The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (9-0, 6-0 SEC) escaped Death Valley with a 10-0 win against the No. 13 LSU Tigers (5-3, 3-2 SEC) on Saturday night.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts rebounded from a pair of early turnovers to provide the only touchdown of the game, scoring on a 21-yard run in the fourth quarter. He finished 10-of-19 passing for 107 yards and an interception. He was also Alabama’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 20 times for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson was impressed by what he saw from Hurts in Baton Rouge, Louisiana:
— Lamar Jackson (@Lj_era8) November 6, 2016
The first half echoed LSU’s memorable 9-6 overtime win over Alabama in 2011. Neither team scored through the first two quarters, and the Crimson Tide and Tigers combined to gain just 220 yards. According to ESPN, Alabama hadn’t been shut out in a first half since 2007.
LSU and Alabama each had a chance to take the lead, though.
Colby Delahoussaye lined up for a 49-yard field-goal attempt on the Tigers’ first possession of the game. But Alabama defensive back Ronnie Harrison got a piece of the ball, and the kick fell well short.
With less than six minutes remaining in the second quarter, Alabama kicker Adam Griffith pushed his 42-yard attempt to the left.
ESPN College Football provided the first-half drive results:
Alabama-LSU offensive drives so far:
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) November 6, 2016
Last year, the Crimson Tide bottled up Leonard Fournette, holding the star running back to 31 yards on 19 carries. Yards were hard to come by once again for the junior, who carried the ball 12 times in the first half for 21 yards.
As LSU’s official Twitter account showed, Fournette provided a few electrifying moments:
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) November 6, 2016
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller thought the Alabama defense was excellent in its pursuit of Fournette, ensuring he couldn’t stretch any long gains:
Stats don't tell you how many Bama defenders Fournette shakes and slides by before getting gang tackled for a 2 yard gain
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) November 6, 2016
To the frustration of many Crimson Tide fans, Alabama opted against relying on its running game in the first half. Leading rusher Damien Harris went for 33 yards on seven carries, while Hurts went for 42 yards on the ground.
Houston Texans cornerback and former Alabama star Kareem Jackson was critical of offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin:
Somebody please tell Kiffin to run the ball DAMN
— Kareem Jackson (@ReemBoi25) November 6, 2016
Kiffin gambled on Alabama’s first play from scrimmage to start the second half, and Hurts hit wideout ArDarius Stewart for a 52-yard gain, setting up the Crimson Tide with 1st-and-goal at the Tigers’ 8-yard line.
Despite the great field position, Alabama came away with zero points. Three straight runs got the ball to the 1-yard line, and the Crimson Tide opted to go for it on fourth down. However, the Tigers stuffed Hurts on a designed run for a loss of five yards.
ESPN.com’s Alex Scarborough was surprised by the play call:
Saban didn’t take the points. On 4th-and-goal, spread the field, ran the QB. File that under things you wouldn’t have believed 5 years ago.
— Alex Scarborough (@AlexS_ESPN) November 6, 2016
After Alabama’s next two possessions ended in a punt and a fumble, Hurts engineered a scoring drive that ate 5:57 as the Crimson Tide marched 90 yards for a touchdown with roughly 13 minutes remaining in the game.
CBSSports.com’s Tom Fornelli was disappointed to see one team finally break the deadlock:
Jalen Hurts ruins the perfect game.
— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) November 6, 2016
Hurts made up for his early interception and fumble with his run into the end zone. After failing to find an open receiver, the freshman signal-caller tucked the ball and found a hole in the middle of the Tigers defense.
Fox Sports 1’s Skip Bayless thought Hurts’ touchdown run swung the game:
That's it. Bama wins. It was a one-play game and Hurts finally made it.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) November 6, 2016
LSU then shot itself in the foot on its next drive, when quarterback Danny Etling threw an interception to defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.
SB Nation’s Spencer Hall provided an accurate depiction of the Tigers as they attempted to claw back from their deficit:
LSU for the next 12 minutes pic.twitter.com/7o3jTONIKc
— BUFFALO CHILL CODY (@edsbs) November 6, 2016
Griffith added a 25-yard field goal with 2:41 left, and the Alabama defense forced a turnover on downs to seal the victory.
The Crimson Tide have two more hurdles to clear before they can book a ticket to the SEC Championship Game. They’ll play Mississippi State at home Nov. 12 before welcoming in No. 9 Auburn for the Iron Bowl on Nov. 26. A nonconference game against Chattanooga is sandwiched in between.
The Bulldogs upset No. 4 Texas A&M on Saturday, while the Tigers have found their groove since starting the year 1-2. While Alabama will likely be favored, both could be potential stumbling blocks for the reigning national champions.
LSU’s chances of competing for the SEC crown ended with Saturday’s defeat. Beating the Crimson Tide also would’ve been a big feather in the cap of interim head coach Ed Orgeron as he hopes to earn the job on a full-time basis.
There’s no question the Tigers have a dominant defense, but the loss to Alabama illustrated how far the offense needs to go in the future, whether Orgeron or another coach is on the sideline in 2017. Until LSU gets better play at quarterback, it won’t be a national title contender.
In the buildup to Saturday’s game, a handful of LSU players, defensive back Dwayne Thomas in particular, were confident they’d leave Week 10 with a win. Alabama head coach Nick Saban thought his defense used those comments as fuel in Baton Rouge.
“We got some pretty hateful guys around here on defense who are good competitors,” he said, according to Marq Burnett of SEC Country. “When they get challenged, they usually respond.”
Orgeron highlighted poor offensive line play as a factor in his offense’s poor showing.
“Obviously, we struggled to run the ball, to pass protect,” he said, per SEC Country’s Sam Spiegelman. “We struggled. We just didn’t execute.”
Orgeron also said he never considered replacing Etling with Brandon Harris in the middle of the game.