TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - On and on they played into the chilly Alabama night, the top two teams in the country by a country mile, pounding away at each other with sledgehammer blows as college football fans everywhere watched in rapt attention.
Neither would bend to the others’ will. Neither would crack in the face of relentless pressure and brilliant talent. Neither would score a touchdown.
For some, that will be the dissatisfying flaw of this blockbuster between No. 1-ranked LSU and No. 2 Alabama billed as the latest “Game of the Century.” But in just about every other respect, this was 3-1/2 hours of breathtaking drama played out on a grand stage.
It came down to big plays in critical moments, the kinds of moments that allowed one great granite slab of a team to finally slip past the other in one seismic shift.
I’m reminded how much Nick Saban dislikes college football’s overtime format. “It’s not real football,” he once griped.
He’s right, and he’s probably not liking it any more now.
Saban tried to ice LSU kicker Drew Alleman in OT, but Alleman had ice water in his veins. His kick sailed 25 yards into history, the kick Alleman secretly wished he would have the chance to make in a season when LSU reduced its first eight opponents to heaps of rubble.
After it was done, there was LSU. The one, the only, still No. 1 after a 9-6 overtime victory.
But what did it all prove? Other than the fact that LSU has better kickers than Alabama - the Tide’s kickers looked like they had two left feet tied together, going 2-for-6, including one timely first-half block by Bennie Logan - is there much difference between the two?
Probably not. Bama marched up and down on Trent Richardson’s back and AJ McCarron’s arm, only to be thwarted by the likes of Logan, Mo Claiborne and Eric Reid, the latter intercepting a Wildcat pass from Marquis Maze at the 1 when Bama was already in field-goal range. A few more Richardson runs may have won it, but Saban likely outsmarted himself.
The question on frosty lips leaving Bryant-Denny Stadium no doubt was will the script decree that these two meet again for the BCS championship Jan. 9 in New Orleans? Experts like ESPN’s Alabama-educated Brad Edwards say that’s unlikely. Bama would need at least one loss from Oklahoma State and Stanford (both winners Saturday) and perhaps more.
Bama needs prayers answered. LSU needs three more wins and it will be sauntering to New Orleans for the BCS title game on Jan. 9.
After the game, Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” blared from Bryant-Denny’s loudspeakers like some cruel torment for Bama fans.
I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
? But that was when I ruled the world
LSU still rules. Not because someone said so, but because it came here and took what it wanted.