The LSU defense was determined not to be overshadowed by Alabama’s nationally ranked defense Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
For more than three quarters, the Tigers certainly showed it by playing a lot like their Crimson Tide counterparts.
LSU’s defense stood tall against Alabama's offense in an epic battle before a noisy crowd of 102,321 until the top-ranked Crimson Tide managed to notch a touchdown and field goal in the final 13:08 for a hard-earned 10-0 victory.
That No. 15 LSU was locked in a scoreless tie through three quarters was a strong testament to its defense, which did just about everything it could while Alabama’s fourth-ranked defense did what it normally does: dominate.
LSU’s defense came up with two big turnovers, one in each half, but both times the Alabama defense managed to get off the field unscathed.
The Tigers, who had a goal-line stand early in the third quarter, kept the Crimson Tide scoreless in the first half for the first time in 127 games.
Not since Florida State blanked them in the first two quarters Sept. 29, 2007 — in Nick Saban’s first season as coach — did Alabama fail to score before halftime.
Alabama still has LSU’s number.
As a result, LSU’s stellar defensive performance was wasted.
“We did what we could do for 60 minutes,” outside linebacker Arden Key said. “Alabama was on the other side, so somebody had to score. It’s frustrating because we did what we could. … They just executed.”
Alabama found the going tough early.
Its first possession after taking the opening kickoff ended in just three plays when LSU free safety Jamal Adams intercepted freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts to set the offense up at Alabama's 33.
Not to be outdone, Alabama’s stingy defense set a tone of its own.
The Crimson Tide stuffed the Tigers on their opening possession, forcing Colby Delahoussaye to attempt a 49-yard field goal that was blocked by free safety Ronnie Harrison.
For the eighth time this season, LSU failed to score on its first offensive series, and for the seventh time it failed to get as much as a first down.
Maybe there’s another team in the country that can beat Alabama.
“Wish we could have scored,” LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron said after being handed his first loss following three wins. “Our guys were ready, man. You should have heard those guys.
“I thought (defensive coordinator) Dave Aranda had a tremendous plan, to cause a turnover like that and get after it to at least get a field goal and convert and give us some momentum. ... We just couldn’t get anything going on offense.”
Unfortunately, it was a sign of things to come for the Tigers, who would manage 100 total yards in the first half and just 125 for the entire game.
That was the result when Alabama, which went into the game allowing 274.5 total yards and a scant 70.1 rushing yards, did a number on LSU’s running game that pounded Ole Miss in its previous game for 311 yards.
On Saturday night, LSU netted 33 yards on 27 attempts with Leonard Fournette, who piled up a school-record 284 yards in the win over Ole Miss, being held to 35 yards and a 2.1-yard average on 17 carries.
Still, the defense made sure the Tigers were going to be hanging around for a while.
With nickelback Dwayne Thomas tipping passes and dropping Alabama ball carriers in the backfield, LSU allowed just 120 yards in the first half — twice stopping the Tide on third-and-1 to force punts in the opening period.
The second half was more of the same for LSU, which forced another turnover with 5:43 to play in the third quarter after coming up with a goal-line stand on Alabama’s first series of the second half.
Hurts rolled to his right and tried to turn up the field when LSU defensive tackle Frank Herron poked the ball away, and Key fell on the loose ball at the Alabama 42.
But when LSU’s offense couldn’t do anything with it again, Alabama started wearing the Tigers defense down, with Hurts doing the most damage.
He engineered a 12-play, 90-yard touchdown drive and scored on a 21-yard run to finally put the first points on the scoreboard with 13:08 to play.
Then, after an Alabama interception of Danny Etling, Hurts took almost 10 minutes off the clock to get what was a game-clinching 25-yard field goal by Adam Griffith with 2:41 remaining.
Then, the Tide’s vaunted defense wrapped things up with one more stop of the Tigers to quiet the crowd.
Middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith recorded a team-high 16 total tackles with a half-sack, while Thomas had nine tackles, three for loss, and broke up two passes.
Defensive end Lewis Neal had 11 tackles, and inside linebacker Duke Riley, who teamed with Key to drop Hurts for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the Tigers’ 1 early in the fourth quarter, had nine total tackles.
“They didn’t do anything special,” Neal said of Alabama, which had 203 yards in the second half and finished with 323. “They just were able to execute on certain plays. I felt like we stopped them pretty much the entire game until they had a little spurt there at the end.”
“Alabama has a good offense,” Key said. “We held up our part for 60 minutes, but they just wore us out and we missed too many tackles in the second half.”