page and be hungry from the jump," Crimson Tide wide receiver Jameson Williams said regarding Alabama's slow start to the game. "I feel like we got a bad start today but there's things that we can work on."

Alabama's defense was the shining point of the Crimson Tide in the first 30 minutes. In total, Alabama held LSU to just 77 total yards on offense. While the Tigers converted one fourth down attempt, it was 2-of-7 on third down.

Four plays into the third quarter, Alabama linebacker Henry To'oTo'o forced a fumble, resulting in a turnover and giving the Crimson Tide the ball at its own 42-yard line. Just two plays later, Young connected with Williams for a 58-yard strike. Reichard missed the ensuing extra point, but Alabama had obtained its first two-score lead of the night.

On the next turn on offense for LSU, the Tigers stringed together a 14-play, 89-yard drive ending with another eight-yard touchdown pass, this time from Johnson to tight end Jack Bech to pull the Tigers within six points of the Crimson Tide as the end of the third quarter drew near.

Three-straight three-and-outs for the Alabama offense did it no favors, but the Crimson Tide's defense kept pulling through. At the 12:36 mark in the fourth quarter, LSU took control on its own 19-yard line.

On the Tigers' 10th play of the drive, running back Tyrion Davis-Price burst past the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-one attempt, rushing 37 yards and being tackled at the Alabama eight-yard line.

On third and goal, defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis forced Johnson to fumble the football, which was also recovered by Mathis. However, after review, it was determined that Johnson's arm was moving forward. On fourth and goal at the eight-yard line, Johnson's pass sailed through the end zone, and the Crimson Tide took over at its own eight.

Seven plays later, a hit on Young caused quite an eruption from the home crowd as it appeared to be targeting. However, the officials disagreed and the game continued. On the ensuing play, Young was sacked and fumbled the football, with LSU recovering the ball at the Alabama 42.

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After the game, outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. said that the Tigers' hit on Young provided him and his defense with motivation over its last couple of times on the field.

"When things happen like that — especially as me, being a defensive end and I hit quarterbacks all the time — I hate to see my quarterback on the ground like that," Anderson said. "I think it just all comes back to our mentality of the defense: how are we going to out there, how are we going to get stops, are we all going to be on the same page when we go out there on the field?

"I think that's what the challenge was for us."

On fourth and nine for the Tigers at the Crimson Tide 41, Johnson once again overthrew his target, giving Alabama the ball with 2:36 left on the clock. 

Three plays and negative-five yards later, the Crimson Tide was forced to punt with :59 seconds left in the game. With exactly :50 seconds left to go, the Tigers took over on their own 38-yard line.

On first down, linebacker Dallas Turner sacked Johnson for a loss of nine yards. On the next Johnson completed a pass to wide receiver Jaray Jenkins for a gain of 10. On third and nine, Johnson's pass fell incomplete.

On fourth down, Johnson's pass was complete to Thomas for 16 yards and a conversion. Another 15-yard completion put the Tigers at the Crimson Tide's 30-yard line with :05 seconds left. On the final play of the game, Johnson's Hail Mary pass fell incomplete in the end zone, and Alabama defeated LSU 20-14.

"I think that there was probably a lot of things in the game that we didn't do well," Saban said. "We didn't block them up front very well, we didn't run the ball very well, on offense we couldn't run the ball when we needed to. We weren't as effective on third down, we had some protection issues so a lot of things that we can fix.

"I think we got to fix them so we can be a little bit more consistent."

On the ground, Alabama rushed for just six yards on 26 carries — the lowest rushing yards total in a game of the Nick Saban era. The 20 points scored by the Crimson Tide was also the fewest that the team has scored in a game since its 44-16 loss to Clemson in the 2018 CFP National Championship — a 36-game streak where Alabama scored 31 points or more per game.

"I want to compliment our team for how hard they played," LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said of his team's physical performance. "I truly thought we were the better team tonight, but we just came up a couple plays short. I wish we would have had a better plan on offense, especially in the second half.

"We had opportunities to score, and we didn’t. I have to take that responsibility. I just wish that we could have put our guys in a better position to win.”

Young finished the game having completed 24-of-37 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson was Alabama's leading rusher of the night, recording 18 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.

On defense, Anderson had another impressive game. In total, Anderson led the team in tackles with 12 and recorded four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Along with two quarterback hurries and a pass breakup, it was another solid night for the Crimson Tide's top defender.

In total, the Alabama defense had five sacks of Johnson and recorded eight tackles for loss, and interception and a forced fumble that was recovered.

While it wasn't the outcome that most Alabama fans weren't expecting, the Crimson Tide moves to 8-1 on the season while LSU drops to 4-5 overall. Alabama remains atop the SEC West and is still in position to head to the SEC Championship Game should it win its final three games of the regular season.

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