Once again, LSU and Alabama fashioned the kind of old-fashioned football game that no one else seems to play anymore.
Once again, Alabama inflicted the kind of pain on LSU that only the Crimson Tide can seem to deliver.
In some ways, this game was oh-so-much like the game here two years ago when Alabama drove for one last-gasp, national championship-saving touchdown to turn back LSU 21-17.
There was almost no way LSU could lose. But somehow the Tigers did.
Just over a minute left. Score tied at 10. Bama backed up inside its 1 after a clutch Jamie Keehn punt bounded down there.
T.J. Yeldon ran for 5 yards. Then, on second down, he tried to bounce left and had the ball slip from his grasp as Lamar Louis tackled him. It bounced away, Kendell Beckwith covering it at the 6.
The scoreboard showed 1:13 left. LSU was in business. Alabama was all but done.
First-and-goal, Terrence Magee smashed into the line for a 1-yard game. Whistles. Lots of pushing and shoving. Alabama linebacker Xzavier Dickson shoved LSU tight end Dillon Gordon on top of a player in the pile. Umpire Tom Quick — remember the name — moved in to separate them.
On the other side of the pile, LSU left guard Vadal Alexander was also mixing it up. Bama nose guard A’Shawn Robinson came from behind and pulled Alexander’s leg for some strange reason. Alexander turned and shoved him. Quick turned from Dickson and Gordon just in time to see Robinson go flying. And boy, he was quick with the flag, though it stayed in his pocket when Dickson shoved Gordon.
“That penalty changed the complexion of the game,” LSU coach Les Miles said.
That penalty pushed the Tigers back to the Alabama 21. That penalty left LSU to settle for a cool-as-Saturday-night 39-yard field goal from Colby Delahoussaye for a 13-10 lead with 50 seconds remaining.
Alabama had just enough time to drive for a tying field goal as Andrew Griffith, who had to be unnerved by his first field-goal try banging off the left upright, was just as cool as Colby as he made a 27-yard field goal to send the game to overtime with 3 seconds left.
It was an ominous sign for LSU. The Tigers offense moved in fits and starts all night. It looked like Alabama would have the advantage, and it did.
Blake Sims was no AJ McCarron from two years ago. His passes were often well off the mark as he completed just 20 of 45 attempts, keeping LSU’s standing as the only Southeastern Conference team allowing less than a 50 percent completion rate intact.
But Sims was spot on with what turned out to be the game-winning 6-yard touchdown pass to DeAndrew White.
Over to you, Anthony Jennings. Jennings was a brave and plucky lad in this game, twice coming back from injuries to keep playing. But he’s not exactly the one person on the planet you’d pick to throw for a first down with your life on the line.
LSU ran on Alabama like nobody else this season: 56 carries for 183 net yards. But Cam Cameron inexplicably decided to have Jennings throw four straight passes without even attempting a run.
On the last one, a throw into the end zone for Malachi Dupre — the man who made the one-handed grab on Jennings’ first-quarter touchdown catch — Jennings could have easily run for the first down. He threw into coverage instead.
Back to that penalty on Alexander. Look, he did shove Robinson. And he should have kept his cool there. And no, I don’t think there is some vast Birmingham-centric conspiracy to help Alabama win football games. And yes, LSU could have stopped Bama up 13-10 or at least held the Tide to no more than a field-goal attempt in overtime.
But to borrow a line from Albert Brooks, “Call me a hippie, send me to hell, I give up.” That WAS a call that benefited Alabama in a crucial situation.
If the SEC wasn’t the conference that jury-rigged the divisional alignments to keep Alabama and Auburn in the West Division while Missouri is in the East, if the SEC wasn’t the conference that insisted on keeping cross-divisional opponents that create annual competitive imbalances, then the penalty on Alexander in such a critical spot wouldn’t seem so egregious.
Quick could have thrown a penalty on Dickson. A flag could have been thrown on several players on both sides who lost their cool aside from Alexander. And there is certainly no guarantee LSU would have gone on to score a touchdown from the 5 on either of the next two downs before being forced to settle for a field goal.
But it happened.
As Miles said, it changed the complexion of the game.
And LSU has to take it.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv